Posts in Grief

Grief Expressed Out Loud

The writer, Martin Prechtel, has a wonderful quote about grief:

“Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.”

When I think of grief, the image of an arrow piercing through the center of a heart comes to mind. The arrow instantly numbs everything, sending the heart into a state of shock. The reaction may be to pull the arrow out immediately, but it doesn’t budge. The arrow stays in for a period of time and everyone notices. People comment about it and offer condolences to help ease the pain. The heart remains paralyzed.

After some time, the initial shock wears off and the heart begins to soften again. As the heart softens, the arrow loosens. Soon enough, the arrow pulls free from the chest. Once the arrow is removed, the person has the opportunity to catch their breath, something they haven’t done in weeks, or even months.

No more arrow, no more visible pain. What’s left is a big gaping hole.

This is when the grief work begins.

I recently read a facebook post written by a friend who lost her 9 year old daughter after a long battle with Cystic Fibrosis. She wrote openly about her feelings and concerns when it comes to talking to others about her daughter. She stated that she doesn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Most importantly, she wants to convey the large impact her beautiful daughter had on her life.

It is wonderful that my friend was able to express her feelings and grief out loud. This can make a huge impact on people’s lives. The world is hungry for more parents who are willing to speak openly about the loss of a child, including the raw and uncomfortable parts. She is not alone in her pain. There are many people walking around with gaping holes in their chest. Their grief has not found its voice yet.

One of the biggest and most important legacies that our loved ones leave behind is the grief we feel in our hearts. Grief is praise. We must honor these loved ones by allowing our grief to be expressed out loud. Through this process, a person can find tremendous healing. The gaping hole can be filled again.

We will all grieve and it is imperative that we allow it to be expressed in its many forms. This expression is powerful and creates a ripple effect onto individuals at all stages of their grief.

I once had an arrow pierced through the center of my heart. I also had a gaping hole. Today I unapologetically express my grief and praise for my beautiful loved ones who have gone before me.

If you would like to access more resources and tools for grief and death, please check out my website The Conscious Dying Network .

Grieving in Community

In many indigenous cultures, grief is often a collective experience. Through sacred rituals and praise, grief is expressed out loud as a uniting force of remembrance. In the Mayan culture, each individual is given permission to grieve openly and mourn completely at the time of loss. Author, Martin Prechtel, describes grief as a poem, no matter how messy, inappropriate, amateurish, or loud, it deserves to be heard. There are said to be entires villages around the world that understand the importance of honoring grief as a community.

Here in the West, we seem to have placed a time stamp on grief. There seems to be an unspoken expectation that after some time, one will simply get on with life. This concept seems to be wrecking out entire culture. If we are unable to grieve in community, it is nearly impossible for individuals to heal fully. Grief demands to be heard, from all beings. This grieving thing makes us human, it is what unites us all at our core.

Deep in my pit of grief, it was the support of individuals around me that kept me afloat. No one had the “quick-fix” or even the “right thing to say”, but many had the willingness to listen. A month after my loss, I received a bereavement card from a local hospice. There were over a dozen personalized notes and signatures, from complete strangers. This meant the world to me, because not only did it validate my grief, but it provided a collective honoring of someone who I loved very deeply. This type of experience can be a game changer in grief. A powerful shift can occur when grief is validated. Grief is a song, that deserves to be heard, and perhaps shouted from the rooftops.

Though a highly personal experience, grief also requires to be felt in the company of other grief. It is almost indescribable the way grief shifts in the moment it is expressed out loud. In that brief encounter, one’e grief becomes the world’s grief. Although pain-staking and lonely, grief is an invisible thread that connects all of our hearts. It has the power to redefine humanity.

Giving Yourself Permission to Grieve

We all experience grief in many forms. The loss of a job, relationship, house, loved one, pet, and even the loss of our youth. If we pause for a moment and reflect on the losses in our life, we may discover that they happen almost daily. My earliest memory of loss was when the family dog passed away. She died rather unexpectedly. Reflecting back, I recall the sound of my brother wailing in the hallway. That was the first time I was aware of the sound of grief. My brother was expressing the inner ache that he felt.

