Permission to grieve

Can you allow yourself to feel your feelings? Most especially do you feel permission within to go deeply into the grief you feel?

I am writing this post is in response to thoughts and feelings triggered after reading a fantastic blog : The Mourner’s Bill of Rights. (I am sorry I cannot provide the link right now, I am having trouble accessing it.)

When my own grief hit following my father’s death in 1985 I was encouraged to go far away from my family alone to the other side of the world. I was already indulging a lot in addiction as there was so much earlier grief over my accident in 1979 and my oldest sister’s cerebral haemoraghe, psychotic break, subsequent abandonment and loss of her family, as well as her suicide attempt.

In the absence of knowing how to grieve, finding a place and permission to grieve I now know I turned to substances such as alcohol and the lighter drugs. What occurred for me was that my grief got buried and transformed into a frantic search for connection, most especially to men. I would open my body and my heart only to have it broken because my behaviour at times could be very much a push pull dynamic of fear, grief, longing and confusion all tied with a lot of mixed up complex feelings of which grief was one.

As result I had by the age of 31, six terminations of pregnancy over which I felt such shame.  At the same time on some level I was conscious that I did not want to bring a child in the world that I knew I was so ill equipped to nurture and support.

At the age of 31 I got into recovery and my drinking and drug taking stopped, but the emergence of my grieving process took a lot longer. Following my first AA meeting a dam burst inside me as I recognised a place I could let go of an old dysfunctional pattern of seeking relief and reach for healing,  a place where I could be honest about my life.  I heard the words “many of us do recover if we develop the capacity to be honest.”

At many meetings in the early days I would just sit and cry my eyes out, listening to other’s stories, empathising with their pain, connected to my own deeply buried pain.

In time I moved away from meetings and got into therapy after my husband and I moved overseas. In 1999 my grief broke open in therapy, I suffered a very deep depression and I needed the support of 3 days a week therapy. My husband got really angry about this.

I remember one day I was in bed at 10 am as I had been urged to take some time off work (something I NEVER did) for depression by my therapist. My husband came in to the room and shouted at me to get out of bed.  He made scathing comments about how my therapist was only after my money and was constantly asking what we were talking about.  I feel so sad about this now.  He had his own grief too, he just didn’t want to explore or feel it too much.  One day he said to me “I want back the happy girl I married.”

In time I started to feel I could not really go through this process of feeling in my relationship. Rather than move away I clung on and made the decision to move back to Australia to my family which was the very last place I was going to get any recognition of my grief process, and admittedly this ended in much more unhappiness for me.

At one level my Mum was trying to offer support but at the other she was telling me I had to move on and get over it. This now I know has to do with my Mum’s difficulty feeling and sharing her own feelings of grief.

At one point my sister asked my mother to choose who she would rather spend time with following the first Christmas in the four months after my separation Mum decided to spend with me. My mother chose my sister as she told me “she isn’t sad all the time like you”.   I was so angry and hurt but rather than express it I began to get headaches.

Following this I made the decision to move back overseas where I moved in with a family to lodge who sadly treated me in the same way. As I have shared before here I went over the handlebars of my bike one day while living with them and hit my head open and was in hospital for a week. They made it clear I needed to make other arrangements for a place to live as they didn’t want anyone sad in the house.  Their daughter had just lost her best friend and my sadness was an all too painful reminder.

I moved to Glastonbury and attempted more therapy, in time it was so difficult financially I made the decision move home again. I then went into almost total isolation at the coast house my Dad had built in the years just before my accident.

There I just wrote and grieved when I could. I had little support. I see that now. In time I attracted another relationship in which when my grief arose I was met with anger and rage. I clung on, sadly for four years to this relationship.

Four years later I moved back to my family and home town again. Was I mad? What was I hoping for after everything? Validation, understanding, support are the answers. Instead I saw my sister’s descent into more acute bi polar disorder as she struggled herself and met with similar invalidation. I struggled to support my Mum following a painful knee reconstruction that ended up in serious clotting and over the next two years through several hospitalisations.  I also struggled to support my sister as she underwent shock therapy, unending medication and four hospitalisations.

Over the past four years I have been learning a lot about invalidation and how people who try to express true grief can be sidelined or exiled or their process numbed out with excessive medication.  I saw my older sister end up bloated from all the drugs she was given the moment a true feeling tried to burst our of her.  It was a sad story of abandonment and emotional invalidation playing out I have had to feel and witness.  I feel  little scared of being judged, but I wanted to stand by and love my family, or was it too painful to move away.

Going through all of this has taught me truths.  One of these truths is that the injuries we go through leave deep scars. The losses we go through which can be many when we come from an emotionally non nurturant or distant, preoccupied family like mine can be subtle and deep. There is also the deeper multigenerational sadness that we may unconsciously carry if we are attuned in this way. The legacy we have been handed to address and heal can be a painful one. I do believe that one person in the family may be the designated carrier for the more deeply painful emotions.

We can see this on an astrological level when there is a connection between our personal planets, Sun, Moon, Venus, Mercury and Mars and the planets Saturn, Neptune and Pluto. Strong Pluto aspects most especially show that it is our fate to undergo a descent into loss at some stage in our life, a loss which has a deeply transformative effect on our soul.

But in terms of the Pluto connection we may also encounter deep resistance within ourself or others from going there or even of letting go of the wounding and injuring patterns.

The truth is that we need to give ourself permission to feel and grieve, most especially in a society that may be defended against suffering grief and may exile those who are grieving or present them too much with shadow stuff others do not want to face.

In my own case I am still on the journey to accept and feel my own grief. I am finding more support now in this process after many challenges, stops and starts along the way.

When my oldest sister died last year I was able to grieve a small amount with her sons. There was an attempt at one point by her oldest son to shut the process down and turn the whole event into a “celebration”.  This son in particular struggles so much to accept his own painful feelings of grief and powerlessness over how his father abandoned my sister following her illness all those years ago.

In another case I was told by the second son’s wife that I needed to live my life for Jude now, rather than be pulled down by grief. A few years ago I could not have stood up to this in a kind way and spoke for my need to feel and grieve but this year I was able to.

My purpose in writing this blog is to encourage those out there who are undergoing grief to feel it deeply, to seek out those people who will help you to express it and to avoid those people who try to invalidate you and shut you down.

I do believe that so much of aborted mourning goes into addictions and war. Just look at what happened after 9/11 with the “war on terror”. That was during the last Saturn Pluto opposition in the signs Gemini and Sagittarius 14 years ago. At the moment Saturn has entered Sagittarius and will soon aspect Pluto again. Have we learned anything since then about the powerful reactions to and defences we can mount against fully feeling our grief and the powerlessness we feel when tragedy strikes?

For me I know I have gone a long way along in my grieving process and found ways to tap in, I also know at times my blocked grief and need to assert and express has led to painful body symptoms.  Our minds can lie but our bodies know the truth.

Grieving is not easy, it makes us tired and takes a lot of energy but it is also deeply enriching for in our grief is the love we felt for what we lost and what had value. Grieving allows us to let go eventually into the depths where we can feel most deeply the voice of our own soul.

Grieving itself may be our own dark night.  It is a process and we dont have a lot of control over it, but we can surrender to it, allow it a voice and a channel.  We can also expect to meet misunderstanding and misjudgement from some people.  Never the less trust your grief, give it a voice, don’t let anyone take that precious if painful gift away from you.