The process of grief is anything but linear. What would be nice is a clear cut path with a beginning and end, but that’s not the way grief works. It feels more like a tidal wave that comes out of the blue and knocks the wind out of you, or a dull aching pain that pulls like an undercurrent threatening to swallow you whole.
As I entered in to the deepest grief my heart has known, I felt a disturbing pressure. I looked around at all the people who were able to carry on, but I felt frozen and stuck in the pain of my sister’s death. Though I know the unpredictable nature of grief, and am quick to invite others to kindness, curiosity, and care in this space, I felt bombarded with judgment and shame in my own process. One day, my counselor asked me what that voice of judgment had to say and my response was, “you suck!” This was an old familiar voice that seemed to get violently louder in this new vulnerable space. He cautioned me to attend to that voice and the grief would subside. He was right. As I began to notice the harsh critic who mocked my very process, I realized that this was not the real problem. I began to find new words and stood against the harsh critic: “I don’t suck, grief sucks. I am not my grief. I am the light of the world.” Learning to differentiate my self from the pain I was experiencing was a critical part of my process.
It has been three months since my sister passed, and I am standing on a little more solid ground. I am still grieving, but I have come to honor the waves of grief instead of run or thrash against them. Each wave is an invitation to pause and remember, to feel, and release. Sometimes the pain that I feel scares me and threatens to consume me, but it never does. It ebbs and flows in a perfect rhythm; healing me bit by bit.
When I remain busy, it is easier because I don’t have to feel so much, but I know this grief is meant to be felt. When I sat with my mom the other day, she had a wave of grief bubble up. She tried to wipe it away and apologize. I held her and validated the pain that was underneath it.
We are meant to feel and release the hurt that death leaves behind. It is one of the best ways to honor what is missing.
When we engage and choose to tell the truth, it becomes Holy ground. God fills the gap and heals the empty space that death leaves, if you allow it to be opened and surrendered to him.
Our world doesn’t grieve well. The fast paced culture screams, “aren’t you done yet?” This pressure I have felt to be done grieving in order to fit into a world that doesn’t have time to stop and really care, landed me in a bad place a few weeks ago. “I’m not OK,” I blurted out as I sat down in my chiropractor’s chair and looked into the eyes of compassion that have brought such grace and healing over the years. Dr. Sherry said, “I can see that.” She began to work and a river of tears flow out of my aching heart. What caused alarm was when she said. “It’s ok for me to be done grieving Mary.” “NO!” my heart cries out. She identified the embodied fear in being “done grieving” and probed deeper. “I’m afraid that if I stop grieving, Mary will somehow disappear. I feel like the only way I have to access her is through the grief.” She identified this as a false belief and re-oriented me to the truth that Mary’s love will remain.
This truth brings comfort and peace as I learn to love what is and rest in the ease of my grieving process. I know that it is OK for me to grieve for as long as it takes. I also know that when the waves of grief stop crashing and the water becomes still that it is a good idea to rest in the stillness and celebrate the love that remains and anchors me. The process of grief never truly ends. It is a collective ongoing journey into the mystery of eternity which is hidden in the human heart.
Today, may you enter boldly into your own process of naming and acknowledging the beautiful gift of what once was so that you can fully experience the richness of the love that remains.
Jean Masukevich is a special education and yoga teacher. She holds an advanced certificate in grief and trauma from the Allender Center of Psychology and Theology and is passionate about facilitating healing spaces for individuals and groups in need of care. Her therapeutic approach incorporates yoga, meditation, art and the use of narratives to help people integrate mind, body and Spirit. Jean loves to play outside and enjoys quality time with her husband and four awesome children. You can find her here: www.sowthat.com