I thought a lot about what I read in the book by Christina Rasmussan yesterday on her own process of grief and letting go and it occurred to me that each of us reacts in individual ways to the many losses of our lives and each of encounter different losses at different stages of life. For example some lose parents when they are still very young, some people were given up for adoption and some people have a sibling who suffers an illness and that sibling may take a lot of the parent’s time and attention. All of these are different kinds of losses and we all respond to them in individual ways.
Christina did a lot of research on neurochemistry after the loss of her husband as she felt therapy was not helping her release the loss and that going over it caused her more pain and what she discovered that sometimes going over the old pain does keep old pathways in place, while reaching for more current positive thoughts and feelings strengthens new neural pathways. It is something that often troubles me and yet I know that our bodies do carry things that need to be released some way and often in therapy I find that occurs. That said I also know thoughts of loss for me can be triggered by other things, for example Jasper and I just drove home from the fruit and vegetable markets and past my Mum’s unit and the units my father and brother constructed close to the park back in the final decade before my father passed away and I got a wave of love for both of them and felt them together on the other side just beaming thoughts of love to me. You could say this all took place in my imagination and is not real. Someone else may have had to steel themselves while driving past so as not to feel sad, I just don’t know. And that begs the question when does our sadness become ‘wallowing’ or is that just someone else’s value judgement?
There is an expression I used to hate when I heard it in Al Anon in the hard years after Jonathan left and I put myself in solitary confinement and only attended those meetings and not therapy which spoke of ‘sitting on the pity pot’. I used to feel it was like a slap in the face and diminished someone who had suffered significant injuries. That said I am sure there are times we feel like victims of things and seek others to care or notice our pain, is that bad or wrong? Or is it just another style of coping? The truth is that some can be quick to judge another’s process and yet they do not live inside that person’s skin and some of us may have to go over and over old losses before we realise we have an option to step out of a victim stance and find more power through reaching for more positive experiences the engage us again in a fully awake and alive new experience or life connection.
Christina developed her own programme for doing ‘grief cleansing’ and calls her process a ‘re-entry process’ for moving back to embrace life after major grief and loss. I am only part way through her book at the moment but the part I have just been reading shows how she saw others could get stuck in the middle stage of grief which she calls ‘the waiting room’ experience. This is where we are trying to integrate our loss but are still full of fear of embracing new life and new directions, partly out of fear of loss or losing or failing again. This is not the only thing that happens in the waiting room though as often there are triggers in life which will also awaken our grief. For example when my last partner’s father was dying and we went to visit him I cried a lot. I ended up in a lot of trouble with Phil who thought that was selfish of me and that I should be brighter. In fact one day he asked for the use of my car so I did not have to go to the hospital with him and upset either he or his father by crying. I can understand how he felt and that it was annoying but it still hurt me. I was a long way from home in Geelong with him and had no one I knew there though on that day his sister took me out and told me I could find someone better than her brother.
Who knows when the time will come for those of us who have suffered significant loss or grief to move on from the liminal ‘waiting room’ stage. I feel that occurring in my own life now after about 3 years of helpful therapy. At times I fear my therapy may be holding me back and I often share this concern with Katina, that said I know I value a space that encourages me to be alive and happy and reach for new life as well as sad at times if those are the feelings emerging from inside of me. Who knows if we cannot do both. Move on while still feeling sad, honouring the past of pain while risking to reach and hope for more while knowing that at any time love and others or good experiences can be taken from us or will pass? I like to think that on this journey our souls and bodies and hearts and beings can expand to both embrace the new and let go of the old, happiness and sadness, grief and melancholy moments, as well as those filled with joy and uplifting and peace. At times we will contract and resist the letting go process and at times it will spit us out into a new place. The important thing is that we try to keep ourselves open in the best way we can to that dance of processing and remembering and honouring while releasing and letting go to, for all of life is ultimately about change.