As I sat in the emergency room bed waiting for a doctor to come in and tell me what was going on, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. If I held out hope, I feared I might be so utterly disappointed that I would never have hope again. On the other hand, if I think the worst, I feared I might attract the worst outcome through my own projection. My sweet boyfriend and partner was sitting next to me, holding my hand and full of hope. It was how he coped with it all.
Then he entered the room. His poker face was firmly in place. Most doctors are so serious all the time you never know if they are about to deliver good or bad news. Then the words came out of his mouth “your pregnancy is no longer viable.” What the hell did that mean? Why couldn’t he just come straight out and say, “your baby is dead.” Instead I had to probe, but he had no answers really, just the results of the ultrasound. I was to wait for the resident OBGYN for the why’s and the how’s.
I didn’t need to wait around. I was a sobbing mess and just wanted to go home. The nurses gave me a piece of paper that told me what I needed to know and what to expect over the next few days. I just needed to let my body do what it needed to do. The hemorrhaging had stopped and I was out of there!
What ensued over the weeks, months and years was a grieving process I was unprepared for. Who is ever prepared for the death of a loved one? The death of a child, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, a pet, even a public figure we didn’t know personally; each loss means something different to each of us. Our grief and view of death differs from person to person. Perhaps that is one of the reasons the topic of death and grief is so misunderstood, rarely talked about, and has few resources available to help those that grieve.
For me it was not just a biological loss of a pregnancy, my child died inside of me. He had not been with me long, but I loved him. Yet, I never got to meet him or hold him. It was the loss of a dream of encountering pregnancy and birth in a sacred way; so very different from my experience with my daughter when I was 19. I felt like I let my lover down although he assured me I did not. I was cheated out of experiencing pregnancy with a man that I loved; a stark difference from being pregnant with my daughter, alone, having no one to share all her kicks with or the awe of my growing belly.
But death is final. We have absolutely no control over it. And perhaps worst of all, no control over the emotions that engulf us in the grieving process. The truth is however, no matter what you feel when someone you love dies, it is normal. There is no wrong or right in the process of grief. It is all a very relative experience. Not only does the death of one person feel different than another, but each of us grieve differently, with each death, depending on many different factors including unresolved grief and our imbedded views of death.
What is additionally important to understand is that denial of negative emotions leads to dangerous outcomes. There is a fine line between encouraging positive thoughts and stuffing very real feelings. We must express and purge the sadness and pain and exhaust all avenues in our efforts including talking, artwork, writing, singing, dancing, drumming, sacred sex or whatever creative endeavor calls to us. Often there are old wounds that have not been dealt with that begin to ooze when we experience death. These injuries have seeped deep into our subconscious and can not always be expressed through literal avenues such as language. They require a symbolic language such as music making and art to discharge from our psyche.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross a pioneer in the realm of understanding grief around death and dying outlined the five stages of grief. They are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I had read her work years ago when dealing with the death of my grandmother. I knew all of this and worked with clients who had experienced death. Yet, I seemed to vacillate between the stages. It was never a progressive journey in sequential order but rather what felt like a trampoline experience of bouncing from one stage to another. Worst of all, my entire spiritual foundation crumbled underneath me.
I am sharing all of this with you because I want you to understand the spiral of grieving and healing. We will all inevitably experience loss. If we have the right tools, and understand the pathway of wisdom to follow, we can actually grow through the process.
Grieving happens upon a sacred spiral. You may go through the five stages, but it may not be sequential and certainly not final. Like an onion, we heal in layers as we move around the spiral of life. There will be good days and bad days. The intensity fades with time. Each time you pass that place of pain on the spiral you will feel the loss, but it will feel different, less biting with each passing until it is just barely a pin prick.
Letting go of the intensity of the pain is not about denial or dishonoring the loved-one lost. In fact, it is the most loving, holy, honoring thing you can do and in fact may assist them in progressing upon their next level of their journey. It is important however to understand that there is no wrong or right time span with the process of moving forward. This is why the spiral concept is so vitally important to keep in mind. Make sure you are moving upward along the spiral. You may have days where you feel like you are moving backwards, but as long as overall you can observe that there is forward motion, even if it is slow, you are on the right path.
If however you are not progressing; if the intensity of the pain is not lessening, even a smidgen, do not deny yourself the gift of help. Whether it is with a trusted counselor or confidant or a support group, there is absolutely no place for pride or self-sufficiency when dealing with grief. This is where we have the divine opportunity of experiencing community and why the concept of community is so vital to our wellness. There are also a slew of free online support communities for all kinds of grieving. This is one of the benefits of the information age. Or, you can check your local hospital for support groups that you can attend in person if you feel you need that face-to-face connection.
The beauty of support groups is that you can move from being supported to being the supporter. Once you get to a certain level of healing upon your journey with grief it is incredibly cathartic to reach out and help someone else. The more you counsel and teach the more you embody the process and ensure your own progress.
Healing is never a destination; it is always a journey upon that sacred spiral. We are never really done, just always expanding and reaching new levels of awareness that lessen the impact of whatever we might be healing from. There will always be scars; they are marks of growth that remind us of our strength. They need not cause pain, but simply provide a remembrance of our power and the truth of the realm of polarity we live in.
There is both day and night; light and dark. In order to feel peace we must know chaos. In order to know love, we must know it’s opposite. That is what the earth journey is all about. Playing well together and helping each other understand the dark and the light and their divine synchronicity is at the root of our life purpose.
I encourage you to share your story of grief below in the comments. Sharing our story provides an opportunity to purge, liberating us from our attachment to that story. It also connects us with others who are reaching out to heal their own grief. Sharing our story connects us with community and empowers others simply by knowing we are not alone.
Sending you much love,