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Grief As An Initiatory Process

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

As many of you know, my life has been touched and transformed by the hand of grief. The unexpected illness and then death of my father, followed just two years later by the sudden death of my mother is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the death and loss that swept through my life and the lives of my family over the past 5 years.

Its not easy to feel grief. It’s considered the shadow of the Anahata heart chakra for a reason - it is something that we prefer not to lean into, but to tuck away, ignore and get really busy so we don’t have to meet it. The thing about grief; however, is that it sneaks up on you. It is unique to each of us how long this build up can go and how much we can shoulder, but at some point, something gives and we are forced to meet it.

Grieve causes us to get present. And when we are being asked to meet something intense, in a way that we have ben told it is not safe or alright to feel, we automatically split off from it. We do this through addictive behaviours, staying too busy and simply disassociating from life by numbing out; hiding deeper within ourselves in a place that isn’t able to really feel and meet whats there. We live from a shut down place. Grief causes us to come alive, alive to the present moment. And often, the present moment will bring us to the tension of unmet experience within our body. With grief, a dam can break open, we break open. And after all that time trying to hold ourselves together, the pain is often unbearable.

My mentor Hal taught me, that it is really the removal of the armour that hurts so much. And the longer we leave the armour on, the harder it is to remove it. When we finally succumb to the truth of what has not been felt, it feels so overwhelming. However, if we are able to stay a little closer to the wound; meaning, not running away from it but integrating it into our personality in a way that we can transmute the energy. When we stay close to the broken place and allow the breaking into it more frequent and learn to love this tender place, it is then that real healing can happen. When we no longer fear the pain, but learn to welcome it in, the line between grief and gratitude or what Martin Prechtel calls, grief and praise, thins.

this thinning reminds us that at the place of rock bottom grief is love, and that grieving is a form praise, a representation of the love that we had for someone. Grief cracks us open to the gratitude we have for this gift called life and often, when we are able to move through the whole grieving process, gratitude for life just as it is; wounds, loss and all.

How do we stay close to this broken place?

Of course, we need to learn to grieve life one experience at a time. We must stop walking over, powering through and hitting the snooze on our feelings. We have to meet them head on. This is a practice. A daily and ongoing one - that I imagine only ends with enlightenment. It requires our presence and focused orientation to the felt experience moment by moment. This is also why we avoid feeling, avoid getting present - what is present doesn’t always feel good - so we chase something that does.

Another way, is to grieve intentionally.

In the month of November I sit at my alter everyday with photos of my loved ones who have passed. This includes both sets of grandparents, my parents and 2 uncles. It is interesting to look onto the faces of all of them and each of them. To call in memories that I have and also to imagine their lives outside of me, their inner world, struggles and accomplishments. Sometimes I feel nothing. Sometimes I feel a lot: anger, sadness, compassion, meaninglessness. I often feel dismayed at how laden our society is with trauma and how it is passed down - or not. I grieve. I praise. I offer gratitude. Everyday for the month of November.

It’s not easy to do this practice. But many things worth the while are not easy. Hal says, take every opportunity to break open. Watch sad movies, listen to heartbreak songs, cry and cry so that the garden of our hearts may stay moist. So that each time, it gets easier and that we may allow the broken place to blossom.

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