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.