When we’re in immersed in grief it can seem like there is no other reality. It can be frightening to look to the future because all we can see is more of the pain that is already overwhelming us. And, while many of the griefs we experience will never completely disappear—especially when we lose someone we have loved deeply and intensely—there is always a reality beyond all-consuming grief. And even though we may carry our sense of loss for the rest of our lives, we can still find a life that is whole, joyful, creative, and vibrant. The question is: how do we get there? Well, that’s our focus for this video.
WHAT TRANSFORMS US
Richard Rohr has often said that there are only two things that can transform us and break us out of dualistic, shallow spirituality: great love and great suffering. And, since most suffering is related to the loss of something or someone we have loved, these two experiences almost always go together.
Last week we spoke about the various expression or stages in process of grieving. But while we may be jumping around between denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and finding meaning, there is also another process at work in our grief. It’s a process that we can see in so much of life. It happens when we’re dealing with change (and grief is also a change process). It happens during conflict. It happens in any creative endeavour. And it happens when we face grief.
This process consists of four parts and each has requires different attitudes and actions for us to navigate them well. I have already spoken about this process on this blog with regard to spiritual evolution. But I want to go through it again now in relation to grief.
The journey through grief always begins with a catalyst, which is the death and/or the loss of something or someone important. Many of the stages of grief are about coming to terms with the catalyst. No matter how much we may have been expecting the loss, when it happens it is always a shock and we find ourselves doing everything we can to wish ourselves back to how things were. But once the catalyst has happened, there is no going back. The old world we long for is no more, but we can’t yet see the new world that is coming. And so we feel adrift, aimless, and empty.
Add to this the fact that the catalyst always throws us into chaos. Nothing is as it was and we don’t know how to navigate this crazy, emotional, disorganised, and distressing space. We can’t predict how long the chaos will remain, but the more we fight it the longer we have to endure it. The only thing we can do with chaos is move through the darkness one step at a time until we finally reach the next stage.
At some point in the chaos, and we’re never sure when, why or how that point will come, we get clarity. We can begin to see the new world beyond the chaos, even though we’re not there yet. We begin to feel hope again and the pain we’ve known stops defining us and consuming us.
And if we are able to keep moving toward the light we will find ourselves in a place of cohesion. This is where we begin to feel whole again, the chaos is over and we know that we are in a new reality. Now we can begin to rebuild, and to make a new life in this new world. We may still be carrying grief with us, but we know we will survive it. We may feel joy again for the first time since our loss. We may begin to laugh again. But the primary feeling is that we are alive. We want to be alive and we allow ourselves to feel, to connect, to dream, and to create again. We are no longer defined by death or grief but by life and hope and new possibilities.
A LAND BEYOND GRIEF
We have all experienced so much grief in the last couple of years. And for many of us it seems like we’ll never get out of the chaos. But there is a land beyond the grief and we will get there if we will allow ourselves to. It will require a little faith, courage, awareness of what is happening, sharing of stories, and generosity toward ourselves and each other, but when we cling firmly to these qualities we will discover that one day we wake up and realise that we are in a new world and we will be ok.
Where are you in this process of grief? How can you nurture the qualities of faith, courage, awareness, story-sharing, and generosity in your own life today? What would most help you to find your way through the chaos to clarity and then to cohesion? I’d be grateful if you would share your stories and we can comfort and support one another in this difficult, but transforming, journey.
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