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Grief

Artwork by Patty de Llosa
Artwork by Patty de Llosa

It is a time of grieving, all over the world, for the loss of loved ones, of jobs, of homes, of independence. Never have we been so united in suffering. It’s an atmosphere all around us, a pressure we can’t escape. Day after day we struggle to survive and help others through the Time of Covid 19.

Grief has always been with us, given the nature of life. I’ve had my share due to my long stay on the planet—three parents, a husband, a lover, relatives, many friends.

But this is so much worse, so impossible to get our heads and hearts around. Seldom, perhaps never in history, have we lived on a grieving planet. For while we grieve the death toll, the price of illness, the complications compounded from the initial disease, and the lives forever changed or saddled with impossible challenges, the earth itself is grieving its own destruction from global warming.

We feel like we are standing still, waiting for life to begin again and also grieve the loss of the life we used to lead. But what can we do about it besides wait for this intolerable era to be over?

Suffer on, for sure, doing the best we can given the circumstances: follow the new rules; wear masks; stay apart even when we are together; all that. But the deeper question that haunts us, whether conscious or unconscious, is “How to Be?” How to live in the best possible way—to the depth of our Being—rather than skate along on the surface of things trying to anesthetize the pain.

Words are not enough to speak our grief. As T. S. Eliot pointed out in the Four Quartets:

Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.

At the same time I need, you need, we all need, to process this grief, to open the heart and allow expression of a suffering that renews itself each time we hear news of a life lost, a business closed, hungry people seeking relief.

We could try to express it in a more organic way. For example, many neuroscientists now affirm that grief and trauma are best processed through the body. In The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk insists that without a friendly relationship with our body, we will grab for outside help “from medication, drugs like alcohol, constant reassurance, or compulsive compliance with the wishes of others.” He has worked for many years with sufferers of PTSD and emphasizes the fundamental importance of bodywork in recovery.

Neuroscientist Candace Pert offers a biological view in Why You Feel The Way You Feel: “When the biochemicals that are the substrate of emotion are flowing freely, all systems are united and made whole. When emotions are blocked, repressed, denied, not allowed to be whatever they may be, our network pathways get blocked, stopping the flow of the vital feel-good, unifying chemicals that run both our biology and our behavior.”

What’s more, like most of us these days, you probably live in a state of diffuse anxiety. Exhausting! The work of developing Body Consciousness shows once again that our body is our best friend here, because there’s a mathematical ratio between our level of anxiety, anger or pseudo-cheerfulness and our lack of kinesthetic awareness. The more grounded we are in our Body Being, the less we are invaded by anxiety and tension. For more on this, see Awakening Body Consciousness.

Let’s suppose for a moment that we are connected in some invisible way to every living being. That would mean that our balance and vitality both depend on and assist all that’s alive, including our very planet. Our thoughts, our grieving, our love, affect everyone and everything; and our wisdom mind is in contact with every living thing. In other words, as Rolling Thunder has assured us, we are all cells of Mother Earth.

Psychiatrist C. G. Jung has offered us a useful path for processing our emotions when words are not enough. He tried it himself at a time of great crisis. Why not follow his example and paint, sculpt, dance, or sing our grief? It has worked in the past for me as you can see from Taming Your Inner Tyrant. When things become unbearable, I get out my magic markers and a big sheet of paper to process some of my pain.

So move your anguish and anxiety into the body…Paint your grief. Dance it. Sing and sigh it. Let it flow through you as it flows from everyone to everyone. As we all wait for the song of that little bird of Hope.

Alternatively you might join me in my every-morning song, wrested from the heart of Cat Stevens:

Or perhaps you already know the music and can sing it right here!

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for their springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

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