Grief is not an opponent : some reflections

This post may not be well received and it may have taken me many many years to get to this point of view (years of unconsciously fighting and resisting my own grief) but seeing grief as an enemy or an opponent that needs to be fought or feared or run from only seems to end up getting us in trouble in the long run. That said, when loss or hurt comes it does knock us sideways, it changes our view of life and ‘reality’, if it happens at a very young age it may leave an enormous void (possibly at any stage of life really!) ..

I believe that they way we come to view grief, death and loss is often determined by a culture. Ernest Becker wrote a Purlitzer Prize winning book in 1974 called The Denial of Death, in it he explored the battle we have with death forces. As many of us know who have been through loss, often we do not find a lot of assistance, understanding or empathy from others and many of us may actively be blocked in our process by others.

Edward Whitmont, a Jungian analyst gave the name heroic egoic to this particular time of consciousness we are currently coming out of it.. In this culture which was very influenced by the massive loss of the Black Plague

The Black Death (1348-5O), during which as much as half the population of Europe died, was not under Neptune in Pisces, you will be glad to read. Neptune was in Aquarius at the time, another sign associated with universality. The disease spread through fleas jumping from one person to the next, not through drinking water. However, Saturn, the Grim Reaper, was in Pisces. In fact, Saturn was sweeping from Neptune in Aquarius to Pluto and Uranus in Aries during those plague years, connecting disease to death.

Becker (and other such as Marion Woodman and Edward Edinger) have argued that over time as the heroic ego took control and put the feminine in chains taking the great mother as a generative force of the life death rebirth cycle out of the equation, death began to be seen as the enemy as was nature since it followed natural cycles that involve periods of necessary decay, breakdown and passing away as precursors to the next stage. So it is that often grief over death or loss is seen as a nuisance, aberration or mistake…

On a personal level to grieve may make us seem messy, out of control and chaotic when others would rather we be more ‘held together’ to struggle through may not be understood or supported. But really this time of grief and letting go as well as working through all the complex entangled and deep emotions that came about in the aftermath may be a time we need most support, understanding and help to move through so that grief and sadness can move too and become generative for the next stage of resurrection. When this process is blocked what happens : entrapment, stagnation, illness, endless rumination and fixation and a lot of fear.

Really grief,loss, change and endings are just all part of a natural cycle of life and when you come to observe the patterns of nature you see what a relatively short period in the life of a plant the blossoming of flowers takes or lasts for.. At the moment I have a plant in a pot outside I planted possibly just under a year ago.. I have been keeping the water up to it which has been a challenge here over the hot, dry summer months but I began to notice last week that tiny buds were forming and have been some time in the forming, on Monday I noticed a tinge of raspberry appearing on one of the buds.. My point is that like plants we all bloom and fade out our blooming in life cycles and when we live we will just encounter loss or change or periods of being fallow as a natural part of things.

Today on Radio National here in Australia there was a program on assisted dying, it was a program where listeners were invited to phone in with their experiences of suffering a terminal illness or old age and wishing to be able to end their lives.. one of the most poignant stories came from a man who lost his life partner a few years ago, the man who died was a scientist and had had a near death experience. In the chat segment where his living partner shared he spoke of the love between them and the observation of the stages of his beloved’s passing, the things said, the moments of love shared. You could hear the tears in his voice and feel the deep emotion of it all, and I am sure the man relished being able to share his experience.. But what struck me most was that the man had fully opened his heart to the experience and allowed it in, he was not fighting or resisting his grief and loss of his Beloved soul mate, he was through some act of grace able to be touch with the process of shedding, loss and decay in a totally non judgmental way. Listening to this made me think how much calmer grieving could be if we just did not fight it as much.. if we could some how find ways to honor it as a passage and surrender our hearts to the experience fully to the process.

Viewing grief as an enemy means we fight too much and in that resistance make it harder on ourselves and often on others around us.. That said we are human and we struggle with letting go and loss and the ability to have our full range of emotions is part of the human experience. But perhaps there is another way one that allows the sadness to flow and one that also allows us to surrender that cloak of grief when the time is right so that we do not end up becoming trapped in a perpetual state of inertia and mourning.

