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Embodying Grief

It is a difficult subject but one we all experience at different points in our lives. We feel the sharpness of grief when we lose a lover, a friend, a job, when death strikes near to us, when we lose the life we came to rely upon. Our existence is more fragile and mutable than we ever want to admit to ourselves.


Recently, my grandmother passed away. She was 98 years old and it wasn't sudden. She had a rich, full, and long life in which she gathered her precious family and friends close and held us tight. She was funny and warm and I loved her so very much. She cared for me much of the time when I was a small child and I always felt like she saw the sun shining through me. In the days following her passing I went through all the layers you would expect of sadness and solemness; tears and acceptance. Eventually I had to return to teaching and seeing clients and I was nervous about letting my emotions spill into my work. We tend to value compartmentalization in healing work. We don't want to allow our personal lives to affect the professional therapeutic relationships we have with clients. We also rightfully need to maintain our focus on the clients needs while we set our own aside. There is always the danger in being too good at compartmentalization where you shut yourself off from the energetic, emotional, and spiritual resources that enable you to offer rich healing. There is a balance between maintaining professionalism and being human enough to access the life blood of the work.. As I worked on clients that first day back I found myself allowing my mind to wander and feeling layers of emotion even as I was maintaining focus and presence on my clients. I gave myself permission to drop into the fluidity of my emotional body as I worked. In allowing myself to breathe through the layers of emotion I was able to remain more, rather than less, present with my work.


I have experienced several profound deaths the past few years and I have taken these opportunities to consciously practice this sinking in of grief into my body in a way where it doesn't get stuck, where it doesn't cause me harm. I can't say that it is pleasant but it no longer feels like something fearsome either. When I found out a dear friend of 20 years passed away 2 years ago I was attending a Body Mind Centering© workshop. Throughout those days I would let myself move and dance during our practices and tears and emotions would flow like water through my body as I moved. I had no reason to resist this flow. Once the movement exercises were over I would wipe my tears and rejoin the group, able to focus and engage in a productive way with my friends and colleagues. I realized that in allowing myself the space to feel into the depth of grief, anger, sadness, and all the other things that I was feeling it was no longer consuming me the way that other losses had in the past. In allowing the grief to be expressed through me I was making space for the river of it to flow. It was no longer threatening the banks of my mental and emotional health.


All loss is unique. We all have different relationships with those elements or beings we may lose. We all have different relationships with the concept of loss itself. I honor everyone's unique capacity and skill set around making it through loss and grief. I am not proposing a simple strategy for lessening the impact of grief but simply an idea of how we might let ourselves go through it with an open heart and open hands.


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