“Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. – C. S. Lewis
Whether it was Brene Brown’s well-researched discourse in her latest book Rising Strong, Mikki Wade’s thought-provoking insights during a recent Transformation Cafe podcast, or the courageous and contemplative journey of the Petit Prince, St. Exupery’s imaginary protagonist in the novel of the same title, the subject of grief and how to navigate its winding path have been the source of incessant mental chatter over the past several days.
What do these three seemingly unconnected conversations share, and why do I feel compelled to share them with you?
After contemplating the subject for hours on long early morning desert hikes, I have come to the realization and appreciation that we all experience grief in one form or another, and with that comes the tendency to avoid it and the discomfort it brings. Tony Robbins writes in Awakening the Giant, “people will go to further lengths to avoid pain in their life than to have pleasure”, pointing out our natural preference to avoid, deny, and bury grief right alongside the other uncomfortable emotions we would rather not feel. I would like for us to peel the cover off grief, expose it, get used to it, and let it cultivate room for deeper love. We can do this together. You are not alone in your grief.
The holidays are breeding grounds for grief encounters, and according to Grief Recovery Method expert Mikki Wade, grief is a normal reaction to loss. Grief is experienced when loved ones move away, kids grow up, companions pass, and youth disappears taking health, vitality, and ambition with it. Grief is the loss of a career, an opportunity, or strength in deteriorating muscles. Grief resides in the ends of relationships and is reborn in new ones. We may grieve a new home, a new school, even a new leader. Grief dwells in old memories, experiences shared with friends, even in thoughts we project in the future. We grieve intangible things like poverty, world hunger, social injustice, as well as the rich feelings once entertained about love during our adolescence. Grief’s messiness leads to its avoidance, yet its familiarity functions as a bridge connecting us through a shared sense of humanity.
We have permission to grieve and the process of grieving is completely normal and natural. What a relief to know we can grieve, and that it is a process. We can give ourselves the gift of grieving. In other words, we don’t have to condemn ourselves for feeling grief. Grief is not a common cold quickly remedied with a cup of chicken noodle soup and a couple of days in bed. It is a process.
Last night while watching an episode of The Crown, a young Queen Elizabeth sat opposite Edward VIII, her uncle who abdicated the throne the same year of his coronation forcing Elizabeth’s father, George VI, into succession of the throne. The scene takes place after King George VI’s untimely death making Elizabeth, the heir-apparent, Queen of England at age 27. When she asked him for an apology, he replied, “for what?” Elizabeth courageously replies, “for taking away any sense of normalcy in my life and for removing from me the ability to be a countryside mother and wife.” The young Queen Elizabeth grieved not only the loss of her father, but also the inevitable loss of a privacy now faced with royal responsibilities.
Getting Acquainted With Grief
A dear friend and mentor, Amy Lynn Frost, MBA and MA Spiritual Psychology, published a series of articles on what she refers to as The Shadow Self. She encourages us to invite our shadow-selves, described as “the storehouse of our physical and emotional losses, repressed dreams and intense experiences of all kinds” to dance with us. By inviting these dark, secret, unpleasant, and difficult sides of ourselves to dance, we acknowledge them as partners which help make us a whole human being.
“People who genuinely love themselves have fear and dislike parts of themselves too. They have become self-loving because they have the courage to become acquainted with their shadow-self. After you work with the shadow and integrate it into your “whole self” you realize it’s not bad or evil, it’s just a part of you needing a voice. The shadow has valuable lessons for us. We must take the time to listen. ” – Amy Frost
Could simply identifying our own grief help us live more fully? What if instead of burying the dark, hurting parts of ourselves, we joined hands with them and brought them into the light? What if by waltzing with our grief, we were able to discover that which we long for?
“Longing is a vital and important part of grief, yet many of us feel we need to keep our longings to ourselves for fear we will be misunderstood, perceived as engaging in magical or unrealistic thinking, or lacking in fortitude and resilience.”- Brene Brown
Loving is Grieving
It is common for me to grieve time spent abroad longing for deep cultural connections with strangers, the chance to converse in foreign languages, and the rich shifts in perspective that occur upon returning. I decided to satisfy this grieving by re-reading Le Petit Prince in French, dictionary by my side. We traveled vicariously together from planet to planet in search of answers to life’s toughest questions. He discovered he grieved his precious rose all along. His grief caused an internal awakening, rendering him grateful for his love for her. To love is to grieve, and to grieve is to love.
It was Queen Elizabeth II who said, “Grief is the price we pay for love”.
Thank you Mikki Wade, Brene Brown, and Amy Frost for your courage to explore this subject and share your research with us so we don’t feel alone.