Too much

Some days the exile seems too much. The busy world has no time, turns a deaf ear to the soul and connection, left alone with our sorrow the burden becomes too heavy, at times crippling. Why is our society so switched off in so many ways? Sometimes the deafening silence in the face of grief just breaks my heart. The wilderness reasserts its hold on our joy obliterating it.

Believe me I know this will pass but lately it has all felt too much.

When you left

The air left the room when you entered, the force of the charge making my breath catch in the way it only can when someone you loved and then became unable to reach through to re-enters the vicinity. There were really no words to say, no more attempts to explain or plead or appease as there were in those painful months after we separated as I felt myself falling again into a hole so so deep, so so painful and oh so familiar.

I read on relationship survival group today that the pain we feel when a relationship ends is actually the pain our inner child felt in the absence of the parent’s love.. I am not entirely sure, do not other hearts break and minds tend to go under when the object of your love decides they no longer want you? Maybe in that situation the loss is not as acute if it does not end up re-triggering a far earlier wound.

I only look back now to the desperate steps I took then (in the months after you left) which were about me not facing my feelings fully and strangely this came to mind today when reading in Clementine Ford’s book How We Love about how she struggled to face or found it so painful to face her mother’s impending death from cancer and how, in time she did surrender to the sadness she was finally comforted by her mother who held her head in her lap in the hospital chapel as Clementine cried. There would be no such comfort for me from any quarter after you left. And so I ran desperately as I had to go away in that painful month after Dad passed on 8th of January 1985.

Loss can take a lot of time to negotiate. I think of the final nights of my own mother’s life, we did get to hold hands and say a lot of things that needed to be said but there was never an admission by her that she understood the deep pain she had passed on, in fact when I read the birthday card she gave me on my 54th birthday just a few days after I was diagnosed with breast cancer it is coldly detached and seems to lack any kind of warmth. Sad now but more truthful to acknowledge this. Even as I still struggle with blaming myself for ending up at the coast house after Jonathan decided to leave me and being asked how long I intended to stay and having my sister ask my mother to choose her favorite! It is all water under the bridge now but by God it was hard to live with that lack of emotional connection and care for and about my feelings.

Funny how it took us not working out for me to finally find myself.. some times lately I take a little peek at your Facebook page to see the kinds of things you post.. I enjoy some of them but there does not seem to be any emotion there, after all my feelings to you never made sense at all. Despite this I still remember that day at the cafe when I looked over and saw the beautiful blue of your eyes become even more vibrant contrasted against the deep indigo of your jacket.. I thought it was love but was it? I still pray for you.. I do not know if you ever think of me, but its okay I am at peace now.. you were such a necessary part of my journey.. and always will remain so, your leaving me took me into the deepest of pain, but in the end facing and feeling that was the necessary work that could not be shirked on the path home to finding my self, embracing and finally learning a way to love and understand myself and my past through my inner wounding.

On love and anger : some thoughts

It seems love and anger can not only coexist but have a big effect on each other, for if we loved and longed for love we may feel hurt and angry when it is not returned, at least not in the way that made sense for us.

I have not read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman but I know for some of us time is one of the important ones.. My parents didn’t have a lot of time for me, often their focus was elsewhere and maybe I should be ‘over’ it by now but my heart can only leap for joy when a family member or anyone else calls or wants to spend time with me as sometimes that wound of being alone does smart, or maybe it only began to make its true presents felt to my conscious mind through the work I have been doing in therapy over past years.

This morning for some reason after reading all of those chapters on anger in John Lees book (as he addresses how few therapists can actually help us work on this issue due to not having done their own anger work) I woke thinking of the six therapists I went through after returning to my home town and before connecting with Katina in January 2016,… I was sent to Kat as my then therapist Rae went on a break and it was long break, when Kat and I connected I just felt her to be more engaged and warm, so after Rae got back from holiday I told her I wanted to make a change.. Kat has never kept me waiting, was always there to open the door and then walk me out to the top of the stairs and smile and wave at me as went back down them to my car. To someone like me with that level of attachment wounding this did mean a lot and one of my first therapists Brian Hunt once told me “Deb when you look for a therapist it needs to be someone who is freely available most of the time” I thank God for that advice.. Attachment wounds can only really begin to heal or become less painful if we are connected to and shown enough understanding and empathy so that we can then internalize that and then begin to show it to ourselves as adults.

