As I’ve written about in other posts, my father died last July. Up until that time, the only other real death I had been exposed to was that of my grandparents. Not the same thing, when you have a parent pass away.
The pain that came with my father’s passing was excruciating. Yet, it was necessary and needed for me to feel that pain. I’ve spent the better part of my life running from my emotions. Covering them up with drinking, eating, anything really, to keep the pain at bay. Totally unaware and disengaged.
I read a blog post recently about the benefits of crying by Maja on Lampelina, and it reminded me of the necessity and need to be aware of our emotions, and to feel them, and to release them.
When I was unaware of, and disengaged from my emotions, expect for the ones that I was able to feel and release, such as anger and frustration, I had tons of pent up shame, sadness, and grief. Still do. I am now doing these emotions, which means I cry often.
I know when there is a need within me to cry, because the familiar emotions of anger and frustration will surface, which is the first sign that I am holding onto, not paying attention to, and avoiding my true feelings.
Many people live their whole lives this way. One of the issues with this, outside of the negative health ramifications, is that when we avoid difficult emotions, like shame, sadness, and grief, it keeps us from truly living.
We cannot lead a rich and full life without an awareness of our emotional selves. Further, we must regularly work at, or practice our emotions, and be in touch with them, no matter how painful they are. Actually, the more painful the emotions, the more the need to be in touch with them.
Though I have experienced love throughout my life, it is only now that I can fully experience love in a way that is almost painful. It is cliche to write, you must know love to know loss, and you must know loss to know love. However, it is true. More true than I ever really knew.
Today, on this Memorial Day, I’m thinking about my father quite a bit, reflecting upon the pain that he had and held, which went unprocessed. It fills me with great sadness. Yet, I know it happened as it was supposed to. And, I know that one of his legacies is having a son that is in touch with his emotions today, more than ever before.
That I’ve had the opportunity to learn about and get in touch with my emotions means that I can stand for his grandsons, and help them understand, when they are ready, their emotional selves. This is the essence, for me, of love and loss, and the pain that can come in both.
I have never before known pain that functions this way. Pain that is both healing and transformative. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding pain, and that was my confusion. Because it is through pain that we can receive the greatest gifts of understanding.
We can better understand ourselves, and all of those around us. Today, love and loss, and the pain that comes through both, are more alike to me today than ever before. Though I once avoided my pain, I now welcome it, as I know that the pain I feel through love and loss are needed to live the fullest life possible.
Last July my father passed away. It was very sudden, and not expected. Until that time, the only other deaths that I had experienced were that of my grandparents. Not the same thing. The grief that came, and still comes, from my father passing away was and is profound.
Since that time I’ve been exploring my grief. All grief, past and present. And, it is the past grief that is buried deep within that is just now coming to the surface.
Exploring grief this way is not negative, or bad. Actually, the opposite is true. Though painful, it is a very positive experience, and therapeutic.
Just a short three years ago, however, I would not have, could not have understood the words just now written. I was disconnected from that part of myself, so my grief laid in wait.
Exploring my grief as I have this past year, has also opened up a new space within me for more creativity, which is a byproduct of increased clarity. With more clarity, you see the world in a new way, realizing that much more is possible than you previously thought.
Though grief is heavy to carry around, when you dig into it, explore it, and come to terms with it, you have an opportunity to create more possibilities out of such grief. This site and blog post are a perfect example of such possibilities
A light bulb, so to speak, goes on when you confront, examine, come to terms with, and eventually let go of your grief. Though a novice at “grief work” I do know through experience how it feels to work through your grief.
As I’ve written in other posts, the only way to really understand something, is to experience it. Talking and thinking about it is not doing it. You must go into your grief, feel it with all of your senses, and examine the underlying causes of such grief. It is then that you can experience increased clarity and creativity. At least, in my case that is how it has worked this past year.
It seems to me that there is a whole world full of grief due to the current COVID-19 health crisis. Grief that is present for some, becoming present for others, and will be future present for the rest. Either way, to experience sadness and grief during such a time, is necessary and needed.
Before shelter-in-place was put into effect, I was experiencing my grief in the solitude of my drive to work. Probably not the best context for such release, yet it worked for me. Now that I’ve been working from home these past two months, a new pattern, or habit has developed. Prior to the development of this new pattern, however, I recognized that I was ignoring my grief, both past and present, which caused more frustration and anger.
Noticing such anger and frustration was the first indicator that I was denying a part of myself. With some guidance, I then intentionally created a context where I could go into my grief and stay there for longer periods of time. What was once a 20 or 30 minute exploration during my drive to work, has become two-hour explorations on the weekends.
These explorations have yielded many insights, some about past experiences where grief is still present, and some about present experiences where greif is very new. Working on the grief is the same, regardless of when the events that caused such grief occured.
Working on grief, and the associated creativity and clarity that come from doing such work, are part of the same system. A system known as humanness. It has taken me a very long time to get to a point in my life where there is an awareness, and an experiential knowing, around topics such as grief.
And, though I am a novice at grief work, I know that taking that first step is what matters. Just like anything else we choose to do. Will you know what the results of such work will be? No. However, do we ever really know how something will go that we choose to put our focus and attention on? I don’t think so.
The result is not the point. It is the process of taking action. No matter what action you take, whether it is grief work, making changes to your diet, or anything else you choose to put your focus and attention on. The process is the same. As many people throughout history, and across multiple cultural contexts have written – life, and all that we choose to do, is about the journey not the destination.