The Grief that Won’t Go Away

Beneath the hurry and worry,
beneath the frazzled scurrying for control,
beneath the frustration turned resentment,
beneath the fear that comes out as anger and rage
pointing out the tiny mishaps of your child or partner,
and momentary explosions over dishes left in the sink
or mud tracked in on the kitchen floor,

is grief.

Grief that has been beating against the insides of your ribs
longing to be breathed, acknowledged, and
tended to.

And she will not go away.

She will stay buried for only so long,
and then she will begin beating her drums,
rhythmically calling to you
over and over and over again.

“I am here,” she will say. “See me.
I am not your enemy.
I am your gateway to freedom.”

She wants you.

And you fear she will devour you.

She will.

But she will not leave you crushed and broken.
She will not leave you on your hands and knees
finally falling apart with palms beating the kitchen floor.

Oh no.
She will unravel you, for sure.
But she will not leave you.

She is holding space –
precious, embodied space –
for you to let the waves of emotions move
through your body.
The waves that must come, must be felt,
not analyzed with well-crafted words
sitting and talking in therapy.
But rather with groans and sounds
only a hurt animal knows
to be holy.

She is not afraid of those sounds.
She is not afraid of the tsunami
stuck inside of you.
She is not afraid of your body
moving and thrashing in ways
you’ve never allowed yourself
to move before.

She holds space for you.

She will dismantle any notion
that you are in control of this life.
And while this may drive you mad at first,
that struggle is temporary.

Because as you move and groan,
weep and cry out,
the alchemic wisdom of the body
is carrying the very medicine you need
to surrender any belief that you are alone,
that you could ever be separated
from Love.

In the spaces between breaths,
in the silence between sobs,
you feel it.

Grief has carried you
into the arms of the Beloved.
And though you still feel tender and broken,
somehow you know that death will not
have the final say.
You feel Grace quietly lying there with you
on the cold floor.
Your dog walks over to lick your face.
You feel your breath breathing you again.
And you sense that Grief is no longer your enemy.
She is your companion who remembers
what is eternal.
And she will stand at the threshold
of this world and beyond,
calling you to remember
what is true
and enduring.

Lisa McCrohan, MA, LCSW-C, SEP

Grief. We start to notice her more prominently in the fall. She is powerful. Gripping. We try to put her into stages. We try to schedule her on a nice, neat calendar. But she won’t have any of that. She and your body know better.

But we live in a culture of hurry, busy, distraction and disconnect. There is a pressure to be happy and “get ourselves together.” So we often dismiss grief, push her aside, or ignore her. I know that I have used “busy” and “work” to cover over my grief.

“Beneath the hurry and worry, beneath the frazzled scurrying for control, beneath the frustration turned resentment, beneath the fear that comes out as anger and rage pointing out the tiny mishaps of your child or partner, and momentary explosions over dishes left in the sink or mud tracked in on the kitchen floor, is grief.”

Grief can be about losing a loved one as well as the everyday kinds of grief that happen in our human experience: changing jobs, moving to a new home, children starting at a new school, the changing dynamic between you and your children as they grow, a relationship ending, etc.

For the last year, I have been taking a Chinese Medicine program that brings together this ancient healing approach, Polyvagal theory, and the Somatic Experiencing trauma recovery/resilience model. In Chinese medicine, Fall is the season of grief/inspiration. The opportunity in fall: if we gently and slowly allow grief to “come a bit closer,” – in small doses (or if you are a client, you’ve heard me say that we do this in a “titrated way”) — and we learn to skillfully be with it, we can actually find an inner stillness and spaciousness, and we can breathe in and have room for inspiration to arise.

Grief that gets pushed down, ignored, and denied, we can have a hard time “letting go” in our everyday lives. Our energy – or qi – becomes weak. We might feel easily overwhelmed and we might experience depression. (You can read more about Chinese medicine and the autumn season here).

Eventually grief will… “stay buried for only so long; and then she will begin beating her drums and rhythmically calling to you over and over again. ‘I am here,’ she will say. ‘See me. I am not your energy. I am your gateway to freedom’.”

We are afraid she will devour us. But what I have seen over the years on my own path and in accompanying others, is that “she will not leave you crushed and broken. She will not leave you on your hands and knees finally falling apart with palms beating the kitchen floor.”

She will hold space for you to allow the “groans and sounds only a hut animal knows to be holy.” She is not afraid of the enormity of what you feel. She knows that as you allow yourself to feel – just a little bit by little bit – “the alchemic wisdom of the body is carrying the very medicine you need to surrender any belief that you are alone, that you could ever be separated from Love.”

And somehow in it all, you will know that “death will not have the final word.”

You will feel life returning to you again. You will feel your breath filling you again. You will notice and participate in life around you again. And you will sense that “Grief is no longer your enemy. She is your companion who remembers what is eternal. And she will stand at the threshold of this world and beyond, calling you to remember what is true and enduring.”

How do you honor grief as well as titrate it so it does not consume you/retraumatize you?

Give yourself space. Learn how to slow down just a bit. Maybe you make less commitments and spend some time walking in nature, doing some art, and gently moving your body. Maybe you pause when you get in your car, and before you drive off, you just feel your breath breathing you for just three full breaths.

Acknowledge Grief – in small doses. Approach grief with reverence. Acknowledge her presence. When you notice her arrival – which is sometimes sudden and unexpected – you might just say, “Ohhhh, there you are, Grief. I see you. You are here right now.” This is a more inclusive approach – one that is based on the fact that connection and inclusion heal – not exclusion and avoidance.

Don’t go at it alone. Whenever a big emotion feels like it has been consuming us, our nervous system is caught up in a unhealthy loop – “push away/avoid” and then “bam! Big wave!” and then “collapse.” To get out of this loop and gently open to something different to happen – something more life-giving where you find spaciousness and inspiration – go and see a practitioner who can hold space for you. I remember once asking my own SE practitioner, “I KNOW how to do this! I hold space for others to do it! Why can’t I do it myself?!” She so wisely answered, “Because weren’t meant to do this work alone! It’s relational work!” 

If there’s a practitioner who has been coming up in your awareness and you feel a “yes,” go take the next right step. If working with me resonates with you, reach out to me or sign up for a free consult.

We need sacred spaces where we can honor grief. We need safe spaces where we can feel grief – the big and little waves, slowly, intentionally – and allow her to carry us into the arms of the Beloved and be held. This is not done quickly, neatly, and with the blaring light of a spotlight. No. We need permission for “slow” and “raw,” “messy” and “nonlinear” in CANDLELIGHT. Yes, as the late Celtic poet, John O’Donohue said, the lighting the soul prefers is candlelight.

Grief is not the enemy. She stands at the threshold of what was, what is, and what is still yet to be birthed. She calls us to remember IN OUR BODIES what is true and enduring — beyond death. She calls us to connection and to Life.

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving

Blessings,
Lisa

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