this is a question posed to me by a young woman. it is a big question. pregnant. fecund. it takes courage to ask this. approaching Grief and asking it to be a teacher requires a readiness to have your heart broken...open. and that takes courage. so i am thankful for the question. here's what i ended up writing to her in a short note:
am glad you recognize where the grief is coming from and that you could sit with it. If we open the door to Grief, what is recognized as something very specific can lead to an awareness of other kinds of "losses" we must acknowledge and mourn. If you have a sitting practice/meditation practice or a movement practice like qi gong, sometimes that can be a source of comfort and balance. Sometimes we just need to let ourselves cry, no holding back of the tears. It would be preferable to have a witness to our tears but if that is not always possible, we can also do so in solitude knowing that Spirit hears us and is with us.
A week or so ago I felt something similar -- like something was sitting on my chest and although I wasn't thinking of anything sad at that time, I realized that emotion as grief. And then I remembered having had a powerful dream a few days before telling me that the heart needs to break open even more.
If you know of a ritual that releases your grief, it might be good to do. In 2008, one of the teachers I brought to the Phil with me died of a heart attack. I went into shock and grief for a year or more. I went to the ocean as often as I could and talked to the Ocean about my fear, sadness, guilt, loss. It is amazing how the Ocean did talk back to me and I felt reassured and listened to. I also took up qi gong quite intensely for a year and went for acupuncture treatments -- all to bring my spirit back and my strength.
Traumatic events need these rituals. I hope you have a community who can do this with you.
what i also want to say about grief is that it is layered and it can't be rushed. in this culture where we don't have an intimate relationship with death (of any kind); we avoid grieving. instead we repress, we distract, we deny, we move on. all the wise folks i've read talk about this culture's inability to grieve well as one of the reasons why there is so much projection of what is repressed. from the personal to the cultural to the civilizational trauma we experience as modern selves, we are consciously or unconsciously looking for a way to mend our grief, our sense of what's been lost.
grief speaks to our body as well. if we listen well, it will tell us what lies just beneath our anger, our confusion, our anxiety. perhaps it will speak to us of our need to find the space, time, and willingness to build a community that will allow us to create container for the release and healing of grief.
the deeper the grief, the greater the joy -- this is what i told a friend the other day. may it be for you.