October 31, 2022
Grief – An Initiation
Grief’s location in the body seems to be very near the center, the nucleus around which identity orbits. The place where we hold a knowing of what matters, and grief can show up when we experience a transition involving what matters to us. Grief can feel like the fabric of who we are is coming undone.
Grief has become a bedside friend for me.
Over the past year, I’ve gone to bed with grief and woken up with it many times. It arrived right away, curled up beside me, laying on my former partner’s side of the bed, taking on his shape and size. Through my journey with grief, I’ve experienced a depth of feeling that I hadn’t known prior. It has led me into caverns of physical and emotional feeling, walls of memory, and deep wells of uncertainty. As one does when big loss arrives, I met what my teacher called “the bedrock of reality”, coming closer to the raw center of myself. When what life has promised falls away, we arrive at the initiatory threshold grief provides.
When my former partner told me he had met his soul mate, and that it wasn’t me, my world swirled in every direction. I understood the metaphor of rug pulling as I stumbled through months of trying to catch my balance. I watched our future go back into the sea. I said goodbye to the children we dreamed of. The earthquake permeated every room in my body, and there were moments when the shake kept me in bed. As my friend Natalie Kuhn reminded me, “some days it is simply about getting through the day. That’s the only goal.”
Through this process, I saw grief became my teacher. It showed me how big I had loved, since the grief that arises is proportional to how we loved. Grief helps us see how brave we were to open up the soft bits of our being and let another take refuge inside. Grief is an echo that sounds through the hollow space they leave behind.
Grief asks us to go on a journey with it. And though we might not want to go on it, this journey ultimately serves the soul. We are asked to cultivate radical self-compassion, the prioritization of self-care, a practice in reaching out for support, and coming face to face with the wilderness of impermanence.
Grief has shown me that it’s both the map and the treasure chest. It leads us to a place that holds Inside it both blessings and excruciating pain. We dig our hands in and feel into a life that is rich in experience, emotional depth, and presence. We get to harvest the gems only found in darkness.
Grieving is the act of turning towards what is and opening the chest. Grieving well means allowing the expression of what is to claim the space it needs to be held. Then, once thoroughly expended, that which is grieving can lay its head to rest, even if just for a few moments. Grieving shows us that the deep peace that can in the middle of a storm.
Grief is a high form of grace. Grief is the space angels like to visit most. The place of ultimate surrender; lost in the middle of the river with palms turned up to the sky. In the moments we accept grief, we become a hollow bone and a grace that is bigger than us flows in. More life gets to enter when it stops resisting itself. When heart ache meets grace, there is no choice but to be in the process of expanding. Breath by breath, we contact what hurts and offer it more and more space.
Grief is a chance to be both the one that tends and the one tended to. We are asked to step forward to care for ourselves in ways we do not ordinarily have to. And when we simply can’t, we practice calling a friend to come over and stroke our forehead, remind us of what is hard in the moment to remember, bring us our favorite foods or to simply be. Being with one another in times of deep grief is an honor and privilege. The treasure chest offers itself to all who step towards it with presence.
I have learned that grief has a timeline that refuses to be rushed. In the same way one cannot make one’s broken leg heal faster even if the desire to do so is strong, we cannot rush the healing of our heart nor our nervous system. It has its own way of moving through a being. It is not the minds to control, but rather to ask over and over again “how can I show up for me in this moment? How can I bring kindness and compassion to right here and now? How can I let all of this be, even if I do not understand with my mind how this could possibly be blessing me somewhere amongst all the pain?”
This lesson came swiftly to me when I went to a gathering of close friends where I knew my former fiancé and his new partner would be in attendance. I went with the intention to step towards transitioning our relationship into friendship. I went with as much of an open heart as I could and as grounded in my body as I knew how to be.
Yet, when I saw them in connection, the familiar wave rolled through me. The hot tears came, my legs began to shake, my stomach contracted, and later that night I was overcome with nausea and the need to purge. That night I learned that the vision for an ideal relational future and the painful present moment reality share the same body. I cannot jump over the pain to get to what would feel better. Slow and steady tending is what is called for. That experience also showed me that space, time, boundaries, and non-communication are healing ingredients that support the construction of a new reality.
Yes, grief has become a bedside friend. And over time we are both softening. I do not resist its presence anymore. I have stopped making it wrong and given up on attempting to control it. Sometimes grief presents itself surprisingly and suddenly and asks for my attention. All I can do in those moments is try my best to love the bits that hurt. To meet hard with soft. To exhale more and take solace in the knowing that grief is inevitable when we choose to love. It is brave to keep choosing love.
And that’s why we practice yoga, so that we can be brave when it is time to be brave. That is why we come day after day to the mat or the cushion and we practice being with what is, feeling what is, moving and breathing with what is. We practice presence when presence sits beside heart break and uncertainty and all of the unanswerable questions.
We practice yoga so that the light of our awareness provides warmth even to the coldest and darkest of corners. We practice to keep a candle lit inside of ourselves. A steady flame of awareness that guide’s us through grief’s wilderness.
Though it can be hard to see while in grief, we can trust what the sages and the poets remind us: on the other side of night is day. When the darkness lifts, there waits a sunrise more beautiful than we could have imagined. Life rises anew. Out there on the shifting horizon, the dawning of your next becoming.
Make sure to experience Erin’s new class focused on Grief streaming now exclusively on Inner Dimension TV!