The free and unending gift

Joelene Ashker, M.A. M.S.S.

It comes in many shapes and sizes during all seasons. It shows up unexpectedly, swoops in and takes over. It can bring tears of heartfelt appreciation and deep wells of sorrow, regret and pain. It can be anger and resentment and at the same time deeper profound silence, stillness and unspoken words that bring understanding and acceptance. It’s everywhere and yet not acknowledged. When honored and respected, it’s an exquisite package of healing, connection and intimacy – all bundled together.

What is this jack of all trades, master of all?

Its name is G.R.I.E.F. Grief.

She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts. George Eliot

Loss comes in many forms – loosing a loved one, health, not having children, loosing a job, missed opportunities, loss of trust and friendship, loss of a future with someone, shattered dreams and so much more.

The month of March is significant for me; the eleven year anniversary of the unexpected passing of my younger brother who was 38, the 14 year anniversary of putting both my four-legged babies down in one day because they were both sick and best friends, the passing of my dear grandfather many years ago. The intensity of March was different this year. I discovered that the length of time passed is irrelevant. That I lost 24 people in 5 years is an entirely different story! Whew! Just writing all that alone was difficult, let alone experiencing it. Let’s just say grief and I have become good friends and I’m still learning about it.

Whether we want to run, hide or escape grief, it will inevitably “get us.” When we deny grief eventually we’ll feel the results in our bodies, minds, and in our emotions through anger, resentment, depression, sadness and despair. Have you noticed that what you resist persists and gets bigger?

The world of Taoism (a Chinese philosophy) believes that everything is energy, and that the negative emotions that we feel but do not release physically are stored in the body’s organs.

Have you noticed most people avoid this life subject at all cost?
It’s something we’ll all experience, like it or not. What do you say when you don’t know what to say to someone who’s grieving? Exactly that “I don’t know what to say.” I would prefer hearing that rather than to experience the awkward silence of avoidance or the spewing of hallow, dismissive clichés in the face of my anguished and broken heart. From my research with friends, clients and loved ones they agree that “I don’t know what to say” is enough; it will suffice because it reflects genuine caring.

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up in the wrought heart and bids it break. William Shakespeare

Over time I’ve recognized the beauty of grief by the reframing of it as an acronym:

Gift: Grief is truly a gift. It’s an opportunity to heal, to be gentle and patient with yourself through the process and a heart-full of grate-full- ness for the reason, season or lifetime you had with the individual, situation or circumstances.

While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till it be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it. Samuel Johnson

Rebirth: It’s an opportunity to shed layers of guilt, regret, and blame and “for-giving” love and freedom to yourself, the situation and person.

Individuality: There are as many shapes and forms of grief as there are individuals. Nor does it look a certain way with any one person or even with oneself. When you know this, there’s greater understanding, compassion and acceptance of yourself and others.

Expiration: Expiration dates don’t exist with grief. It changes over time as layers are released and time intervenes. The good news is LOVE doesn’t have an expiration date either. We can remember why we loved the person, place or situation and appreciate its gift in our lives.

Feel: When you bury your sadness, you bury your joy.
Grief is real and an opportunity to learn how to be with your feelings. It deserves to be respected and honored. Grief can feel almighty and powerful. It can consume you and overcome you in an instant. When you know this it’s easier to relax and be with it, feel your feelings around the loss without trying to change it or how you feel. When the grief wave feels overpowering to me I consider it a cleansing of what isn’t needed anymore, then I breathe and relax and my heart opens to the process.

It’s said that you can go through life laughing or crying. In this case tears are crucial to learning to live with this jack-of-all-trades and master of all – GRIEF.

Why would you want to sit in the misery and mystery of grief when there are so many ways to be supported through it? You don’t need to suffer alone.

Grief is itself a medicine. Grief brings maturity and compassion. Grief is really about love. In going deep into my grief, I’m able to hold space in my coaching sessions for others to do the same. I’m not afraid of it.

If you are experiencing grief or you know of anyone who is, I encourage you to welcome support through it. A support team makes a big difference!

Grief changes shape and when you open to it – the gift never ends.