There are lots of forms of grief and loss. The most obvious is when someone has died, but we can also grieve in many other ways, like the end of a relationship, the diagnosis of a serious illness, not being able to have a baby, or the loss of a dream.
We all will go through some form of loss at some point. It’s inevitable. I get emails regularly from people who are grieving or even holding themselves back from feeling that grief.
We can sometimes steer away from talking about hard things because we think something bad might happen. Growing up, I was taught it was taboo to talk about loss and grief and what it might mean to lose someone. In the Philippines, people believed that talking about it would almost call it in, like a self-fulfilling prophecy or a jinx.
But when we close off to grief and loss and turn away from it, we are missing out on a big opportunity – and a kind of spiritual gift.
Grief is an emotion that seasons us, makes us more human and alive. It’s an emotion that I have come to welcome whenever it arrives in my own life.
It cleanses me.
When we let grief or loss have its way with us, we can be transformed into something more tender.
I remember my own grief when I found out I had cancer… both times. I grieved the loss of my physical strength and prowess as a climbing guide of 10 years. I reached out to a friend who had also struggled with their cancer diagnosis and asked them, “how do you have faith in your body?”
How did they not believe when the doctors told them they had 6 months to live (multiple times)? That they may not ever have children of their own?
I was begging to be given faith in myself and my body, but I had to sit in the grief first. When I did, I saw my humanity, my impermanence, and my absolute need for other humans.
It was that experience of waking up in my loss that inspired me to start my coaching business and help people live life to the fullest in alignment with their deepest values – without getting cancer first.
If you’ve grieved deeply in any way, you know about surrender, because grief really is surrendering to reality over and over again. And in that reality, we can find refuge.
However, a lot of people fear the surrender and choose to bury their grief. It’s an unpleasant and uncomfortable emotion, and our first inclination is to not go there. While it’s totally normal to want to avoid it – it’s not that helpful.
What we don’t realize is that grief is a portal to loving awareness. Love and loss are inseparable. And it’s absolutely natural.
Grief is a way to metabolize that loss and be able to keep on going. If we want to move through it in a way that it becomes soul work, we need to learn to stay and tolerate what’s really difficult.
This definitely goes against the grain of our culture. We are taught that any little piece of discomfort should be slathered with a soothing cream, a medicine, or a distraction; that we should turn our eyes and ignore the problem all together.
Death and loss are also seen as unnatural. Aging is “bad,” sickness is “bad,” death is “bad.”
That belief of “bad” interferes with opening to reality, and closes us off to our most vulnerable and beautiful parts.
So the key question here for us is, “Are we available to grieve the inevitable losses we’ll face as humans?”
When we choose to ignore or close ourselves to grief, there’s a need to control everything. We have to make sure everything goes right, and we might even adapt that bargaining mindset (God, if you just do ____, I’ll do anything).
Others choose to blame… blame the doctor who made a mistake (I know I did that when my mom died), blame the parent who acted cruelly. We can even blame and turn on ourselves. We shame ourselves or tell ourselves a fear-based story. We label the grief and the loss as “bad.”
It’s important to note here that there is a time to surrender to the grief, and also sometimes we may need to step away to help us cope when we can’t handle the magnitude of the experience. Both can be skillful – so don’t get the idea that you need to re-traumatize yourself to process grief. We can do it on our own time, our own terms…but we do it.
Now, grief is not a one-shot experience. It’s an ongoing relationship. It’s a continual surrender into reality, and when resistance arises, it’s opening to that with tenderness.
For me, when I felt that resistance in past moments of grief and I would open to it, I found an enormous amount of fear – fear of loss. It was like, if I open myself up to it, I would die. So I had to remind myself to just be with it.
Often, we get this sense that we have to grieve alone. But there are many cultures that have a deep understanding of how we need to do it together. We can carry one another in grief. We need to hold each other and cry and share stories.
We can hold grief as a sacred time. An experience that tenderizes us, shapes us, and transforms us. So the next time you or a friend experiences a loss, don’t shut that grief down so quickly. Let grief have its way with you and remember that you are not alone.
In this episode you will learn:
// How grief is a sacred time and space for us
// Why and how we bury grief
// The beautiful relationship with loss and love
// How we transform when we allow ourselves to grieve
// How to turn towards grief on our own terms
// Episode 24, How to Be with Any Emotion
// Episode 77, Change Is Inevitable
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.
// If you’re interested in finding out more about how to free your mind and free your life, join Freedom School. Enrollment is open, and we are diving DEEP into ways to cultivate clarity and courage so you can create your best life. There are also some sweet bonus courses for you there. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com.