The first time i felt grief inside my body was at the age of thirteen. It felt as though my stomach had swallowed my heart in one gigantic gulp. This natural feeling of grief was triggered by the loss of my grandpa. He was an honorable man and I intuitively knew, as most of us do, that life would never be the same. When a loss occurs in our life, it’s often abrupt. It is almost impossible to imagine what life will be like without something until it is gone. That is the difficulty of loss, it can’t be processed with the mind alone; it demands to be felt with the heart.

With loss occurring almost daily, how do we stay a float? Grief isn’t exactly trendy. However it is natural and necessary. I have attended many grief groups and I believe there are two common themes

1. We all grieve. It is one of the most common experiences that connect us as humans.

2. Each of us grieve in our own unique way. Giving ourselves permission to grieve is one of the biggest gifts we can offer ourselves.

As we navigate through the losses of life, it is important to remember we are not alone. Where there is life, there is loss. Letting grief move through us unchoreographed is key.

Here are some tips I recommend when grief arises:

  • Feel your grief. This may manifest through tears, screaming into a pillow, or silence.
  • Attend a local grief support group. Healing happens in these rooms, I am living proof.
  • Talk about your grief with someone you love and trust. A powerful release often occurs when we share our feelings out loud.
  • Take care of yourself. You may not feel like resuming the activities you did before the loss and that is perfectly okay. Take time to listen to your body, it will guide you through the process.
  • Dedicate time everyday to be present with your grief. This could be sitting down for 30 minutes to cry, journal, and feel whatever needs to be released for that day.
  • Don’t rush your healing. Grief has no timeline and it is important to honor the inner healing process.
  • And most importantly, remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is a highly individual process and it looks different for everyone.

These words were once told to me and I would like to pass them on to you:

“Life will never be the same after a loss, but it can be good again.”

Grief is a journey, it demands a lot of us, and it comes in waves. Ride the waves. In the presence of grief, the astonishing capacity of one’s love is uncovered.

The One’s Left Behind

Earlier this week I received news of a beloved satsang member’s daughter transitioning at the young age of 14. I immediately felt my heart break in a reverent silence for the family and friends, the one’s left behind. Like so many, it is hard to wrap my head around the unbearable and sudden tragic exit of such a beloved young soul. I don’t quite understand the why, but my faith in divine order and soul’s karma assures me this bright shinning star was needed to shine her light on a place much more vast, somewhere our minds can’t even quite conceive of. Our hearts know of this space and when I find myself slipping into anger of this event, I take a deep breath and rest here.

Having been through my own up close and personal experiences with death, I know the importance of grieving and feeling every feeling, for as long or brief necessary. The mind, body, and spirit have a process for this time, all unique to each individual, however none less sacred or less intense. We grieve and we discover a sweetness of life that I believe is only tasted once we have looked death in the eyes through another person’s journey and roar! We are human, therefor a roar is expected, kicking and screaming as well. We fall in and out of the net of hope, we taste the bittersweet tears that fall from our face, and we feel pain like never before. We begin to feel alive in a way we never have.

This is the pivotal point, the moment when you begin to see glimpses of life, real and honest life. Filled with tragedy and death, but beautiful none the less. In these moments, allow yourself to rest here for however long possible. It’s a lot like meditation or yoga, or any practice for that matter. You take baby steps, as long as it takes, but you arrive more whole then you when you started. Trudging this crazy mystical journey of life, for the day when you will look death in the eyes again during your final hour and say “I’m ready”.

For those who transition, they expand. For those left behind, we expand too…it just takes time, love, and human touch to lift the fog and reveal a world in which everything is sweeter.

I have walked this path of grief before, it’s not easy but all we have to do is extend our hands and reach out to the one’s left behind.

I leave you with a poem written by Anna M. Lytton recently posted in the East Hampton Star:

After one camp canoe trip she wrote a poem about the experience that shows its profound impact on her as well as her talent as a poet. The poem, which her parents shared, closes as the canoe reaches the shore:

The dry land welcomes us.
I have soaked up the water like a sponge
And now it is draining out
Along with my remaining strength.
We have reached our resting place
After completing our work.