Grief from a Spiritual Perspective ~ Navigating the Waters of Grief … 

Grief of any kind can seem as if a storm has ripped away our sail from a well-charted life.

Grief due to the loss of a loved one, a pet, employment, a lifestyle, physical health, divorce, or a way of being can seem as if we were unexpectedly thrown overboard into the ice-cold waters of separation and isolation. Grief may cause us to feel we were forced to swim uncharted waters laden with hidden mines of unpredictable thoughts, feelings, and disharmonious perceptions of self and the outside world.

Grief can distort our own identity, value, & self-worth leaving us limited in our ability to call out for help to passing ships in the night. Grief often shatters our comforting belief, that we live in a safe, predictable, and just world.

The ship of belief that many of us sail in ~that bad things only happen to bad people~ can quickly sink, leaving us floating in the cold wake of aloneness, isolation and fear. Grief can make us numb and cause us to regress into a self-protection mode where, we distance ourselves from taking on healthy new directions, experiences, and people … specifically, at the very times that we need them the very most.

Grief may be caused not only the loss of a loved one or loss of a lifestyle, it may be a loss of a core support structure, familiarity, shared identity, or weekly personal habit. At the times we experience grief throughout the lifespan, we may become embattled with yet another enemy: the fear that we’ve gotten older and lost our pizzazz, attractiveness, or deservingness of connection with others.

In our sense of disarray, … not only may we long for a connection of the past, we may actually long for our own past self-identity, which feels unfairly denied to us. As we lay in the wake of grief with questions of self-worth, we begin to wonder if we even “deserve” to be rescued to calmer waters.

There can be a piggy-back effect, where grief triggers remembrances of other unpleasant experiences in life where thwarting of our most prized dreams had occurred. With our hull punctured and unpleasant waters rising below deck, our fears skew our compass, falsely project that other unpredictable storms lie ahead, and draw into concern if we can even make it at all.

Grief has no particular pattern of recovery and although well wishers advise us to “move on,” such suggestions can result in the denial of unexpressed, painful feelings that only further delay our healing.

Grief in midlife or later can be even more difficult. Since not only did we suffer loss, but years have gone by and our youth-centered view of attractiveness makes us feel we’ve also been robbed of our resilience to renew ourselves. Clients have stated: “I didn’t want to be single at this point in my life.” “I didn’t want to have to search for a new job after so many years of loyalty.” “I feel so alone and numb without the past, that I don’t even know who I am today.”

A Turning Point often comes in the some of the most unexpected forms. One seemingly single random “by chance” experience has the extraordinary power to change, if by only a few degrees, the direction and course, and therefore over time the experiences, and final outcomes, of our lives.

Often at a point only where we felt, we have already lost all of our strength, a beacon of light appears in the distance. The denial that we previously found temporary comfort in, gives way to a more painful, yet necessary awareness: our paralysis by the shock and force of the storm has caused us to drift way off course, and the time to deal with grief’s uncomfortable emotional waters below deck has come.

In Asian culture, the Yin & the Yang shares the belief that all experiences have both good and bad simultaneously occurring at the same time, in each and every experience. What if life’s most painful events could, at times, be best described as our greatest teachers of “learning through opposites” by karmic design ?

As life experiences may have harmed our healthy self image, they also, ironically, have given us a profound opportunity to gain self-worth & autonomy “without the need of the approval of others.” Some of our harshest storms have taught us what our soul has long searched for: “I am already complete.”

As we have all suffered grief through losses, such experiences are the greatest teachers of independence and self-renewal. And, as we look back to the past with both positive and negative perceptions of life and our choices, we can reasonably conclude, “We did the very best that we knew how to do at the time and under the circumstances. And now that I know better, I choose to, and … do better.”

We may be tempted to recall the past, more often than not, with only regret. However our regrets are mere gentle reminders to redefine our inner focus of what is truly important today. We may not have in present moment, what we once dreamed about, however we can recall many nice experiences and connections. And with a renewed sense of self-worth, we may be surprised at what else our own intuitive inspiration can find.

Looking back over the years, love came to me in many shapes and sizes – some of which I was too distracted at the moment to appreciate and unfortunately overlooked. However, it is only through experiencing my past distractions that I am more conscious today to appreciate all that I am, have available, and therefore will experience tomorrow.

As we transgress the storms of grief recovery, we gain the wisdom of self-discovery. Without challenges in life, we remain in our comfort-zones and can become stagnant while we forget the deep level of resourcefulness that we are. We are not limited in belief, we are resilient beyond belief, and our soul calls out to a deeper understanding beyond that of the physical realm – that I am a great spirit and the sole master of my own destiny. I may not have needed to know all of the answers in life after all. To me, my most treasured remembrances are less of achievement and more of a simple solitary awareness that I too have been a part of “where heaven met earth.” Regardless of outcome, possession, or reward, I am – my own soul mate, my best adviser, and the key to my grief recovery.

Life by design, may not only be one single life; but potentially, a series of dramatically different lives sewn together to support the evolutionary needs in expression of the soul. I have already experienced, and … will experience again, the appreciation, gratitude, love, and forgiveness that has freed my soul, so many, many times before in this life herein. I am resilient, deserving of love, and I will be the first to reach out in new directions beginning today.

In swimming in a sea of unexpected grief and loss, I stared into the void for longer than I expected. However, the void only patiently stared back at me; simply bringing to mind my own needed actions, in my own time, to once again, begin to share myself more fully with the rest of the world. Ironically, through loss, I discovered a deep level of resilience within me that I was previously unaware of. I also experienced a deeper level of appreciation of all that I have had, all that I am, and can become.

If grief were one of the great master teachers of “Learning through Opposites,” what has my intimate acquaintance with grief taught me ? What is grief intuitively calling me to do today ? What would a lost loved one wish for us today & ask us to do ?

yin-yang  If my spiritual experience with grief could be represented by the image to the left:

     – What has grief taught me about myself ?

     – How has grief made me grow ?

     – How has grief changed me for the better ?

And finally, if grief is only a prolonged storm, that does indeed have an end …

What people, places, & experiences will “a new me” chart into my future ?