Thinking of my other therapist, Anna Karamuel was a lovely Dutch therapist i managed to connect to shortly after returning to Canberra in 2011 a good friend of my sister recommended her as she went to see Anna after her own difficult relationship ended, but Anna was not available for twice weekly sessions. In time I tried several other therapists. One, a somatic therapist and I came to loggerheads when she tried to come too close to me in a body work session I just got triggered and lashed out.. She gave me a very cold hard look and said to me “you can leave if you want” all I could do was cry in shock as I retreated back to the couch I would sit on during other sessions we did not do on the floor body work.. Things fell apart rapidly after that.

I then went to see a lady called Christine Wild, that went okay but when my sister Judy died she was so strict, she would not allow me time to go with my Mum to clean out my sister’s room in the care home where she had been resident since 2003 and this sadly ended our relationship.. When ever my Mum was ill or take into emergency hospital care, Kat would always understand my need to be there for her was, at that time, more important than my own therapy, at least for a short while.

I was listening to a radio program today on conflict and discord in relationships and also on the issue of repair, it involved two aboriginal actresses playing a part in a new drama on racial issues, one of them intelligently said that she felt sometimes important relationships need to fracture so they can come back together in a new and more deeply intimate way.. That made sense to me. It is understood in Al Anon that those of us affected by alcoholism so often will cut off from people when hurt, that is fair enough, as we may need to self protect for a time but there is also the issue that we are all different, that we all come to relationships with different styles and energies and pasts and that sometimes these may clash and that a good relationship allows us a place to have conflict and so learn more from and about each other.

When I think of my relationship with Scott lately I think of how we have had to negotiate a number of difficult issues of trust, dependency, suspicion, anger and also longing.. Somehow the friendship we have developed between us over past years has survived even as I have now had to set limits on over giving to him.

Hopefully anger can find a place in our relationships if we can find a healthy way to express it.. Taking the risk of expressing my anger over certain issues to family members earlier in the month does seem to have made things much better between us.. Much as my sister keeps her own anger under wraps she has really shown compassion to me in mine, lately.. For that I am grateful.

Gary Chapman has actually also written another book on anger.. In it he speaks about giving others the opportunity to express angry feeling with and to us and from us to them.. How well we are responded to will make or break the relationship. For me, with huge fears about anger, I have always been scared the expression of it would lead to an ultimate rupture.. but this is not always the case and come to think of it if anger and grief are deeply linked then so are anger and love, when what we long for is withheld me may rage and as John Lee pointed out in that writing I shared yesterday under that rage may be old feelings of emotional abandonment surrounding our younger longing to be loved..

The depth of the hole we feel (often spoken of in recovery circles as ‘the hole in the soul’) will be a massive indicator of where our longings and wounds lay.. And it will be hurt in this situation not to be responded to with empathy even at the same time as we come over time to know that (as an emotionally mature adult) we can not always expect this from another separate human being,

An anchor in the storm

Listening to music often sparks thoughts or memories or associations, this song is one I first heard a few months back, I believe it was featured in a movie. When I listen to it and the desire the singer expresses to have a guide in the storm it makes sense, for if we are left at the mercy of big inner storms, floods of feeling or shock trauma re-actions from PTSD it can be harder on our own..

I remember after my second accident which occurred late in June in 2005 how the hospital connected me with a lovely woman around my own age named Marlene, by a weird case of synchronicity Marlene was Dutch and even from my Dad’s home town. After coming to see me in the hospital after the crash I remember the day she supported me to do my grocery shopping.. Just this simple task was so overwhelming for me, I was in Cambridge lodging with a family, I had no car and I would get flooded all of the time, experiencing nausea, and profound dissociation/dislocation feelings, even getting out of bed was a major achievement.. Those days are behind me but I still get the morning post eating head rushes and I just had one after walking Jasper to the oval and kicking the ball around.. It wasn’t long after lunch but my entire system and chakras were flooded, maybe some of the cold and fresh air played a part.

