…our culture does not welcome expressions of either grief or mourning. Indeed, there tends to be an expectation that we should either put on a stoic face or “just get over it.” The process takes time. I feel the best and most difficult thing I can do during the holidays, or any other time, is to lean into what I’m feeling, i.e., feel what I feel when I feel it.
Grief and mourning comes in states and in waves—acknowledging and honoring those feelings is how I move those thick energies. Shutting down to them or closing them off only delays healing and prolongs suffering—it doesn’t lessen until it’s leaned into. Yep, there are times when the waves rise in places or situations where they cannot easily be acknowledged and honored (due to social normative expectations). In those cases, I’ve set aside what was coming up and then re-opened to them as soon as possible in a place that is safe and welcoming.
Also, honoring times of the year when losses occurred is very important to me. There are certain times of the year when memories rise for me—three times of the year in particular: 10/23 (1983 USMC bombing in Beirut), Vet’s Day, and Memorial Day. A lot of my friends were killed when I was in the service. Around those dates, I’m kind to myself. I take things off my plate; I allow time for myself and take better care of myself. These are quiet times for me—I take times out in stillness. And I also take time out for my old friends and occasionally have a good cry. Likewise, I watch out for depression—that’s a different kettle of fish. Again, it’s about leaning in rather than self-distracting.
I’m an experiential learner…what I’ve shared is how I learned to cope well with grief and mourning. It’s a process and it is a marvelous, albeit at times very painful, softening when we let what’s real come through—it’s through grief and mourning where I have softened the most. I have given and received incredible forgiveness, learned tremendous compassion and mercy for both myself and others, become a much kinder and gentler person, and much more…it does get better and the gifts that come are beyond words.