Muse: to reflect, contemplate, to
meditate in silence on some subject.
“People spend entire lifetimes trying to avoid the things that have already happened.”
We have already experienced a loss but many times we try to avoid the pain surrounding our loss. The truth is that the pain has already happened and is already in our minds and in our hearts. By trying to avoid what has already happened doesn’t make it go away and it can’t make it “unhappen.” We have to learn to face our pain so we can begin to heal.
It is a learning process for all of us.
May we be gentle with ourselves.
Shades of Darkness
When we wake in the morning we raise the window shades to let the light of the day in and when night begins to fall we more than likely lower those same shades. This is how we spend most of our days— welcoming the light as we try to shut out the darkness. When we lower our shades it doesn’t make the darkness outside go away it just keeps it out of sight. The same is true when we try to ignore our painful feelings of sadness, loss, and grief.
We tend to avoid those things that scare us and the immensity of our grief can feel very scary. Sometimes our pain feels bigger than us and we fear that if we choose to meet our pain and let ourselves feel it we might become the pain. We are afraid that we will always feel this way. We may think that if we avoid our pain it will get smaller or it will somehow just go away. It won’t. Our pain doesn’t get smaller so we have to let our hearts grow larger by allowing them to break open. It is in the breaking open and letting our grief move through us that our hearts become larger to hold even this loss, even more love, and more of life as it unfolds.
Our culture has come to view grief and other painful emotions as wrong as if we have somehow failed when we are sad or when we express the pain of our loss. We treat these painful emotions as if they are outcasts and don’t belong in our lives. We see grief as an inconvenience. Often we treat the bereaved in much the same way. We seem to want them to get over their feelings as quickly as possible and we would really prefer it if they kept their painful emotions to themselves as seeing the reality of their pain makes us uncomfortable. We see this in some of the things we say to the bereaved, such as: Pull yourself up by the bootstraps; Keep a stiff upper lip; You should be over it by now; and, Move on.
We have come to think of healing as “getting over” or getting away from our pain. We hope that somehow if we can get rid of this sorrow then our life can go on not realizing that this pain is part of our life. It’s as if we are saying, “You’re not allowed in as I only want positive feelings. Go off and do your grieving and then come back and maybe I will let you in” (Foster 2013).
Giving ourselves permission to grieve helps us remember that grief is a natural reaction to loss and it serves a purpose. Turning inward to face our grief seems counterintuitive as we usually try to avoid painful things. Grief takes time and is meant to disrupt our lives. It helps us slow down to allow our loss to transform us from the inside out.
Grief is like any other emotion in that it just wants to be felt and allowed to fully express itself. When allowed in our grief will express itself in countless ways and then it will lessen in its intensity over time as it gradually heals our heartache. But we must remember that it never completely goes away. It remains with us always as it has changed who we are and becomes a gentle reminder of what we have lost.
It is in walking through our grief that we learn to let in the light as well as the darkness.
The Written Word
There are many ways to express our grief and putting our thoughts, feelings, and ideas on paper can be a very healing process. The suggested prompts here can be done one time or multiple times. I’ve learned it helps to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and keep your pen moving for the entire time. I encourage using pen and paper rather than a keyboard as there is a hand/heart connection when writing longhand. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar, just write. When the timer goes off you stop writing even if you are in mid-sentence. Don’t reread your work at this time. Just set it aside for a couple of weeks and then go back and see what your words may have to say to you.
(If you choose to use a keyboard the same instructions apply).
Try this writing prompt:
Write about ways you try to avoid things that have already happened.
I will list some books, articles, poems, movies, or other resources that I as well as others have found helpful on this grief journey. I hope these resources may deepen your understanding of grief, maybe bring you some sense of comfort, and help you to feel less alone in your grief.