Marlene and I ended up becoming good friends I still found it hard to draw as close to her as I would have liked, when I went to Glastonbury shortly after the accident due to the family finding my trauma ‘too distressing a reminder’ I think she hoped I would eventually return to Cambridge and we may live together but she did not tell me this until I had booked a return fare home that Christmas, one of the last things we did was attend a beautiful church service with classical music.. Marlene really represented a strong part of my European soul I wish I could have lived then but the pull of family was strong. due to my older sister still being in a need of a lot of support and my Mum as well.

It is easier for me to tolerate being on my own now and I can hold all of these memories close as I am mindful to remember things evolved as they needed to at the time for my soul journey.. I had to come home and go through worse things in order to grow.

To be honest over the past few years in my home town I have managed to build some genuine connections with people related to my family, some relationships have changed and since my sister has been struggling in some way this has brought me closer to some of her friends that her depression often tries to cut her off from… I actually had two calls from people yesterday wanting to know how best to handle the way she is treating them.. I know for myself depression can sometimes lie, it tells us people are not safe who may be (especially if we have anxious attachment) and if we have the huge fear of vulnerability and of feeling unmasked (which my sister seems to have even more of than me) it gets doubly hard.

Sometimes too friends do not know how to be present with someone in the depths and silence of freeze, profound introversion or withdrawal.. The person may actually be comforted by you being there even if they cannot express it if you do not invade them and can simply show them via touch or acceptance a sense of allowing them to be where they are. This is something my family could not give to me when I hit the wall in 2004 and sadly something my sister seemed to get a bit better at after Mum died, for me, if not for herself.

Places of holding and anchoring are important.. Its an interesting thing I was saying in therapy to Kat yesterday that when I visited my sister in that small room close to the nurses station close to dusk on Sunday sitting quietly with her for some time it seemed to me like a womb. She didn’t have the light on at first and she was sitting fully dressed on the bed.. the words that came to me then were ‘unborn; as if she was existing in some kind of womb. I also got the impression when she turned the small upturned light on and looked at the fixtures of the bedside table that we were in some kind of ship cabin..

The night sea journey is a profound symbolic metaphor for a journey of transformation or dissolution and reforming such as my sister seems to be going through at present.. This experience appeared in one of my pre sobriety dreams and has always seemed very significant to me in terms of the journey my soul was set to embark upon then

As I write this I can call to mind the dream I had a long while back of both my sister and I walking the length of Mollymook Beach close to the house my father built shortly before he died and coming upon a beached whale, in the dream my sister looked at me with those pleading eyes of infinite sadness and longing she sometimes turns on me lately and said the words “the whales are such sad creatures.” Jonah travelled in the belly of the whale on his transformative journey, I also think a beached whale may associate to buried feelings of the ancestral history emerging from a deeply submerged collective oceanic state..

These associations and symbols ring true to my soul, they give a sense of meaning to what seems to be transpiring in my sister’s life right now and in my own over the past 19 years of my mid life journey. I need to remember too that sometimes a lot is going on inside the depths of a person when they undergo reversions or deep repressions of feeling (depression). Jung believed we can and do experience many of this kinds of dives inwards, in order to move forward and incorporate hidden parts of our self or shadow.. He underwent many himself.

Much depends on how much meaning we can give to them and if we permit ourselves to ‘mine’ then and open us up, co-operating with egoic dissolution, rather than have them medicated or numbed by the medical model.. who knows what processes the soul is undergoing in its mysterious inner landscape over such long periods.. Depression could be a huge part of the dying out of old forms of the false self in order that a process of individuation and soul reclaiming or re-anchoring or more complete embodiment of split off parts of us can take place within the ego. In other words it often represents our Self with a capital S knocking on the door and throwing a lot up in the air that we thought we were or knew before.

My needs?

I try to understand

I try to be there

I held your hand so often when you screamed

But when I was crying

All you did was tell me

“To get over it!”

Was I truly blind?

To your unkindness

Did I matter so little to you

Was all you ever needed a mirror?

I let it go now

But by God it hurt my heart

It set me so far apart from what I really wanted

Truly needed

And sometimes I just seem to be crying to the silence

Why is it that my needs matter so little?

And then the answer comes

From a still quiet inner voice

Just let them matter

To yourself.

Feeling my true feelings : not easy!

