You don’t get out of this life without feeling grief. But it’s going to get you, and me, no matter what. You’re going to experience change in your life, whether or not you instigate it or someone else does. Your pets will die, probably well before you. Your children will begin packing their childhood room and move many states away. You may lose a spouse, a job, friendships, or even your home. Your parents will eventually leave the earth plane.
Grief is an inescapable part of life.
There’s that model of the 5 stages of grief shared by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. In it, Kubler-Ross tells us that there are five stages of processing grief. The model has been helpful for many in accepting that denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance is the natural progression of coming to terms with our losses. From my own anecdotal experience, this is not a linear progression. You might bounce around within those feelings for a while.
For me, I’ve tried to stay very present when faced with loss. The one that I don’t think I’ll ever get over was losing Alex, my golden retriever, in 2017. In some respects, I cannot believe it has been that long since he passed. But that loss and being in a specific mindset during the process prepared me in many ways for the years that followed.
We All Need to Grieve
Over the last year, we’ve all gone through loss. No matter what stories you’ve told yourself about this experience, it has taken a number of things away from us, both collectively and individually. Our sense of security and freedom, human interaction and connection, and a supportive sense of normalcy has been removed. We’re even missing out on cordial smiles at the grocery store as basic human connection is hidden under fabric masks. We’re seeing people turning against each other and old wounds ripped open.
We all lost something during 2020.
And we all need to grieve.
Yet as parents and leaders, many of us have found that we’ve had to suppress our own grief while we support others through their unique challenges with grief.
That was me.
I had many people relying on me and my optimistic nature to provide a sense of security and even fun during some frightening and dark times. (Who am I kidding, still am.) As such, I had to turn myself away from what the mainstream media has told us what’s going on. Unfortunately, our news outlets desire fearful eyeballs looking for guidance to navigate uncertainty.
I had to make decisions that were right for my family based on information I had collected, but not necessarily informed them of. I turned away from many incendiary media sources and took emotional reactions out of my own fact-based analysis of data.
And through all of that, we had family members impacted. We had loss of friends. We had other, normal life losses that would have been hard even without a pandemic.
I never got a chance to grieve.
Grief Requires Space
In 2021, however, I have had freedom and impetus to grieve. My kids are resiliently sailing through it all, and they are stable and excelling in their own ways. And now, the grief I’ve held is coming up. Rather than resisting that, I’m flowing with it in a rather healing way. It’s funny to me, though, that my progression through the stages of grief have been erratic and if I could have a cup of tea with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, we’d have a chat about that.
I’ve given myself space to grieve. To allow myself to feel sad, to feel hopeful, just to… feel. To be present with what is, to be present with what was, and to open myself to opportunities of what could be. Since what we resist persists, I meditate daily to move myself into a space of allowing what is to be what it is.
The weirdest things are happening as I do this. I start finding that my life experiences, even the most mundane experiences, start mimicking my thoughts and conversations. A song comes on in a store after a conversation that speaks specifically to the contents of the conversation. An interaction with someone mirrors a thought I had, or even a dream.
My intuition is heightened. Guidance and peace is coming through. A confidence in my ability to weather any storm, no matter how traumatic it might seem to be, is the foundation of my knowing I am right where I need to be.
This is beautiful.
Grief is a Part of Life
We’re not going to get out of here without loss. There is no escape. We will have people hurt us, people and pets leave us, and we will not be able to meet others’ expectations of us all the time. We will hurt others, and others will hurt us. And in that pain, we know our humanity. We know who we really are.
Our goal is to cultivate presence and awareness, and detach from emotionally based decisions. Our goal is to be present with our emotions without acting from them. Our goal is to feel our heart over our head, to connect with the creative power of who we really are. Our goal is to act from love rather than fear. Our goal is to welcome the growth that will come from loss. Because, really, in order to get what we want, we very often have to give up who we were.
When we can be comfortable with uncertainty, with change and challenge, our inner spiritual foundation for calm no matter the waters we’re in is the foundation for our growth.
Even if you don’t think we’re going to get through this, I can tell you with unequivocal certainty: we will get through this. Let this be the fire that steels your soul.