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A lot has happened in my life since my last post, including the dissolution of my 18-year marriage, letting go of my home and most of my possessions, and moving eight times (I am still not settled). The grieving process of “emptying out” as my therapist called it was intense and at times unbearable. Sometimes it felt like the pain would never end. The article below, The Other Side of Grief, offers a brief glimpse into my process and some of the tools that helped me to transform my life.

Star-shaped diamonds dance on the surface of the ocean, creating a path of light across the azure waves in front of me to the brilliant warm sun. On either side of the path white spray shoots up from the blow holes of Humpback whales. Sitting atop the cliffs at Eselan, in Big Sur, my eyes scan the ocean in anticipation of the next shiny black mammoth to surface. In my line of sight, orange monarch butterflies flitter around, sometimes ten at a time. I am entranced by their lightness and beauty as they float through the clear blue sky. Awe-struck, I think, “My life is so amazing. How does it get any better than this?”

Lately I have been asking this question a lot and to my surprise and delight, the universe continues to answer in magical and mysterious ways. I love how this question opens doors to new possibilities that we could never have imagined possible; that are beyond the limitations of our routine thinking about how life works.

For example, I am currently living in an artist’s home for three months while he is traveling overseas. This beautiful custom home is just one block from the beach and has a hot tub on the roof overlooking the ocean. I frequently sit in it during sunrises and sunsets and watch the sky change colors. I would have never thought of this as a possibility when I began looking for my next place to live. And, it happened easily; it basically fell into my lap. I didn’t have to try or effort to “make” it happen. I was open and receptive, trusting the flow and process, listening for and acting on inspiration, allowing my highest good.

Trusting life is a muscle we can develop. But doing so is scary because it means that we have to put ourselves out there, take risks, and get out of our comfort zones.

Deciding to separate from my husband, John was one of the hardest and scariest decisions I have ever made. My relationship with him had run its course. We had grown as much as we could together and were heading in different directions. My soul was guiding me to leave, to grow and expand. Yet, I still loved him very much. My heart was torn. I hadn’t been on my own in nearly twenty years. I was afraid to let go because I didn’t know what was on the other side. I was afraid to experience the loss and the pain.

The pain and despair I felt was unbearable at times. Not only did I grieve the dissolution of my marriage, the death of my dog, Rennie, and the loss of not having a child, but previous unresolved losses from my first marriage and my parent’s divorce also rose to the surface demanding I attend to them. Deep core issues that had been subconsciously governing my life and keeping me stuck were ready to be examined and healed. Being alone, I now had the psychological space to face all of my grief.

During this emptying out process, I cried every day, sometimes multiple times a day. My therapist suggested I take about twenty minutes a day to allow myself to feel the pain, so as not to get overwhelmed. I would journal and cry and then go on a walk or get to work. I would put my pain away temporarily to feel again later. This routine helped me to function in my normal life. It was a helpful tool in coping with compounded grief.

Today, seventeen months later, I am writing from the other side of grief.  I am experiencing a new exuberance for life that I have never known, new connections, spiritual awakening and personal transformation. My life is filled with more magic and fun, my heart with more joy. I am dancing several times a week and have more energy and vitality. I can now testify…that when we allow ourselves to fully experience and express all of our grief, we are capable of living and loving more fully as well. We are capable of living extraordinary lives.

The comfort I received from family and friends, working with a therapist, using the above tool, and the mere passage of time, were all part of the healing process.  And, although I still experience sadness, it is much less intense and much less frequent.

As you embark on a new year, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on where you are. Do you have unresolved losses from your past, keeping you stuck from living life fully? If so, how can you create room in your life to allow yourself to feel all of your feelings? If you are experiencing loss, do you have the support you need? You don’t have to do this alone. It takes tremendous courage to keep our hearts open, to feel all of our pain.

As we allow what is ready to die and have the courage to let go and be re-born, we become more present to the beauty and richness of life all around us. We awaken to the limitless possibilities for living and loving more fully.

 “Learn the alchemy true human beings know. The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given, the door will open.” – Rumi

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