The Goodness in Grief

Get back on the Horse” “Buck up” “Get over it” “Just let it go” “Don’t be a victim”

This advice, perhaps said in love, is a sure path to unresolved emotional debris. An entry into an emotional prison, a hardened heart, and a loss of sensitivity all together. And what is life if we cannot feel it?

To withhold, to withdraw, to harden our hearts, to diminish our vulnerability is ultimately an emotional prison of our own making. Every experience, every perception, every thought (if held), imprints on our consciousness and in our bodies. Eventually, if they are fed, they grow. These impressions and projections become the stuff out of which we react.

Point in case, when you were a child, your mother said “do not touch that it is hot.” And you, in your curiosity touched the stove and burned your hand, never to do so again. This mechanism is protective, but when we allow it to rule our hearts it is destructive. If we allow the natural pain of loss and grief to become armor, we build a fortress around our hearts that dulls us to the abundant joy and love that pervades. We lose our sensitivity all together. And with that lost sensitivity we also lose our wonderment, our receptivity, our love.

When we allow ourselves to be caught in these stimulus and reaction cycles, when we allow ourselves to be ruled by our projections and pains, we operate mechanically, with less sensitivity and nuance to what is really going on. Life becomes drudgery and we become addicted to distractions. Avoidance. Addiction.

This is the result of the choice to split off from our unhealed wounds, our choice to not bring them into the light. This is the direct outpouring of both aversion and an attacking energy, rather than pausing, softening, and connecting.

Disappointment happens. Pain happens, loss, grief... all inevitable. These are a normal part of our human experience. But our suffering doesn’t come from the crisis itself. Rather our suffering comes from our feeling separate from our experiences. We suffer our suffering when we resist what is messy and hard. When we practice aversion rather than asking how we might relate to it. The path of healing is slow, it is a a path of integration and of engaging with ourselves inquisitively. Healing comes as we become both master observers and intimate participants in our own lives. The path of healing is a path of staying through the discomfort and being willing to see all that is in view without being oppressed by it.

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”--- Kurt Vonnegut

The old adage "get back on the horse" is useless and perhaps even dangerous if we are not willing to climb back onto the proverbial horse having first cleared our emotional debris.

Getting back on the horse is not the challenge. Getting back on the horse is easy. It is WHO gets back on the horse that matters. The challenge lies in getting back on the horse all the while maintaining your vulnerability. Getting back up with open arms, heart-on, willing to be broken open again and again. Willing to see the ways that we are not a vessel that we may be made one again and again.

That is the challenge we face in our time in Earth school; to maintain a soft, vulnerable, and receptive heart. Despite the pain, the trauma, the grief. To step outside of our projections and our pain and ask how we can relate rather than react.

I healed from my grief, because I refused to hide my pain. I don’t mean that I allowed everyone to see it, or that I allowed it to spill out and to manifest through me unaware. But I was not ashamed to seek counsel, or to pour my heart out to those I hold dear. When we wear the mask of artificial “strength” and stoicism, we deny the very path to our healing.

That is not strength, it is cowardice. Courage, as Brené Brown reminds us, literally means to speak one’s heart.

I spoke. I refused to package up my grief in tiny boxes to be compartmentalized and set aside. I healed because rather than fleeing from the pain that some days threatened to completely overtake me, I got inquisitive about the shape of my grief, the taste of it, the way it rested in my body. Rather than fighting or fleeing, I learned to watch the way it moved through me. Sometimes in subtle waves, other times in a violent flash that would knock me to my knees.

The Observer Effect…a thing observed is changed in the observing….

I watched with quiet curiosity and in time found my grief was not bottomless and just like that… joy unfurled again, my heart wide-open, reaching for the light. As my heart mended it mended with an expanded capacity to receive and give love. Not broken, not scarred, but expanded. I believe, that every pain, every broken moment is an opportunity for expansion if we are willing. Pain then becomes a gift, an opportunity.

This is the gift of approaching our strong reactions with a willingness to feel and with less resistance. Expansion. We become a better friend to ourselves. And then a better friend to others. We practice listening to ourselves that we may listen to others...compassion. We practice leaving the habit of abandonment towards strengthening our integration. Our conditioning is stronger than our integration, so this is a life-long work…be gentle beloved.

Grief, pain, loss, is an opportunity to take responsibility for our own clearing, to see what is inside, what is distorted and to see how we participate with our suffering. To listen and cultivate compassion that we may do the same for others.

And then, shift happens.

We are each ultimately responsible for our own experience.

The Buddha says “nothing is void of our participation”.

So how are we participating?

Though we are not responsible for what happens to us, we are responsible for how it resides inside of us. We have the privilege of shifting how our experiences, pains, and perceptions are manifested in our relationships, our energetic resonance, our bodies.

We don’t have to be anyone but who we are to wake up to both our patterns and potential.

May we ask again and again “what am I not seeing, what am I struggling with?” And know in a vast an open way, without constriction, clothed in radical humility…..May we serve from highest possibility.


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©2019 by Selena Garefino.