Sometimes it seems to me that feeling my true feelings is impossible without my mind arguing back. There is the running critical commentary in my mind that argues with me about the way I am feeling and telling me I ‘ought to feel another way or uses some kind of philosophy.. This is not always bad as expressing our true feelings with some people may get us in a lot of hot water.. We may be judged. Then it is always a surprise to me when my repressed feelings just burst out sideways like they tend to do every second Wednesday when my gardener David comes..

David gets very focused on the garden, he was a bit mean and abrupt with me last year and I nearly told him not to come back, instead he reduced me to tears as I pleaded with him for help…he took mercy on me then but today he nearly tore my jumper when he was trying to take a branch off me I had pruned and I just said to him “please can you be more gentle with me?” On reflection I do think David’s visit triggers my painful feeling around masculine Mars energy and about my Dad too.. The struggle I seem to have with my living sister who can also be short, sharp tongued and abrupt seems to correlate with her Mars in Sagittarius at 4 degrees and squaring my natal Chiron at 4 Pisces in the 7th house of relationships. However in her chart Mars also squares her own Sun and Venus conjunction in Pisces and often I see her softer feeling side buried.. Mum had Mars in Pisces at 4 degrees.. Dad was often wounding her with his disconnection when she got highly emotional or triggered.

I woke today all twisted around anyway.. I have been listening to videos going to sleep from Louise Hay but I wake up and the phone is on fire next to my body, I know we are told not to sleep with our phones but I love the soothing of Louise’s voice and her focus on loving ourselves and this one I listen too involves also taking the inner children of both parents into our own heart.. for so often our parents inner kids caused us problems growing up…

It also occurred to me in the middle of the night that my brother’s oldest son lost his Grandad (my Dad) at the exact same age that my Dad lost his father.. 12 years of age.. That was also the age his Mum was when her mother died.. and that death marked her for a long long time. I had taken a family friend out yesterday who worked for my father and brother for a long time and when I mentioned wanting to try to improve this distant relationship she just said to me “Deb, be careful, Anthony is very controlling and narcissistic and anything you say will find it back to your brother” Its so tough to fear I will be judged, but his perfectionism/control issue is something I saw one time when we visited my nephew’s place and he talked down to his wife in a bossy way. In a strange stroke of synchronicity when I came back to my home town this house I ended up buying was the one his wife grew up in and at a recent family event my niece in law’s mother asked me if they could come and see it… I have not been prepared to do that before now as I did not feel safe or secure enough but I long to do it as I just love connecting.

I am realising that I have had so much to grieve today as I shed all of those tears trying to cut through a tree branch without a lot of success. I thought of the terminations of pregnancy particularly.. How sad that was.. to never be able to bring a child to term and how hard it was for my husband.. I was not ready… but sometimes it feels I am just cursed to so much aloneness. The battle is going on with Scott too.. I have few doubts he is not genuine now but this money issue is hanging over my head.. Money is a horrible issue because I have not lacked for money but I have lacked for attention, togetherness and most of all TIME.. Scott only has brief windows of contact due to his heavy schedule with training and patrol. We have two hour or hour and a half windows 5 days a week but lately with the morning’s closing in and due to the fact sometimes I am awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night I am not often awake to talk.. I pushed myself today then got the shits he had to go.. I am never like this usually but I got really really angry about it and later was shouting at people in traffic blocking my way and going at a snail’s pace. WHY DOES EVERYONE ELSE’S SCHEDULE DOMINATE MINE.. WHY IS MY TIMETABLE SO FUCKING UNIMPORTANT.. Could be another wounded ego issue? Or a valid anger.. just not sure at all????

I know enough by now to know that when I react like this its about me not anything happening around me.. I just went down by the lake then and sat under a tree and prayed.. the cursing coming out of me was pretty darn intense and dark…

Buried feelings of grief so often masquerade underneath anger.. That is something I am learning more and more lately… with my Saturn Mars I feel blocked and put upon by the Universe but such an attitude isn’t a good one for me to feel happy and free.. So I try to keep always examining my motives and where my blocked or heavy feelings may be causing current problems or outbursts with the life and people around me.

