Fall is upon us. That means, according to Eastern medicine, it is the season of grief and the lungs. I've been learning a lot about how to hold my own grief in the last year after the passing of my father. I've also been noticing many of my clients facing variations of grief in their own life lately, so I thought it timely to write on this topic.
Firstly, feelings of grief can arise from to a variety of experiences. There are the obvious losses like the passing of a loved one. Then there is disenfranchized grief: losses that aren't widely recognized or supported by society, like the loss of a loved one to suicide, or addiction; loss of a pet, or patient; letting go of an idea of and connection to family due to abuse; loss of an identity, job, or home; loss of hopes and dreams (miscarriage, infertility, divorce, lay offs, the childhood you wish you had had), and more. We might experience anticipatory grief as a loved one declines from illness, or addiction, before the "official" loss actually occurs. There are many shades of grief, contexts of loss. It's helpful to remember that our experience with each scenario will be as unique and multi-faceted as our relationship with that being, dynamic, or aspect of our life.
Our American culture doesn't really create much space for grief in our day-to-day life. The support structures that many of us need aren't woven into the fabric of our social spheres unless we are a part of a community that consciously acknowledges and tends to that aspect of living and dying. It can feel lonely being in a process of grieving, and we may judge ourselves that we should be over it or move on, or that our feelings may not be warranted because it might not compare to someone else's loss/experience. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone grieving say that once the funeral is over, or a few weeks have passed that many people stopped asking them how they are doing. Most workplaces only offer a few days of time off for bereavement, and some may not offer grace for the sense of "nonfunction" that some people experience following a loss. Not to mention, the alienation that some feel for having a disenfranchized loss, because lots of society doesn't know how to hold the mixture of uncomfortable and conflicting feelings that can arise from a loss related to suicide, or abuse, for example. It's easier for some to not look or talk about it. In turn, it can create a weird feeling in griever, a sort of cognitive dissonance, and a need for someone to "Please, acknowledge the elephant in the room!"
I could go on, but for now, I will offer a few final thoughts and suggestions. Take what resonates, and leave the rest. Since grief is so unique and personal, not everything may speak to you.
For the Griever:
For Those Who Care for Someone Who is Grieving:
Hope this helps if grief is showing up in your life these days. If you are grieving, is there anything else important that needs mentioning? Share with us in the comments.
Lots of care and comfort for you,
Let's face your fears... together
The days are growing darker, the veil is growing thinner. We have entered a time of inward turning here in the Northern Hemisphere. The advancing quiet welcomes our reflection, and often provides the right conditions for subtitles to bubble up from our subconscious.
Our modern Western celebration of Halloween plays with ghouls, goblins and spectres, while offering us a sugar high to face them all. While this can bring fun and fancy, we can choose to explore the theme of these celebrations in relation to our own healing to take them deeper.
(Note: If you've been finding yourself in an activated fight/flight response you may want to skip this reflective practice. Continue reading at the bold text.)
So, dear one, what fears lay present within you?
Oh boy, did you notice yourself contracting or resisting at all to that question? Perhaps that is your body's response trying to protect you from seeing these fears. I invite you to breathe with me, remind yourself that you are safe, and invite the presence of light and compassion to be with you.
What fear wants to be witnessed by you in this moment? Maybe you write it down. Continue to breathe, and observe it with curiosity. Just like with the quintessential boogie man in the closet that we realize is a coat once we've opened the door and turned on the light, so too, may we feel relief when we hold our fears with brave, loving, compassionate interest. We realize things aren't always as they seem. Some of our fears will boil down to these distortions of reality that need gentle correction.
Others may be of another variety, revealing the fragility of the human experience. Things that we may likely or inevitability face at some point: a fear of loss, pain, death, rejection, etc. These things we can run from, pretend that they are not there, or do whatever we can to try to prevent them from happening. Of course, we would do that. These fears and potential realities can be difficult, and scary. We are trying to protect ourselves. But, what if, for this moment, with me and all the other readers here with you, we breathe and acknowledge this fear and how it feels in your body. In truth, we may not ever be able to stop or change some of these fears from happening. But, we can be with our vulnerabilities with compassion. We can know that this is part of the human experience, and each of us is not alone. There are so many people out in the globe who hold this same fear. Though that doesn't take it away, somehow, for me, I find this shared humanness can be a balm for the experience.
When facing these types of "inevitable" fears, I try to remind myself of my own resilience, and tools. That no matter what I might face in the future that I have the ability to move through that experience, and ask for help if I need it. I remind myself of the times that I have faced my fears, whether by choice or life dragging me through them. I see that those experiences I've survived, and perhaps I've gained greater wisdom or tools as a result.
Sometimes though, working with our fear is something we need to do in a safe, supportive environment. We might need to untangle stored trauma in our bodies to release us from the fight/flight response. Soothing our nervous system, and coming to a place of regulation is key. If this resonates, you might find Reiki, or working with a skilled trauma-informed practitioner supportive.
No matter how you might find yourself today, remember you are not alone, you matter, and there are loving forces in the universe out there to support you, you just have to ask.
Feeling brave? Want to share with us one of your fears, or how you are feeling after sitting compassionately with them? Let us know in the comments.
Sending lots of love,
P.S. Reach out if you need support! :)
Where are the little glimmers of light and beauty?
March of 2020 I was signed up to take an ancestral healing training with shamanic practitioner Debra Morrill. Shortly before, the Covid outbreak hit, and, like so many other things, the class was postponed until it was safe to reconvene. While we waited, Debra and my teacher Ana Larramendi, her host, suggested that we go on a shamanic journey to connect with one of our ancestors that had survived a pandemic in their time. Since we all were here, no doubt at least one family member had made it through similar times. Now, about two years into the pandemic of our era, I've been reflecting on the wisdom that came from that journey.
I was led to a woman in France during the bubonic plague. She lived with one or two other people, and I could see that in time one of them would succumb to the Black Death while quarantined away in a separate room. My ancestor kept to herself as the sickness spread around her town.
When I asked what helped her move through those times, I saw her going out into her garden behind the house. Looking up at the sky, the sun radiated down on her face, the light and warmth melting away some of her preoccupation, burdens, and grief. In that moment, she was alive and she could feel. She bent down, plucked a vibrant strawberry, and delighted in its sweet juices. As the Black Death spread around her, these visits to the garden kept her connected with enough light and enjoyment to sustain her through those years.
I planted several strawberry plants in my garden the spring after I did that journey. It was too late to truly enjoy their fruit that year, but I grew other things in the meantime. By June of 2021, the strawberry plants had established themselves. I would step out each morning, my shadow cast over the leaves, crooning as I gently searched for tender, ripe berries. Inevitably, I would find a few. Then I would stand eyes closed, slowly savoring the sun-warmed crimson flesh as the morning sun glimmered through the trees on my face.
These moments, and moments like these... snuggled with my kitties feeling their steady purr and poofy fur, laughing at a silly comedy, feeling snowflakes land on my face, receiving a small act of kindness or shared humanity from a stranger or friend, these seemingly small things have helped sustain me, and tap into resiliency. While there has been so much constriction, challenge, and loss over these last two years, there are still little glimmers of beauty hiding under the leaves. We just need to take a moment to pause, look, and allow ourselves to receive it.
What has helped sustain you during these times? What has brought comfort, relief, or even joy? Share with us in the comments. If you haven't found much of these qualities in your life lately, how can you make space for it to enter, even amongst the struggle?
With lots of love and care,
Reiki Master Teacher and Owner of Embrace Your Essence