In the previous post I wrote about celebration and a good friend sent me this wonderful quote on the importance of celebration from Terry Tempest Williams.
“Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.”
~ Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice
The world and our lives are also meant to be grieved and forgiven. If at the close of every day I sing of celebration, grief and forgiveness, I will sleep better and wake up the next morning to become more fully alive, more fully my human reality.
Grief does not contradict celebration. Forgiveness does not undermine grief. Celebration is not the absence of grief or guilt or wounding. Each is separate, yet together they are a synergy…a whole greater than the sum of the parts.
This post on Everyday Grieving is not about major grieving such as the death of a loved one. It focuses on the recognition and grieving of little losses and common endings as an essential part of a healthy soul life.
I am confident if we regularly face the challenges of grieving and forgiving the small and non-dramatic events that require either or both grieving and forgiving, when we face a major loss or guilt/harm we will be able to meet them with integrity, authenticity, and beauty. Yes, both grief and forgiveness have great beauty.
What can we grieve in each day?
Loss of possession. Loss of appearances. Loss of opportunity. Loss of impressions. Loss of expressions. Loss of a point of view. Loss of well-being. Loss of relationship.
Opportunity not taken. Words not spoken. Questions not asked.
Sensory perception that will never come again. Perceptions not noticed.
The ending of an experience. (I grieve when I finish reading a book that I have loved. I grieve the ending of the Holy Nights. I grieve the delicious meal and the great conversation when they end.)
Wow, researching grief abstractly is so damn difficult, but so necessary. If we grasp the archetype and organize the varieties of daily grief, we can then form a fluid understanding of the personal experience of grief. Grief, even life-changing grief, will not overwhelm our sense of selfhood. It will illuminate self as does celebrating and forgiving.
If I am trapped in unconscious grief, in-my-bones grief, how can I live? I will just be flooding or freezing, drying up or disintegrating and not knowing why. If I practice small steps of conscious grieving, I can find freedom.
Thoughtful, everyday grief is a gift from the gods. We must not avoid the suffering of grief. We can design our grieving…our letting go. We can feel gentle waves of anger, sadness, and confusion at the loss. We can take small bites of grief and learn how to taste the sweet, the salty, the bitter, and the sour.
Grief and Healthy Hope
Another important aspect of daily conscious grieving or the reverent noting of losses and endings is to become more awake to how we use hope as a way we avoid the painful recognition of final loss. Is hope the opposite of grief? Or grief’s companion? Hoping cannot be the substitute for grieving. I had so much unfelt, unrecognized loss around being abandoned by my father that I could not let unhealthy relationships go…instead, I hoped and endured. Because I did not know how to grieve, I would hope for a magical and fantastic restoration or renewal. I couldn’t let go and move on. Healthy hope encourages and engages grief.
Grief and Self-Pity
Also grief is not self-pity. But for some of us learning to grieve consciously might begin with consciously experiencing self-pity. Tonight, with self-compassion ask yourself to articulate what in your day has triggered self-pity. Give yourself permission to feel self-pity. Then turn it into conscious grieving. Grieving is accepting the life you lived with all its losses and freeing yourself from pity and victimhood.
A personal epiphany about unfelt grief
The summer I was 7 yrs old, my family took our first family vacation and it was our last as a family. The vacation ended with my mother institutionalizing my father (a severe manic episode) which led to her divorcing him and moving us 1500 miles away. What also happened was my cat which we had brought to the beach cottage had run away and we left him behind. I lost my family, my home, my cat and my friends over three months. Can you imagine the grief I felt…but it was never spoken about so the grief settled into my bones and remained hidden and sabotaged most of my life. It was a massive soul-shaping (distorting) loss.
In all the therapy I had over my life, not one therapist asked me about grief. As a spiritual mentor, I have never made it a point to explore, encourage or recognize hidden grief or everyday grief with a client. With thirty years of working with the four temperaments, I have not considered temperamental grieving.
Writing this post is stirring up so much for me. If you have read this far, I am sure it is doing the same for you.
Grieving is not about forgiving. Grieving is just about loss and ending. It does not concern harm, hurt, or hindrance. It does not concern guilt, regret, or repair. I will be writing about the Art and Practice of Forgiving Every Day in the next post.
The Ways We Grieve?
My favorite and highly recommended way of celebrating is to keep a celebrating/grieving/ forgiving journal. Nothing enriches our sense of self more than creative recording and imaging in words and pictures.
Working with pictures. You may want to journal daily or weekly and then monthly or seasonally reread your entries and spend some time looking for images on the web or even drawing your own that offer a visual image of your thoughts and words.
Write down your griefs!!! Take your thoughts an find the right words and phrases. Do this with humor and gravity…a powerful combination.
If you have any questions or thoughts, email me.