Grief - such a powerful process - it can seem to suck the very life out of us at times, holding us and preventing us from progressing in life or interacting productively with those around us. It is thus very understandable that we may feel badly about grieving, wishing it away. But, is grief something to be resented, or can we learn to accept it as a necessary process?
Grief Comes to us All
So, lets first begin with brief exploration of why we grieve, and then look at how we can deal with the grieving process.
Why does Grief Happen?
Grief is our natural emotional reaction to loosing something that we have identified ourselves with. What does this mean? Well, we all have an inbuilt desire to explore who we are and find purpose. The problem is that we tend to associate ourselves with how we relate to things in the outside. Thus we create identities based on who we are in relation to given objects, people and circumstances.
Why is this a problem? It means that when we lose the object of our identity (as we most certainly will at some point) the part of ourselves that was associated with that object is fragmented and very difficult to recover.
For example when we lose a job, we may have associated it with a sense of purpose, achievement, and community. When we believe that it is the job that made us feel that way, then losing the job will will also rob us of those feelings until we find something new to latch onto that will renew those feelings in ourselves.
So I ask you this question. When we grieve, what are we grieving over?
Here's a perspective...
Identifying with the Feelings
However, with this realisation comes another danger. The danger is that the feelings are simply transferred to another object, person or circumstance. It is vitally important that we realise that these feelings are coming from inside of us and not from the outside. Thus, they are always accessible.
If we come to this realisation then we can see that these objects, people and circumstances are not reponsible for our feelings, but rather outlets for our expression of those feelings. And an outlet is simply that and thus not something to hold onto. Thus if we lose that outlet we don't necessarily lose the feelings. At this point you might be thinking 'Wait a minute, isn't seeing my dearest love as simply an outlet of expressing a little bit impersonal?' Well, it has been my experience that when we are able to take responsibility for our own feelings and not project them onto others, it is only then that we are able to honour that person and really love them unconditionally.
At this point I want to stress that although we may realise this, it doesn't mean that we won't grieve. It may only determine the speed and smoothness of the grieving process itself. There will always be emotions to process. We may experience the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, though not necessarily in that order or even sequentially. What is important is that we don't hold onto these feelings as this then creates another identity around them.
Emotions are simply our way of processing loss and recovering ourselves through it. Therefore, its not productive to hold onto them or create identities around them. For example, we may feel guilty about the impact that our grief is having on those around us, or angry about the way that the grief seems to be holding us back from progressing. But, if we realise that our emotions are not us, then they can be given the space to come through us.
And thus, when we can finally, truly, 100% accept the situation as it is there is no sense of resignation but an embracing of the moment and everything that means.
This blog is Richard West's tribute to all things life, death and spirituality. For a wealth of information on conscious relating check out Parting the Waves.
This blog is mostly educational. For musings on my life and lessons, go to Parting the Waves.
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