Avoiding the pain actually ends up prolonging it.
I've worked with hundreds of people who are experiencing or have experienced grief and loss. I have a masters degree in theology specialized in social justice and pastoral care as well as in clinical social work. Need less to say, I am trained to deal with death. However, when faced with my own grief I have learned some new things and I'd like to share them with you...
I tell my clients that grief and loss are wily emotions. They sneak up on you when you least expect it, in the supermarket, making dinner, taking a shower. They just show up and says "HEY WE'RE HERE" and then subside when they decide.
When we feel grief and loss we feel it in waves. The emotion of grief brings us to our knees. Without words, without forewarning, grief comes crashing down upon us, and we cry.
Here’s how I see it: The soul doesn’t have a language. It speaks in saltwater. We come from the ocean. So the most primal part of us, our soul expresses itself with our most basic essence. The ocean.
Think about it. Every time something, “touches our heart” we cry. We cry when we’re happy. We cry when we are sad. We cry when we are angry. The tears are the soul speaking. So when our souls are crying out in a most base kind of pain, such as the death of a parent, the tears and the grief come in waves.
In fact a wonderful photographer named Rose Lynn Fisher documented the structure of tears based on different emotions. Through her project she came to very a similar conclusion about tears. She writes, “Tears are the medium for our most primal language in moments as unrelenting as death, as basic as hunger, and as a rite of passage.”
This is the pain I am feeling. I am a wave. I am the tide. I am the tumult. Once I allow the tumult ... then, I can be the calm.
In actuality, my attempts to avoid pain and suffering have been the corner stone of much of my suffering. This is what I have learned. ... This is the gift. I am being called to consider suffering in a different way than I have in the past. I think we are all being called to learn how to grieve differently. Can we let our tears just simply be cleansing?
We are being called to cultivate a different relationship with grief and loss, whether from a death of a loved one, a break up, the loss of a job or even the loss of an idea. We are moving toward a new relationship with pain. We simply must.
What we push against will always push back. However, what we accept in and allow, we can transform and let go of. That is a universal law.
The Buddha said, "The highest form of acceptance is accepting the unacceptable." There is too much pain in the world and for us to continue to build up walls to avoid it or to pretend it is not there or be swallowed up by it, by doing so, we allow it to rule our lives. The Buddha also says, "Life is suffering." It exists. Joy also exists. Grace exists. Hope exists. How we deal with our emotions determines our ability to endure and thrive.
If you are experiencing this type of grief, you are not alone! If the tears become unrelenting and too much to handle, please reach out and talk with a trusted advisor at your place of worship or a qualified licensed therapist who specializes in grief and loss.