I know when a break-down is brewing.
- I start getting short and curt with people.
- I am irritable about things that normally don’t bother me.
- I can’t remember what I did a few hours ago.
- I stop returning emails and phone calls.
- I make decisions based on what other people need without checking in with myself first.
And, I get super teary. About everything.
When our vet this week said that she was touched we adopted an 8 year-old dog, since older dogs get overlooked for adoption, I teared up and just couldn’t stop crying - much to my daughter’s continued embarrassment with me.
“Mom?! Are you crying? Seriously? Why?”
This is what unresolved grief looks like in my life.
Attending 12 different schools across 3 continents in 3 languages by the time I graduated high school, gave me an intimate relationship with loss and grief. I learned excellent resiliency tools, like reframing moves into “Grand Adventures” and generating enthusiasm, courage and curiosity about new things, but I also learned to resist feelings of loss, to gloss over mourning, and to receive kudos for being “strong.”
However, when I made the shift from coping with grief to processing grief, I needed practices that allowed me to get present to grief and to lean into it in new ways.
Here are 5 practices that have helped me:
1. Observe everything that arises without judgment or identification: “Sadness is here, grief is arising.” (Not, “What the heck is wrong with me and why do I keep crying in public places?” or, "I am so unstable!")
2. Relax and Melt: There is nothing to resist, not even the tears. Just let them come.
3. Feel your feelings: When you meet their needs to be seen, heard, expressed, witnessed, integrated & accepted, they can release and transform. (Yes, feelings have needs too.)
4. Accept your deeply universal need for mourning: Nothing is wrong. Yes, you've experienced loss, and you cared, and it matters. Just honor that. If your inner critic shows up, remember that slipping into right/wrong dualism will simply increase your suffering. Instead, move from habitual judgment to the inner space where open-heartedness and wakefulness lead the way.
5. Seek out an empathy circle. Recently a core group of friends intentionally held space for me as I processed through unresolved grief of my own. Knowing that no-one would analyze me, diagnose me or advise me, allowed me to touch upon deeply painful feelings, to cry out tears, to speak out memories and associations and to let light into dark spaces within. Do not underestimate the power of healing community. (I am eternally grateful to this particular healing circle!)
Join me in bringing more empathy, acceptance, and service into the world. Relationships are the foundation of well-being. Growth is both a personal journey and a communal one: our individual growth benefits our whole community.