When our grief is hidden : reflections on finding and feeling our feelings

Pema

I read a long time ago in one of my favourite books on the planet Saturn that Moon Saturn contacts show a person whose emotions so often get buried or hidden deep in the body, they become what is called ‘somatised’.  Feelings that cannot be acknowledged or understood in childhood by our closet emotional caregivers, feelings we get left alone with become over time inaccessible to conscious awareness.  If we are shamed or meet prohibitions against feeling them it is even worse.  Now we are most certainly not only not allowed to have them but if we do we feel ashamed, we feel wrong and we feel bad and we then become conditioned to self reject and those feelings get mixed up.  Just writing that last sentence makes me very, very angry.   What a terrible predicament for a child or anyone really to go through as without access to our true feelings we suffer and get twisted in our deepest spirit and soul.

Come to think about it, this shaming or disallowing of feeling relates not only to individuals but to wider collective and social influences around how a culture allows the expression and working through feelings around death, loss and endings.  In a book which I believe won the Purlitzer Prize by Ernest Becker called The Denial of Death attention was bought to how much our culture since the middle ages has been arranged around the repression and denial of death, as well as by the seeking of power and control over nature and natural cycles which oh so naturally contain a death/decay component as part of the intrinsic wholeness of the life cycle.

It’s not a far step from here to see how the entire issue of grief and grieving becomes complex. Grief confronts us with our powerless and helplessness, it is a painful reminder of the depth of love and connection or attachment we feel towards what is lost.  Expressing grief over our true losses is essential to the integrity, truth and honesty of our soul.   And a soul whose grief is blocked becomes a kind of ghost, forever haunted by the spectral shadow memory and essence/imprints of feelings disallowed that hover in a far off place waiting to return or be called home leaving the self vacant and hollowed out, hungering, wandering and wondering endlessly what is really wrong, casting shadows upon real feelings that disallowed now have become invisible and mute and deeply confusing, only later to emerge in illness.

If I had one purpose in my life I feel it would be to be a grief crusader.  I would want to be the one out there saying, don’t bury your grief, don’t hide from it, allow it a place in your life.  Dis those people who shower you with platitudes in the midst of your grief due to their own problematic relationship with feeling powerless.  Honour your grief, don’t feel like it will kill you…..although I know how painful it can be to feel it, how feeling it often feels as though your soul’s skin is burned or seared by a fire whose white heat seems almost impossible to withstand.  Hold yourself there in the midst of those flames and let grief do its work.  Rage if you need to in the midst of that process if that is what your soul demands for a time as part of the process of letting go or what helps you recognise your deepest truth and authenticity.

Friend

Because this cry of mine speaks not only for grief but for other feelings too.  Maybe it is not your grief but your anger and sense of protest you have buried, maybe it is your own deep need for personal authenticity or agency that was stolen or given away over the course of your years, if so that is where you work lays, in the reclaiming of it even amidst the giant wave of repression and misunderstanding that so often meets you both from forces without so often internalised within.

And seek those who understand their own feelings.  That is most important.  Gravitate towards the ones who will honour rather than deny your authentic feelings, those who have the courage and heart to look more deeply below the surface of the so called ‘real’, for it seems to me that in modern society we have so sorely lost our way over years from our authenticity of soul.  Yeats said it well in these few lines written just a few years after the end of the First World War.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

We need to find a centre that can hold our hearts open in the midst of this falling apart process and maybe they are meant to fall apart. W B Yeat’s poem may have been about the grief he must have felt watching as forces of avarice and destruction were unleashed during those horrible years of devastation on battle fields of Europe, and yet were not each of our families in some way impacted upon by this war?   My own grandfather fought on the Western Front and returned, he was only 16 when he joined up.  He died when he was in his 30s of war related injuries and like him so many men returned unable to speak of what they endured suffering such deep wounds and scars then called shell shock.  They were deep in a wordless grief and complex trauma buried deep in cells that vibrated with the unspoken anguish, how many of us in later years also carry these imprints or the suffer the ripple effects as they have played out across generations?

So now, please let our grief be grief.  Let it not be turned against others as vengeance or buried and then turned against them and ourselves in criticism or misunderstanding or shame or unending resentment.  Let our true tears fall, let them soften our hearts and let them nurture for the rest of our lives tiny seeds of strength, tolerance, fairness, honesty, understanding, wisdom, empathy and love so that was is hidden in the dark and has gone mute can finally find some light, freedom, release and air, a magnificent falcon set free to fly.

 

2 thoughts on “When our grief is hidden : reflections on finding and feeling our feelings

  1. “They were deep in a wordless grief and complex trauma buried deep in cells that vibrated with the unspoken anguish…” These words pierced me deeply. When grief becomes unending in your life, everything runs together until it is hard to untangle and recognize each loss and betrayal. I live these words. And I hope that therapy can help me sort through them and release the grip each one has on my physical body. Thank you for sharing this!

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