Somewhere deep in our hearts we know what happened to us. We may have learned to deny the truth in our mind due to essential psychological defences that exist to numb or deny that pain or reframe it, or due to the fear of feeling the full impact and falling apart of false idealisations or what Robert Firestone calls ‘fantasy bonds’ we make. “I know my parent loved me and he or she only hit me because he or she did.” We may then learn to beat ourselves up in similar ways by the things we say to ourselves not actually using physical fists but internal blows. Deep inside we feel the frustration about what happened to us but when we act it out by maybe shouting or cutting or indulging in other self destructions, such as addictions or compulsions we actually hide the truth of what our heart really feels.
According to therapists such as Tian Dayton and inner child recovery author John Bradshaw ‘grief work’ or the process of mourning is a critical stage of our recovery which cannot be bypassed on the way to authentic healing. It involves feeling and understanding the nature of our wounds and injuries. Finding places and people and groups to help us to ‘hold them in awareness’ and gain the necessary validation which will act as an antidote to natural feelings of guilt and shame is very necessary at this stage. We may feel very tired or incapable of interacting in more superficial ways with others as this healing process goes on, most especially if they tend to judge or not understand the full depth and breadth of what we are dealing with.
When we do not mourn a deep loss fully, we condemn the unconscious to hold the magnitude of that pain and loss somewhere within itself. For the rest of our lives, each time we encounter an experience of intimacy that because of its depth of caring threatens to expose the wound to our conscious mind, we have to walk away. We walk away from ourselves, from the relationship, from our potential for love and life. We cannot go to that place of pain again, not because it hurt so much, but because we did not let it hurt enough. If we do not grieve, losing someone (or something, most often the deep connection to our true inner self) .. (the loss)… becomes a loss of ourselves.
The mourning process is in itself a giving in to tragedy – to the depth of the loss, to the full extent of the pain. Only when we pass though wah feels like a sort of personal death can we return fully to life. If we will experience only part of the loss, the part of ourselves remains locked in the frozen silence of unfelt sadness which will leave us shut dow; we will be less alive within ourselves and our daily living. We will have that much less of ourselves available to us in our daily lives.
..When we refuse to grieve….we put the loss out of consciousness; numb, we cannot gain access to either the good or the bad feelings surrounding the loss or personal When we feel all our feelings, we are able to choose what to keep alive in memory, what to continue to look at and feel nourished by.
It occurred to me after reading this excerpt from Tian Dayton’s book The Quiet Voice of the Soul : How to find Meaning in Ordinary Life that we do need to have those around who affirm us in our grief process rather than try to shut it down. It is my personal experience that my experience of grief can trigger your own, and your reaction to me when I am in grief shows a lot about how much you have made friends with your own grief.
My own experience is that we are also so often pressured to repress our grief or gloss over it. We may get the feeling from others we will contaminate them in some way with our grief. But since grief issues from our heart when we block our natural grief process and that of others we close off our heart and our circulation, our capacity for deeper intimacy both with our soul and with others is diminished, leading to a less caring and more numbed out society.
Sadly recently there has been a move to have grief listed in the DSM as a mental illness. What I believe does really lead to mental illness is not enabling or recognising another’s grief process, nor recognising the many ways in which repressed grief can change and contort us or the amount of collective grief we an also inherit where parents never spoke of earlier traumas (Mark Wolynns work on multigenerational trauma and exploration of epigenetic research supports this). When we refuse to grieve we also lose access to our depths, both personally and collectively and see a higher incidence of insane reactive behaviours which have grief and pain hidden inside such as genocide, violence, hatred and war.