Speaker: Jacob Watson
Platform: Insight Timer
Grief is a natural response to life’s losses. It precipitates sadness, often expressed by our tears, and eventually encourages us to share our stories with other people.
When we put grief into words, it is a creative act, a primary way to both say our truth about our losses out loud, and to connect with others.
To feel and express the natural emotions of grief, is like holing up a bucket of water from a dark well into the sunlight. Eventually, we can use the water to nurture the growth of new life.
As we live, we have inevitable losses, so we respond to them. We think, we feel and we act. we do not simply have life or do life, we are life. And built into this, of course, is death. We are death, too.
We learn that all the stories of life come and go, if we were not alive once, we will be not alive again. Because of this natural cycle, we will have loss, and thus we will experience grief.
Everyday in life brings transitions and losses, some are small and inconsequential, even to climb out of the cozy bed in the winter, or to leave one room into another, are losses. we put one foot in front of another, and step forward, leaving behind our footprints where we used to stand.
But life brings much larger losses, such as the end of a relationship, the transition from a job, the deterioration of health, aging, or the death of a friend or a family member.
Whenever we begin to love, we begin to grief.
We grief first because of a possibility of change.
When the grief is anticipatory, then the change happens. Sometimes expected, and sometimes shocking and unexpected. Either way, we learn that to have is to create the surety of not having, of losing. and when we experience loss, we grief. To be human we are bound to feel the natural emotions of grief.
Let’s look at the purposes of grief.
Like each of the natural emotions, grief has a purpose. And the purpose of grief is to learn to live with life’s losses. Another purpose of grief is to open our hearts, to the losses of other people, and thus activate our compassion.
Some grief we feel and live with alone, and eventually as part of the process, we can share it.
When we have the courage to walk through a door and sit down next to or across from other people, and say out loud what our loss is, the fact and how we feel, we begin to heal.
Most of the time, not but always, it is helpful to express out loud what and how it happened. Telling our story, even our felt experience of it, can be a major step into and through our grief towards heal.
While we heal, to understand that grief has a purpose, can be comforting.
When the grief is fierce and unrelenting, to know that grief is purposeful, that it has both meaning and use, is normalizing, humanizing and eventually healing.
Grief has its own process and timeline. Similar to other emotions, grief seeks acknowledgement and expression.
If the natural feelings of grief is not expressed for weeks or years, it becomes distorted into blame, guilt and shame.
Distorted means it becomes outsized and toxic.
Sometimes we are victimized, the whole point of recognizing the distortions of natural emotions, is not to remain stuck as a victim.
Sometimes we blame others, sometimes we blame ourselves. We should’ve done something differently
With knowledge of this process, we can be alerted when the distortion of blame, guilt and victimization show up. Yes there is blame and responsibility.
After blame, comes the responsibility to regain control of what we can.
Having regrets can bring guilt. But this guilt is also a distortion of grief. When we are feeling guilty, we can ask what we might be angry about. Guilt can hide anger.
The key to healing grief, is to return the feeling of natural emotions. Give it acknowledgment and expression.
Shame is subtle and pervasive. We can be ashamed of what we are feeling. We expect, or we think others expect different feelings.
To move beyond shame, we must remember we have the right to our natural emotions. Our emotions help us accept and live with our losses. There is no reason to be ashamed of a human quality, that is native to human beings.
Take a good look of your shame, we may be able to see it for it is: see a wounded ego desperately trying to salvage itself, at our expanse. It is helpful to simply say the truth out aloud: I am sad.
We can then recall the gratitude we feel for being able to acknowledge and express our natural emotions.
This ageless wisdom, is expressed by this quotation from the Gnostic Gospels:
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
We sometimes hesitate to bring things forth, because it is hard. Grief is hard.
What that word hard means is that I feel a lot.
When we say life is hard or difficult, what you are saying is that life is full of feelings. Grief and all our natural emotions.
A healing strategy is to become aware of these distorted feelings. And by accepting their existence, we can move them into the presence to express them.
Indeed, the presence is the only place that healing can happen.
We can review and even revisit the past, but we cannot change it. At the other end of the spectrum, we can plan the future but not live there. The present moment is what we have to work with.
To move our grief out of distorted emotions, then we can experience them in the presence, appreciate their purpose, and externalize them, then express them out into the world.
As we express the natural emotions of grief, we are expressing our spirits.
Jacob Watson. (2019). Grief: Letting Go. Lecture. From Insight Timer.