Let not even one of the clearly-struck hammers of my heart
fail to sound because of a slack, a doubtful,
or a broken string. Let my joyfully streaming face
make me more radiant; let my hidden weeping arise
How dear you will be to me then, you nights
of anguish. Why didn’t I kneel more deeply to accept you,
inconsolable sisters, and, surrendering, lose myself
in your loosened hair.
How we squander our hours of pain.
How we gaze beyond them into the bitter duration
to see if they have an end.
Though they are really
our winter-enduring foliage, our dark evergreen,
one season in our inner year–, not only a season
in time–, but are place and settlement, foundation and soil and home.
This Rilke poem came to mind this morning after reading a blog about the pain of loss suffered by someone faced with much grief over the death of their father many years ago. The person was finding their grief too hard and painful to face. It IS so painful when we lose someone we love. My own father died when I was 23. Although I was so very lucky in a way not to have been without a father in earlier years, our relationship had some very painful moments and looking back I wished for so much more from my Dad. I eventually got a lot of those things from my Godfather who just happened to be my Dad’s best friend from Holland. But my father’s death from cancer was still very painful and sudden.
I am also aware that in fully facing the pain of losing my father and facing and feeling any hurt and anger through has ultimately been very liberating. I feel a lot like Rilke in that I feel that our grief and sadness is a place where we can come home most deeply to our souls. There comes a time when an attitude of acceptance, accepting life on life’s terms, is birthed through the facing of intense pain. This pain can keep us prisoner as long as we stay trapped in and resist our grief through a lack of deeper surrender and acceptance.
I am contemplating at the moment, and most particularly after reading through a lot more of what Peter Levine writes on finding the healing in and through facing trauma, how much pain can turn to suffering when we go over and over and over our pain or trauma without deeply engaging with it and releasing it. When we avoid the true healing pain we don’t get the associated gifts which can come; seeing how essential joy is to life, seeing all the love and beauty that remains.
In a way the full nature of our grief show us how deeply we have loved. If we never loved and lost we would never grieve fully and deeply and we would never be truly in touch or alive in our soul. We may continue to live in a barricaded place where fear of really opening our heart and soul haunts us and makes our life smaller. In kneeling into and going towards our suffering, rather than resisting it we go with the flow of the Universe rather than resisting what is.
I also have a very strong belief that any soul that has lived is still there, over the other side, in the spiritual world. I know from powerful dreams I have had where my Dad visited me at critical times that love never dies. I could not always feel my father’s love as he was not a demonstrative person. As a Dutch man born in the 1920s he was quite patriarchal at times and hurt me deeply with things he did due to ignorance or a lack of awareness and yet I know there was love there, just not a deep capacity to reach beyond his own conditioning. In my dreams he has come to me and shown me he feels sad about the past, that he does love me and wishes now that I could be free of any suffering caused by his disconnection and ignorance. I have awoken from several of those dreams crying and feeling deep love in my heart.
I lost my sister two years ago and I often talk to her. I am sure she can hear me. If we have unresolved issues with a loved one we can often talk to them even after they have died. We can find a place in our heart or on paper to express most deeply all that we felt, all the ways in which we have suffered in order to liberate these feelings.
I know from my own experience that grief fully entered and surrendered too is a healing force. It has the power to dismantle ignorance and disconnection, it reveals to us what is most essential and unchanging and what is most temporary and ultimately unimportant, it puts things in perspective.
Facing my own breast cancer earlier in the year made me see many of the things I was not grateful for and that I was in many ways holding myself back from life with certain excuses and fears. I was trapped in PTSD too and in PTSD our focus is pulled towards the hurt and pain of past events now long gone but living on inwardly. My work with a Body Harmony therapist concentrated on putting the focus on beauty in the present moment when powerful trauma imprints started to activate. We need something to pull us out during these times, because the things we cannot change that hurt us in the past will only hurt us more if we keep our focus there endlessly recycling our hurt and pain. In this way we open up a place of safety in present time within which past grief or painful sensation can be felt and released.
It was very important for me to find someone who could really hold and contain me in my grief. For so many years I had nowhere to go to express my pain and the healing for me has come when my grief could be understood and contained within the healing light of someone else’s unconditional presence. There is a lot of deep resistance and fear tied up in unresolved grief or PTSD both for those of us who suffer and for those who surround us and are helpless in knowing what to do and are incapable of showing us this loving unconditional presence, so finding this kind of support can be difficult.
There is a terror of facing the twisted Gordon’s head of pain, a fear that it has the power to pin us to the spot or paralyse us (and this is what PTSD is all about), the fear is that we will be destroyed by the emotions or sensations or eaten alive. And yet the reverse is true. When we face our trauma and grief and feel, open to and observe the nature of the energies and sensations of grief, fear or other trauma, when we identify where we freeze, brace, resist or pull away we have the opportunity in these moments of awareness to reverse our habitual reaction pattern, open up and expand, rather than pull away, resist, contract, constrict and lock down. In doing this we provide a space of openness, containment and acceptance within which our situation can transform. In this way through embracing our grief we can find the necessary and longed for healing, shedding the tears and pain which keep the locked barricade in place in our hearts and minds.