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Grief and Loss

Navigating Grief

By December 18, 2010No Comments

Grief is a mysterious creature. It lurks unnoticed in the dark corners of our hearts only to be un-leashed by the simplest of provocations…listening to a song, looking at a picture, watching a movie, a brief thought or memory flashes through our minds reminding us of our loss. All of a sudden, a torrent of tears wells up within and comes tumbling out, unannounced. In amazement, we wonder, “Where did that come from? I thought I was done grieving.” Just when we feel we have grieved all we can, there is still more.

There is no rhyme or reason to the grieving process. It is different for every person. What remains the same is our choice about how we navigate it. We can express our grief and thus allow it to open our hearts, freeing us to fully live. Or, afraid of experiencing another loss, we can close our hearts and hide from life. Now, not only have we lost someone we love, we die inside. Our creative life force energy is sucked dry causing us to feel anxious, depressed, tired and unfulfilled. Trudging through the day, we wonder, “What’s the point of living?”

Grief has been a constant companion on my journey since I was a young girl. At the age of ten, I remember crying in bed alone at night over the loss of my pet dog, Cinder, who I considered to be my best friend, and then soon after, when my father moved out and my parents divorced. It accompanied me when my brother, Kyle, was diagnosed as a baby with Cystic Fibrosis and died fifteen years later, and then three years after, when my father died unexpectedly from cancer. As I’ve weathered each storm, I’ve become stronger. No longer afraid of grief my heart has opened and I am able to experience along with my grief the joy of living.

It takes courage to keep our hearts open and acknowledge our grief. When honored and allowed to flow, it can move through quickly, like a lightening storm in summer that lights up the sky and drenches the land. Within minutes, a rainbow appears as the sun makes its presence known. As we cry and release our grief, our tears become an alchemizing agent, turning our sadness into joy. We realize we would not be sad in the first place if it were not for the love we so deeply felt for whomever we are grieving.

Inviting our grief out of the darkness and allowing it to flow, we give it an outlet, not only through our tears, but our creative endeavors. When my brother died, my step-mom delved into making pottery and glass jewelry. I engaged more with my writing. As we express our grief, the death we are grieving is then turned into new life. This is the alchemy process. We become the agents of transformation and in the process we are transformed. Feeling alive inside, our vital energy is renewed and we are restored to a life of purpose and joy.

“Death is not the greatest loss of life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” – Norman Cousins

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Karen Mehringer, MA, MFT - Grief support, counseling and life coaching in Santa Cruz area.