As I write this, it’s September 11, an anniversary we all remember much too well. So I’m in a quiet, connective mood, in spite of having way too much to accomplish in my personal life. Because I am on my way to camp for the weekend (NOT one of my favorite things to do, but the people I am meeting ARE my favorite people and there is wonderful music there 24/7, so it’s worth the sacrifice of no AC or shower unless I want to wait in an hour-long line, and questionable WiFi availability). Consequently, I thought it might be appropriate to re-post a blog I wrote not quite a year ago before I take off. This blog is about how we all have to deal with grief, and the challenge of finding our way through it in the best way we can. Namaste.
What grief is really about is the process of experiencing the changes in our lives and finally getting to the point of understanding that we’ll never go back to exactly the way we were. We have to embrace the changes and eventually realize there is a new normal. It won’t be the same, we may not like it as well as what we had before, but it can be better or at least as good – just different.
Grief is not confined to the loss of loved ones or relationships. It extends to any change in our lives: the birth of a new baby, an older child going off to college, a job loss or change; the list is endless. Some of these are positive changes and some are losses; some are a combination. But they are all change. This list should also probably include the huge changes that are taking place at lightning speed in all of our lives today.
When something happens like the economy change we’ve all experienced over the past several years, 9/11, the wars and militant groups that are threatening the lives of many innocent people over the world – even the emergence of new laws that allow for same sex marriage; the way we have always conceived of our world is affected. If the change is something we had hoped for and worked to implement, it makes it easier to accept.
But often, we felt a sense of safety because we thought we knew “how it was supposed to be.” Then when something happens, we may feel threatened – life as we have always known it, is gone. We try to deny it – or if we acknowledge it, we still hope/wish it will go back to the way it was. If we maintain this mindset for long, it puts us into a holding pattern. We wait it out, assuming that one day things will go back to “normal”. As this time of waiting increases, we are just existing. We miss life. We don’t experience the day to day joys – and sorrows. We just don’t experience life as it happens. We sit in depression, missing what used to be and in anxiety, wondering when it’s going to change back, so we can get on with our lives.
One example that illustrates this is people who have successfully found recovery through the 12 Step programs. They eventually realize they have grieved the “good old days” – the partying, the fun or escape they experienced as their addiction progressed, the self identity they developed over time as the life of the party, or just someone who could enjoy an occasional drink (although as addiction progresses, “a drink” is usually not the norm). And they have begun to accept that things will be different, and there will be a new normal in their lives.
Our grief process from the loss of a loved one, a broken relationship, a job, or a major social change is not different. We have to get to a place where we recognize – and even embrace the fact that things will never be exactly the same.
In his new book THE TURNING POINT, Gregg Braden calls this expanded resilience. Resilience is the ability to return to normal functioning after a trauma in our lives. As Gregg explains it, expanded resilience is the ability to think and live every day in a way that allows us to thrive in whatever comes, because we’re facing reality. He goes on to discuss physiological reasons we become less resilient as we age or face traumas, and new technology that is being used to help us learn to expand our resilience. (It’s fascinating, and if you’re interested in this, I suggest you google heart math, The Heart Math Institute or www.greggbraden.com for more information).
For my purpose here, I just wanted to make the point that regardless of whether we are experiencing the loss of a loved one, or some other change in our lives, we are probably at some stage of grief. It’s important to take the time we need to mourn the relationship/things we’ve lost, and even the hopes we had for our future that won’t happen now.
But it’s also important to be as honest and open to whatever comes each day. If we continue to hold on to what was, we won’t be able to create space in our lives for what will be.
“It is not the bars that hold the tiger in, but the space between them.”