This article has been a long time coming. You may want to put the kettle on.
“Grief can make a liar out of you because there is a disconnect between how you feel, and how you think you’re supposed to behave.” This was Maria Shriver’s intro to her heart-gripping talk at the 2009 Women’s Conference. I stumbled across the live telecast. The topic: Grief, Healing & Resilience. Interesting topic for a conference. That’s kind of pushing it, I thought.
Then Marissa tweeted about grief catching her off guard. Ronna wrote about the barn burning down, and Emma started thinking about death–a lot. Kelly riffed about endings because she was inspired by Lianne philosophizing about “something dying to be born.” Guess the death thing is up for the sistahs this season, I thought.
And then I went to a Transformational Speaking workshop with Gail Larsen–which is really group therapy disguised as enlightened toastmasters (and one of the best learning experiences I’ve had.) Gail spread out a large quilt on the floor with the cycles of life stitched in a big circle. She calls it the Journey Well Wheel. “Stand or pull your chair to where you think you are at this time of your life,” she instructed. Easy, I thought, I’m here, at the Seek Support-Experiment-Emerge stages. Just before which is Grief and Letting Go. But no matter how I tried to stay in my place, my chair mysteriously kept eeking toward the grief zone. Like a ghost was pushing me–away from the lie, toward the white hot truth. Black as it was.
LAST YEAR, I DIED
I handed over the keys to the studio/office I’d help to fill with staff, laptops and artwork–to the company that had my name on the door, on the parking stall, on the book, the domain name, the shareholder certificates. Passwords were changed. Computers stripped. Lawyers retained. The CEO I was so wise to hire was given the go ahead to change the business model–and the new strategy didn’t include very much of me. I was out.
A few months after my, uh, departure, I was scrolling through Craigslist looking to buy a new desk and came across a desk that I loved–no wonder, it was my desk–my former desk. And that is how I found out that the company was having a going out of business sale. The company was divided up and auctioned off–the book, the intellectual property, the website. Sold to the highest bidders. It was over, except for major bank debt, for which I was partly personally liable.
I’m feline by nature–a gold medalist in Landing On My Feet. This year: I launched WhiteHotTruth to a great reception (a thousand thank yous to each of you for being here.) I did Fire Starter groups in about sixteen cities. I’ve worked with nearly one hundred Fire Starter clients. Shot a demo reel for a new TV show that I could star in. Spoke on some very big stages. Scored a gig as commentator of a national prime-time TV show. Gave dozens of interviews. Wrote a book proposal. Outlined two more books, and have strategized a content and collaboration roll out for 2010 that has me ablaze with more artistic joy than I have ever experienced. Creative sovereignty rocks. Hard.
Those are the facts.
“Facts can disguise grief… only for so long.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler’s legendary Five Stages of Grief applies just as much to the death of dreams and identity as it does to people: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. It’s brilliant, compassionate, and whole, like a Goddess.
Grief is one of the most powerful Goddesses. She swallows your agony and lets it tear her apart. Beautiful birds fly from her belly–each one an insight into life and your power. Grief brings the whole flock to your window and she waits and waits to reveal universal truths to you. She goes to the depths with you. She rises with you.
“Grief won’t rest until you swallow the medicine she made especially for you, and tell her your story of death… and life.”
HOW TO ABSORB THE MEDICINE OF GRIEF
Grief messes with your focus. When she’s tap-tap-tapping on the door of your consciousness, it becomes difficult to concentrate. You’re not sure what the priorities are, not sure where to put your attention, and when you do put it somewhere, it slips off easily. Time does not feel fresh, it feels a bit stale. Launching new things feels awkward, subtly inappropriate.
Give your self space to meander, aimlessly. Aim less. Under achieve. Be confused. As Nietzsche said, “You must have confusion in your heart to give birth to stars.” You are giving birth to a new reality. It takes tremendous resources. Healing hurts before it feels right.
Grief is patient. Grief may operate on a time-release capsule system. She’ll let you be busy and distracted for a long period of time before she descends. She respects survival mechanisms and the necessities. So go ahead and throw yourself into work or hobbies. Just know that…
Denying grief her power squelches your vitality. You can dream and laugh and march on, but until you swallow the bitter tea that Grief has brewed, things won’t be as vibrant or grounded as they could be. And that’s half dead.
Recognize where you are numb. Notice the memories that ouch the most. This is the beginning of response-ability.
Grief crystallizes in your body. The medicine will get stuck in your muscle memory and joints. It needs to circulate and be digested. You have to dance grief to the surface. Stomp. Rock. Stretch. Move without your intellect getting in the way. Keep moving.
Grief thinks scars make for great tattoos. Accept that you’ll never be the same. Trauma marks you. Embrace how much more dimensional you’ve become.
Someone just reminded me, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” (Maya Angelou). Grief needs to hear your story told. Speak it out to a sacred listener. Be witnessed. And then…
Tell a new story, one that includes the description of how you healed. The Goddess of Grief’s favourite word is Goodbye. You can smile when you say that.