Muse: to reflect, contemplate, to
meditate in silence on some subject.
How does a tree block the wind?
It doesn’t. Instead, the tree learns to sway with the breeze as it discovers how to bend but not break. It is all of its twists and turns that give the tree its distinct shape and appearance. They say that it is all of the bendings that makes the roots of the tree grow stronger.
Life seems to ask the same of us. How can we let the winds of life move through us as it shapes us into more of who we have come here to be?
May we all learn to bend as our roots grow stronger.
You can’t let go of what you haven’t held.
~ St. Cloud
Many days I wonder what the term “letting go” really means. We seem to use it a lot in our culture but what are we really saying when we say we let go of something. The term conjures up different images in my head especially when we use the term in relation to grief. I envision something like holding on to a hot potato and we have to let go of it quickly, get rid of it before it burns us. And when we try to let go of something where does it go? If it is like a hot potato does it just fall to the floor and we walk away closing the door behind us? Will someone else come along and pick up what we have dropped? Or does it somehow just magically disappear into thin air as if it never existed? I think the real question may be can we really let go of something that we haven’t fully felt or experienced–or that we haven’t entirely held? Why are we in such a hurry to let go of grief and other difficult emotions? What if these difficult emotions have something that we need to know?
“Let go of letting go. Stop trying to fast-forward the movie of your life, chasing futures that never seem to arrive. Your pain, your sorrow, your doubts, your deepest longing, your fearful thoughts…are not mistakes, and they aren’t asking to be healed. They are asking to be held” (Foster 2007).
What if instead of trying to get rid of our grief what if we held it for a while? If we became curious about all that our loss was stirring in us? What if we examined our pain to see what it looked like? Does it have a size? If so, how big is it? Is it all-encompassing or is it focused in one spot? What does the pain feel like in our bodies? Is it a sharp, stabbing pain or does it feel like a raw open wound? Is it the tightness in our shoulders? The heaviness in our legs? Or is it the elephant that is sitting on our chest making it difficult to breathe? Is it the racing thoughts that keep us awake when we are exhausted beyond words? Is it the darkness that seems to engulf us and follows us everywhere?
Maybe it is the heaviness that holds us in place as it wears away some of our rough edges so we become softer and kinder. Or maybe the sharp stabbing pain cuts through our hearts allowing us to become more open and more compassionate. Or maybe the elephant on our chest making it difficult to breathe is a reminder to not take anything for granted whether it be our next breath or those we have next to us.
When we hold our grief close it won’t be forever and it doesn’t have to define who we are now. We will hold it close as long as we need to and allow it to shape us into more of who we are meant to be. When the time comes to loosen our grip we will know. And instead of trying to let go of our grief maybe we should listen to the wise words of Mother Mary as she whispered, “Let it be.” (McCartney 1968).
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:
What images do the words “let go” bring up for you?
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.
Anam Cara by John O’Donohue
Photo Credit: Jason Robb
The shadow is dark and the woods are cold, but they are not endless. No matter how lost you are now, you are not lost forever. You are findable.