I was reminded this week that grief comes in many, many forms. As a Certified Grief Counselor, I work mostly with people around the death of loved ones – but grief encompasses so much more than that. The definition of grief on dictionary.com is “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.” Reading that definition, I had a vision of a smug Buddhist piously pointing out that’s why we practice nonattachment…a classic case of spiritual bypass. All the spiritual practice in the world does not negate human emotion, nor should it.
I have been meaning to write about the full face of grief for a long time, but today I am absolutely called to do so. We need to honor that everyday living brings abundant opportunity for grief to come forth. As I write this in my sunroom with windows all around, I am struck by how bare the trees are, much more so than when I traveled to the city three short days ago. I am aware of the sadness of no longer seeing the rich, vibrant colors of fall as I also brace for what may be another long, brutal winter. For me this sadness does not reach the level of grief, but I know many for whom it does.
The first time I became aware of how powerful non-death-related grief could be was a few years into sobriety when I faced head-on how I had lived my life for the 17 years of my active drinking. I absolutely grieved the young woman I had been. I grieved how little regard I held for myself and others. I grieved the choices I had made and the priorities I held. I grieved how long I had lived with no connection to my soul. That grief went on for a couple years. My emotions were so intense that many advised me I should get on an antidepressant. For me, I knew I had to go through these feelings to heal them; there was no other way.
That has been true for me for grief in all its forms, big and not-so-big. I need to go through it – not around it. I also need to rely on the support and love of others, as well as my faith in God, the Divine, Universal Love, whatever you care to call the Creative Source of All. It has also been critical that I honor and commit to the process of healing, because it is a process. One that fortunately has been forwarded simply by me writing this. Thank you for witnessing.