“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?” – Kahlil Gibran.
Sometimes, life can seem hard. Unfair. Sad.
Image: jingkay2008 (creative commons, flickr)
(This is a guest post from Alana Shereen of AlanaShereen.com. Want to write for Your Life YOUR Way? I’m looking for contributors! Get the deets here. – Tia.)
Have you ever moved through a day feeling raw, powerless or just plain numb?
This is particularly true when grief comes knocking on our door. A guest no one wants to invite in, and yet…. an essential piece of being human.
She’s tricky, grief.
She can come and go, a fair-weather friend. She can be a constant companion. She can show up years later, with a party hat on and a big sign that says, “Surprise!” when you thought you were long done.
We are not prepared in our civilized, western culture, for what grief does to us.
We don’t talk about it much.
We don’t study it in high school.
We distance ourselves from the reality of death and our own mortality by using terms like “passed away” or “lost”.
We have unwritten rules about what’s acceptable to grieve and what’s not, leaving many of us feeling like we don’t have a right to our experience.
The truth is, most people feel like they are doing grief “wrong”.
Instead of fighting her, let her bring her gifts. When your heart is broken, let pain be your teacher and sadness your guide.
Grief is an opportunity to burn away what is not working in your life.
A fire that will leave you standing like the phoenix on the other side, reborn from the ashes of what you thought was true.
How you take care of yourself and the quality of your support system can make the difference between grief feeling like a never-ending struggle that leaves you a shadow of yourself, living life in the half-light of unrelieved sorrow, and it being a devastating but valuable growth experience.
Here are 5 ways to turn your grief into growth.
1. Give yourself space.
Grief is transformational.
It’s impossible to enter into an experience like the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the loss of a career, or a major medical diagnosis, and emerge unchanged.
Grief can’t be separated from life.
Giving yourself space to grieve in whatever way feels best is essential. It’s not possible to deny your pain and still fully experience joy. In attempting to numb one emotion, you begin to numb them all.
- It might mean clearing your social calendar, or delegating some tasks at work.
- Taking an extra day off twice a month…
- Or arranging for a sitter so you can give yourself the attention you deserve.
Give yourself an uninterrupted 15 minutes (or several hours!) on a regular basis – simply be present with yourself and keep grief from coming out sideways as anger, fear, or depression, or negatively impacting those you love.
2. Let your judgments go.
It can take years to find your new normal after a major loss. It can also be surprisingly quick. Everyone’s experience is unique.
There are some general truths:
- The first year or two tend to be the hardest
- Grief is often triggered by special dates such as birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays
- It can return when we witness others grieving.
This is one reason for major outpourings of emotion when public figures die, or mass tragedies happen.
It’s also possible to not feel as devastated as you think you should. It’s possible for a sense of grace and acceptance, or renewed purpose to quickly take the place of sadness.
The trick is to stop judging yourself, or anyone else, for how grief shows up.
3. Listen to your body.
It could be a competitive game of two-on-two basketball, a hike in the woods, a walk around the block or dancing in your living room.
The bottom-line is, your body needs to move.
Aside from the obvious physical benefits, movement helps shift mental and emotional states.
Get quiet, take a few deep breaths and ask your body what it wants. Let the answer come instead of struggling to figure it out.
If you’re physically unable to move much, put on music and let your hands dance or do some gentle stretching. Your body is wise and listening to it will teach you about yourself.
Make your body your ally instead of your enemy by honoring its needs and desires.
4. Use your words.
Recent studies have proven what anyone who journals regularly will tell you – putting your feelings, thoughts and experiences on paper can help you feel better.
When you allow yourself to write freely, without editing what comes out, it can have significant impact on your life physically, mentally and emotionally.
The ability to take a situation, look at it from different angles, and explore it gently also increases your chance of gaining a bird’s eye view.
Like an eagle soaring overheard, you begin to see the bigger picture. You might begin to recognize how patterns are repeating themselves, or how repetitive thoughts keep you feeling like a victim.
The page (or the computer screen) can be a safe place to release emotion and be completely honest.
5. Honor yourself.
In western society we tend to look at one way of grieving as the “right” way, the way it should be done.
If someone isn’t crying openly, or talking about their feelings, people begin to shake their heads and whisper about denial. But grief can look like almost anything!
- You might experience it largely in your body – in that lower-back pain that just won’t go away or exhaustion or a racing heart.
- You might have a burning need to understand what happened.
- Or to solve a problem the loss or change has caused.
- You might need to cry.
Whatever it looks like for you, honoring your needs and finding what works for you is what matters most.
See if you can open to your feelings, noticing them without judgment .
Notice what it is that you want to do – eat, drink, smoke, sleep, watch TV, have sex, work with your hands, scrub your house, or go for a run.
Notice what seems driven by thought (or the desire to escape the thought) and what is a whisper from your soul.
If you feel the need for community and a safe space to cry, you can seek out a support group, a therapist who is trained to work with grief or spend time with a friend who is willing to be a listening ear. If talking about your feelings leaves you cold, begin to notice what it is you do want.
It could be to work with your hands, or get involved in a volunteer opportunity, or play the same song on your guitar a hundred times. People often find themselves driven to do something, without fully understanding why.
Trust that there is a reason, then give yourself permission to act. The more you listen to the wisdom of your body and spirit, the faster you’ll move from feeling powerless and victimized to recognizing the strength and beauty of your own soul.
There is always gold to be found when we stop being afraid of our darkest moments. You have permission to be you, in your life and in your grief.
Do it your way. Find yourself. Find your gold.
Would love to hear from you – how do you deal with grief? Please like/tweet/share with someone who needs this. Thank you for sharing!
Alana Sheeren is a grief coach and emotional alchemist.
The stillbirth of her son transformed her life and allowed her to become the person she’d always wanted to be. She now supports women who wish to use their grief to uncover their most brilliant, powerful selves.
Registration is open for the next 5-week Picking Up the Pieces Tele-Retreat and her free Picking Up the Pieces Guide is available for download here.
** Want MORE BLISS and less stress in your life? Inner Sparkle: The 21 Day eCourse is made for you. Click here to get inspired. Happy. Sparkly. **
30 day purpose + passion + inner self + gratitude journey in an online community experience. Starts October 1st, 2012. CLICK FOR DEETS + TO SIGN UP.
Life Coach / Awesomeness Inciter + Inner Sparkle Activator Tia Sparkles offers tips, advice, community hug-a-thons to ignite your Inner Sparkle — that shimmery part of your spirit that says YES to courage + connection, and NO WAY to ‘shoulds’ + restrictions.
She loves Nutella, New Zealand, Yoda, & Sparkles.
Plane image source: google.com