Ghost and a shadow

You will forever be for me

A ghost or a shadow

Hovering by

Always remembered

But never near enough to touch

The longing and memory of you

Will be with me every day

Even though sometimes

Much of the time

These longings and memoies

Will fall into forgetting

Like a heavy stone

That falls into a stream

There may always live inside of me

This ache

At times my heart will break

Open with the sadness

Of all you lacked the capacity to give

And today I realised

That for my heart

There may never be

An absolute healing

But never the less

Day by day I try my very very best

To make my peace

With all of this.

Related :

Where has your spirit gone? – Emerging From The Dark Night (wordpress.com)

reflections on love, distance and attachment problems in my life and family

I lay in bed and cried with love thinking about my sister last night and how hard she has struggled with her mental health. It was good to let those feelings go and flow through, opening up to the love (that is ful of grief) and not be stuck in petty blaming of past stuff that went down between us.. It has taken me some time to see how everyone is injured in traumatised or neglectful families and how then, we so often turn it around and blame each other.

The truth is in the past I felt scared of my sister.. At times she could be abrupt, but it was abrupt with caring at times I think she also struggled a lot with emotional repression being a sensitive person.. Recently it is not lost on me how caring my sister actually is and all the times she tried so hard to be a loving sister.. I just could not see it so clearly before. When she got sick she was often nasty but I guess that was just the dis-ease within her talking. I see that more clearly now too.

I think because of the way I ran away after my Dad died on the back of such trauma there was a lot I could not see or understand from a more mature perspective, these days I see my parents as people who tried their best with SO GODDAM MUCH ON THEIR PLATES. I also understand the fear that might had driven my Dad escaping Holland narrowly before it’s German occupation… I always wondered why he never kept connection with his siblings and why I had such an outpouring of emotion when I finally deeply connected with my Aunty Lies (his third sister) in 2000. Now I see SO MUCH OF MYSELF IN HER and understand how attachment patterns carry along generations. I just feel sad I could not go to her after my head injury in 2005 as she really wanted me there with her. It was too much for me at that stage, but in later years I have connected with her oldest grandson.

My heart opens in compassion a lot more lately, even for my brother who maintains distance and is palming off this struggle with my sister’s and my inheritance.. I wonder why he doesn’t fully let himself enjoy the money he has worked so hard for and won’t allow it to be released to my sister and I so we can make good use of it (including helping family to make their live easier because there is more than enough to help everyone who needs it in such challenging times a little bit.) But then I think as someone born in 1944 he is victim of the cult of individualism and the each man for himself in a man made universe mythology he suffered.. He also lived through the early years when Mum and Dad returned to Australia in the early 50s from the (then) Dutch East Indies and had no money at all. During that time Dad could not get his engineering qualifications recognised and had to take up a desk job.

If my brother is a member of the ‘just put it all behind you’ club, maybe it is because when Dad died he was with a partner so rigidly defended against her earlier losses she could not be with him and even told him to push my Mum away with the backhander “She needs to stand on her own two feet”. I wonder at his own carried grief over Dad and I remember the tears he shed at both my older sister and Mum’s funerals.

That said as the oldest boy he got more of the help than my older sister Judith and I did and far more attachment connection with Dad and he stays very close to his own family on a practical level in a way my two other sisters’ could not when various traumas shattered and splintered our family. By the time I was struggling to develop as an adult I had already nearly died, seen my sister cut down and then endured the death of my father and then I was pushed overseas with not support, so my pattern is to go it alone and not reach out for support. To turn away in avoidant/anxious/insecure attachment.

I was saying to Scott the other day that as soon as he can get my money back to me I want to start some form of study.. I really want to help others more actively with mental health and he diploma that appeals to me is one that through TAFE helps me to work with young people in crisis. I cannot pay for the course until the powers that be release money I am rightfully owed..I don’t want to feel guilt over the money owed to me from Mum that she and Dad worked so hard for. The sad thing is they never go to enjoy it before Dad died as he worked so hard and then pushed too hard on the back of escaping a war ravaged country. But then I think my real need is just to be able to sustain a close loving relationship that is not riddled with fear or anxiety.. I so often think of inviting people over but an inner voice blocks the impulse…. I know connection as to begin with me, because at times I pushed everyone away.. I had so much grieving to do.. so I see it as a sign of progress being less miffed with siblings.. a sign of growing maturity to see it from a different perspective.. Being the youngest was not easy… but I guess each sibling role came with difficulties.