GRIEF; the necessary pain
I have helped many clients with their journey through grief. I would like to write ‘overcome’ grief but I don’t find that accurate. You don’t overcome, you learn to live with it and redefine yourself with this added invisible scar.
There are the classic stages of grief and it is obviously personal, how long you are in each stage and if perhaps you can skip the odd stage altogether; it will depend on your resilience, your ability to feel emotions and your unique childhood, life experience and sub-conscious programming.
At first, it appeared to me, grief came to my clinic via the client who lost her husband in a car ‘accident’, or the elderly lady who struggled without her partner, or the dad who lost his son to the sea. These were devastating and the pain for these clients was tangible. I would burn sage to ‘clear’ the room after these sessions but I couldn’t clear it from myself; this kind of grief sticks hard.
But then grief came in other guises; the client who as a young child, was dumped by her ‘circle’ of friends and never knew why. She had lived with this betrayal and made up a story about herself not being good enough and others being unpredictable which led to an inability to trust. As we unpacked her past, we came across the grief of ‘losing’ her friends. It played out as if they had died and actually, that’s exactly how the nine year old experienced it; one minute she was in a tribe, the next they had ‘died’.
Another time, grief came in the form of a partner, who my client felt had changed into a completely different person. He was still living with ‘the love of his life’ but this woman, was not who he had met. As he connected to his feelings, we found a fountain of pain explode into the space between us; it was made of grief for the woman he felt he had ‘lost’ (after a severe trauma in her life) and tears poured for how much he missed her.
And then came my own grief; finding out my partner had cheated on me for an entire year with an ex and deciding he must go, as this was an absolute non-negotiable for me in a relationship. The grief for me, was the person I had always believed he was; loyal, reliable, dependable. This ‘new’ knowledge for me, killed the person I had committed building a life with and having children with. I sat in a process of ‘grief’ because in the instant I found out he had utterly betrayed me, the person (for me) died – and so into my life, rolled the stages of grief.
I don’t think there’s a magic formula for recovery. But I do think there is a process of accepting, allowing the pain, rolling it around in your mind and body, like connoisseurs would roll around a fine red wine on their tongue! Savouring, noting, feeling and taking time with all the sensations. And then as time passes, you notice the tiny flicker/flame deep down that never quite went out; it’s hope, it’s resilience, it’s belief in life ‘after’ and in your ability to get back up again. The gentle nurturing of that tiny flame; like a pilot light on the old gas boilers, needs protecting and encouraging; small steps, a bigger step and a decision this flame could glow bright again. Now and again, a gust comes and you think it might go out, but (and only if you choose it to be) it’s just a setback.
Connecting into the feelings, naming and noticing and then a decision to build something up again. This is what it takes to move on, while accepting life will never quite be the same again.
The most beautiful face i ever saw, was a very old lady on a reed boat in Bolivia. She had thick plaited white hair, deeply etched lines housing her sparkling eyes. You could see life was hard and wonderful all at once in that face. I was only 19, but I remember thinking nobody gets that much beauty, without going through tough, tragic and heart-breaking times and choosing to build back again after.