The Way is gained by daily loss. Chuang Tzu
Over a lifetime we will experience many losses. In every stage of life, losing, leaving and letting go are essential parts of our ever-changing world. We cannot save ourselves, nor those we love, from the sorrow that is part of life. Family members die, friends drop away, cherished possessions are lost.
Our children grow up and leave home. We lose spouses and partners to divorce or death; sometimes we lose them emotionally long before. As we age, we will be faced with the grief of unfulfilled dreams. Daily we experience disappointments, rejections, failures, mistakes, setbacks, mishaps- all the little losses that are a part of our every day living.
When we are fully alive we embrace both our joys and our sorrows.
We are tempted to think we can avoid the pain of loss if we keep busy, that we can close our hearts a little to protect ourselves. However, it is the ungrieved losses that take their toll on our hearts and deaden us. We forget that even these, as difficult as they may be, are connected to our vitality and growth.
Every year nature in her cycle of seasons shows us the vital connection between the contraction of fall, the empty quiet of winter, the expansion of spring and the fertility of summer. In the fall, the life force withdraws into the roots; over winter the growth in the deep, dark underground is what supports the new growth in the spring, followed by the bursting out of fruit, flowers and vegetables in the summer. Likewise, loss invites us into our depths so that in time new possibilities can break forth.
Loss makes room for something new. When embraced through our grieving, loss can expand, empower, enrich, transform, and inspire us.
When we open to the daily losses, we make room in our hearts. We gain strength to grieve when a major loss shakes our world. If we pay attention to small losses, we may find that they tap into that well of grief we hold inside-that well of grief connects us to our Source. Periodically take time to review your daily losses and then grieve them. Pay attention when a current loss brings up one from the past that is unresolved. Grieve that loss. Don't talk yourself out of feeling your grief. Then explore the new perspectives and choices that these losses have brought into our lives. Embracing this grief will keep your heart spacious and open to life.
Grief is wise. It knows what you need to feel whole again.
In opening to grief over our daily losses, big and small, we experience both the exquisite beauty and sorrow of being fully alive. We savor the ordinary, simple moments. What a joy to simply watch the trees explode into brazen reds and coppery oranges just before their leaves drop away and expose in winter their skeletons of silvery limbs. With spring and summer we are inspired by the arrival of fresh green buds that transform into luscious fruits --what a brilliant testimony nature offers us to the transformational power of loss!
Some suggestions for grieving the daily losses:
- Make a list of the losses (big and small) you have experienced in the past year.
- Review this list and circle the losses that you never took the time to grieve. Notice if any of these current losses have brought up unresolved grief from previous losses that need your attention now.
- Create a safe place in your home for your grieving and each day focus for 10-20 minutes on your grief, taking the time to turn toward each loss (only one at a time) and embrace whatever feelings may surface. You'll find suggestions for creating and using the sanctuary for grieving in my book Honoring Grief: Creating a Space to Let Yourself Heal.
- Explore whatever new perspectives or changes these losses have brought into your life. To help with this, ask yourself questions, such as: What brings me joy? How can I embrace life more fully? What is calling to me now in my life? What changes do I need to make in order for my life to truly sustain me?
Alexandra Kennedy MA MFT
is a psychotherapist in private practice and author of Honoring Grief, Losing a Parent, The Infinite Thread: Healing Relationships Beyond Loss, and How Did I Miss All This Before? Waking Up to the Magic of Our Ordinary Lives. Alexandra has been featured in national media and is a highly sought-after speaker. She has been on the faculty of John F Kennedy University, the University of California Santa Cruz Extension and the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. For more information on her work visit www.alexandrakennedy.com
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