The Healing Ground of Grief

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“We must restore the healing ground of grief. We must find the courage, once again, to walk its wild edge.” (Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow)   Grief can, most definitely, be a wild and crazy ride.  There is a wildness about healing through grief that can both scare and excite us.  We cannot know all that may open up before us when we lose someone we love.  It is as unknown and as unpredictable as the wildness of nature is to our human selves.  And there is great healing that can come when we decide to walk that wild edge between fear and hope.

Over these winter months I have shut down my openness, shut out the world around me, and shut myself away into a reclusive hole in the ground.  I have found myself in dark, silent spaces much of the time since Christmas.  It’s as if I have carved out a deep, dark cave and crawled into it like a hibernating bear.

Oh wanting to hibernate like a bear in winter is nothing new for me.  For many, many years winter has been a time of being quieter, more reclusive, lots less activity and a great time of waiting for the sun to return.  I can often be snarly, snappy, and ready to strike out at whatever or whoever tries to call me out of this cave of hibernation.  There can be lots and lots of red hat days during the winter as I try to give myself the space I need and protect others from the slash outs I can do to keep the shield around me intact.

This year I am also seeing how my natural inclination towards hibernation in winter is moving from caving up to dropping down into rabbit holes of despair.  Caving up to recuperate from long periods of productivity and interaction are a good and healthy thing for me, as I believe it can be for most of us.  Stepping down into a rabbit hole where all I can think of is absence, loss, grieving, the ways I feel stuck, and wanting to hide from the world is not such a good thing.

When grieving, hiding away for weeks and weeks on end with minimal activity and pulling away from others is a very natural inclination. Such a deep desire to simply not deal with life rises up in me often.  Everything takes too much energy.  Finding ways to numb the pain – watching season after season of various sitcoms is my numbing drug of choice – is much more appealing than just about anything else.

The very things that have helped me feel strong and alive along my journey this past year – writing; seeking ways to dance between the dark and the light; focusing more on Russell’s continued presence than on his absence; dancing; riding; reading books of healing and possibility; stepping into new adventures and learning – are the things that I have been locking away from myself as I journey in the twisted up paths down the rabbit hole of sadness and loss I’ve been traveling.   Oh, I know it would help if I did these things but it’s like looking down a never ending tunnel to reach into doing these.  I know when I spend time just hanging out with people it helps.  I know physical activity helps. I know writing helps me a great deal.  I know, I know, I know what helps. And yet, I haven’t cared enough to do it. Hiding away inside my cave, even if many days I fall into a rabbit hole of twisted up grief, guilt and sadness, is a much easier option.

As we step closer to the year anniversary of Russell’s hospitalization and death I find myself torn between wanting to succumb to the miserable feelings in grieving, wallowing in the missing of him and wanting to radically step forward into focusing on feeling and acting alive, shaking things up and reclaiming my life. The last several months I have consistently chosen to simply sit in the grieving, my mind spinning deeper and deeper in feelings of misery and lethargy.   The wanting to act alive, living my life out loud, wildly embracing life is slowly starting to glow more strongly.  I feel my mind and my intention slowly shifting towards seeking movement and interaction again. I am realizing, again, that avoiding and numbing the grieving simply makes it harder in the long run.  Allowing myself to live it out loud in every moment is much more healing and freeing.

I am naturally thinking often of what it was like when Russell was in the hospital and the weeks following his death.  Much is a blur and talking about that time and rereading all I wrote is helping me get a better grasp on it all again.  The thing that most vividly is coming through in my remembering – both in head and heart – is that I radically lived it all.  I had moments of caving away but overall, the power of me being able to walk that journey last year the way I did is that I stood in the center space between the dark and the light of all that was happening and embraced the powerful love I felt all around me.  Somehow I simply breathed and danced in that center space.  That space, that loving powerful space is where I seek to step back into again.

I’m the one who is making it hard to move forward. I’m the one who is stepping over and over again into rabbit holes of confusion and pain. I’m the one who is wallowing in thoughts of despair and helplessness.  And I am the one who can decide the step into living my life out loud with a focus on love and light and joy is just a step from here to there. It doesn’t have to be the long, arduous journey back out of the dark, twisted holes.  It really can, profoundly, be taking a courageous step to walk the wild edge and believe in the healing ground that grief can be.  I feel myself in this time, in this moment about ready to make that step back into the healing center space inside myself that I breathe in and through love.  Actually, I think I just did!