Good Grief

Generally, when we consider growth we think of acquiring something; we think of adding on to what we already have. So when we embark upon the journey of spiritual growth we tend to think of that growth as “more”. Eventually, we discover that “growth” is more a process of letting go than of acquisition. This is because we already are that which we seek to become but we must release all that stands in the way of that realization. The journey becomes one of letting go; but it’s letting go of that which is not truly real; we are letting go of something that in reality never existed. But to the ego it seems very real, it seems like part of “me” is being lost. That “me" to which I so tenaciously cling is the very thing that prohibits me from realizing what I most deeply want—my own true nature.

When we release something to which we are emotionally attached (real of not) the resulting emotion is grief. Since much of the spiritual journey is about letting go we need to make friends with grief. To “make friends” with grief doesn’t mean to cling to it or dramatize it. It means to allow it rather than wallow in it.

We each have own our pattern and style for grieving. This pattern is influenced by our culture, our ethnicity, our family background, our age, our gender and our personal temperament. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that it is not okay to grieve or that grief should be expressed only in certain ways. As a result, many people carry much unresolved grief inside them.

The first step in healthy grieving is to remove any shame that may arise when we grieve. We must learn that it is natural to grieve when we experience a loss, and that we do not need to hide our grief.

Grief consists of an ensemble of emotions: anger, sadness, and often fear, guilt or regret. Early on, denial is a natural part of the process—especially if the loss is a big one or if the emotional connection to the loss person or object is strong.

Grief has its own time table; we cannot control the beginning or the ending. Some experiences of grief may seem disproportionate to the objective value of the loss, but there is good reason for this: any loss may trigger unresolved grief from previous losses; we may be grieving many things at once without realizing it.

Our unmet childhood needs must be grieved to be healed. Grief is the healing feeling. We grieve what we have had and lost, we grieve what we needed but never received; we grieve the lost hopes, dreams, and opportunities that seem gone forever. And as we grow older we see that our life begins to consist of more losses than gains; more endings than beginnings.

The deepest of all human desire is for the realization of our own true nature-- our innate divinity. Our soul grieves its separation from the divine; feeling that grief is the path of return.

Our poet friend Rumi reminds us time and again that the most direct road to God is embracing the pain in our heart.

 Don’t run away from grief, o soul

Look for the remedy inside the pain…

because the ROSE came from the thorn

and the RUBY came from a stone.