There is a beautiful psalm or bible passage that I cannot remember the reference to which says that God counts and collects each one of our tears. In a culture which so often denigrates grief it is important for us to know that our sorrow is not unimportant or in vain. The implication is so often that we need to ‘be over it’, not carry it forward or just make sure we don’t make others too uncomfortable around us, because it can be hard for those who have not dealt with or are familiar to a grieving process to understand how essential the shedding of tears is.
I watched a movie a few weeks ago about a painful loss called The Shack and in it Sam Worthington plays an adult child of an alcoholic and abusive Dad who ends up losing his youngest daughter to a violent crime. The movie is about his quest to come to terms with the anger, pain, sadness and resentment he holds towards a God who he feels ‘has forsaken him’ in allowing such a terrible thing to happen. He ends up being transported to a cottage where he lives for a time with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and in one scene the Asian singer/actress who plays the later part holds up a vial that is full of his tears.
This image speaks to me of ‘holding’ and containment which are two things we can really struggle with if we are not surrounded by those who assist us and support us to grieve. I know in my own life that after my father died and my partner abandoned me I went overseas with much unresolved grief. I acted it out over the next 8 years of my active addiction and my recovery was a journey to find my way back to it in order to understand, feel and release it. (I am not going to say to ‘heal’ it because in a sense I think its a central mistake of our culture that grief is an illness that need to be cured or fixed somehow.) Its a sad indictment of our modern society that in past years there has been a move to have grief included as a mental illness in the bible of psychiatry The DSM.
Grief that is unresolved can indeed make us mentally and emotionally unwell. To my mind it can be the huge unspoken ‘monster’ that lives at the basis of addictions and anger and the rage of acting out of terrorism and other means of reclaiming a sense of power and control within situations where we are actually overpowered. Grief itself is feared by many because it is like a tidal wave in a way. We can try to run from it or defend against it, but in my experience it always then finds some kind of way to knock us over sideways. Far better not to see it as a monster but as a rejected energy that wants us to turn towards, surrender and acknowledge it.
Being able to accept that grief is there and that we are powerless to a degree is the first step. We can use different forms of containment. For me dancing and writing and walking help to move the grief through my body, the freeze state of some traumas and traumatic injuries can be all about frozen grief that brings a critical event to us which externalises its intense charge in some form and then leaves us knocked over, frozen paralysed or powerless.
And if we look to the ancestral epigenetic component we can see how this stored charge of grief and anxiety can be passed on from generation to generation. When I start to get into compulsive cleaning I am aware of how much grief and a sense of powerlessness fuelled my Mum’s own manic cleaning binges. And I got badly injured myself when she was in the midst of some of them. I have injured myself so many times or broken things either gardening or cleaning that these days I am much more mindful in the midst of such activities, stopping and breathing and centring myself as much as I can.
I do believe that like most emotions grief is a kind of visitor to us, as in the poem by Rumi. If we welcome the visitation of grief and take some steps to give it a place, then just possibly we will not be as compulsively ‘run’ over by it (or over run by it) and in time we as we integrate it, it will deepen and enrich us in the process.
And what is most important is to know that grief has a purpose and its presence in our lives or heart is a sign that something had great value to and was cherished deeply by us or longed for. It has come time to understand that value or experience or let that something or someone go and so there will be a shedding if we are to move forward. Such losses and griefs will always be with us and remain forever a vital part of our soul on our ongoing journey through life.