Finding Inspiration in Grief

“My heart is heavy.”

Too often I am hearing this statement in moments I would never expect it, in places I wouldn’t have believed it belonged. That this should be a ready phrase to describe interactions with people we love, over this season in the north when the nights are long and meant to be lit with the fires reflected in the happy faces of friends and family around the hearth, is a terrible thing. These are words for pain and loss, and, as I look around me, I’m hearing them all too often this season. I do not use the word terrible lightly. The potential for terror is here. Whether it will be realized is up to the courage of individuals. What will be is unknown. What was, and is now not, we perceive as loss.

When picturing grief, it is important not to lose the essential nature of it in favor of the image of the kind of soul-shattering experience of devastating loss that tends to connote Grief-with-a-capital-G. Grief is so much more than that. On the compass of emotions that I first heard elucidated by Vivian Dittmar, grief is the emotion that indicates the time of transitioning into accepting what cannot be changed. The process of grief is the process of integrating this deep truth; loss is a universal and necessary part of the human experience, and we cannot, nor should we attempt, to undo it. In order to receive the full gift of it, we can take the opportunity it presents to allow the full pain of loss to move through the emotional sphere and physical body, and thus become more whole, more at peace with the truth of life, and more able to ride the waves and thermals of the current of life that dances us.

I delved deep into the realization that some, maybe much, of what I thought my country and culture was is lost. Some things have passed away, others were always illusions, but I lived with those beliefs as my reality and the death of them has been extremely painful. It was through this grieving process that I became open to the need for new and firm containers.

I was confronted with some painful recognitions about some of my relationships; I came to see how avoidant I had been my whole life of my own experiences of truth, how fearful I had been to express it and face the consequences. I had allowed the lack of conflicts over unexamined assumptions to deceive me into believing that the assumptions themselves were not fundamentally in conflict. I thought I knew what a neighbor was, and what it meant to have one, but my whole conception of community has been rocked.

There is much to grieve, on personal and collective levels. Many have been brought to their knees with the kind of grief we understand; that of a beloved person exiting the mortal coil. The great power of this type of loss is that we can't delude ourselves about it; the concreteness of the material experience of absence where there was presence is undeniable. It is a choking, sucking wound that we believe might kill us, or wish would, but it stands silent, the strict teacher, with lifetimes to wait.

We store grief in the lungs. It's no surprise that the primary experience of the current dominant disease state is a lack of breath and a gripping fear of not being able to breathe. To breathe in is to receive inspiration, literally, and to lose inspiration is to die. The only time I distinctly remember being intensely afraid I was on the verge of death was when my lungs filled with viscous fluid and refused to admit air. There is a kind of panic when the lungs won’t draw that is unique; we become acutely aware of the line between the animation of our material being, and a corpse. We are so much more than the air we breathe, but we cannot live with less.

When the heart is heavy, breathe deep. Do not let loss asphyxiate you; find meaning in this moment.

In knowing absence where there was presence, we can bring ourselves into the full presence of absence. We can become watchers of our own pain, and, in the watching, become witnesses to our own healing.



Star of Bethlehem flower essence attends this process beautifully.

Flower essences are subtle energetic remedies that are completely safe. They are not homeopathy; they do not work on the principle of similars, but, like homeopathy, they are formulated to imprint a mirror of the essential healing qualities of the substance onto water, without using a material dose of the substance itself. Unlike homeopathy, you do not have to be strict with the dosing, but, like homeopathy, a little goes a long way. I generally tell people to put four drops in the water glass or bottle that they are sipping from, and to redose if desired at any time. At least daily for up to 28 days can be good for a deep shift, but you can feel into your own shifts and adjust accordingly. If you want to make the little vial last forever, just put four drops into a second dropper bottle filled with distilled water and a few drops of brandy, glycerin, or apple cider vinegar, and take your doses from that.

(At the end of some posts, I will offer relevant insights and suggestions about tools I use, myself or with clients, to support the transformative process that is healing.)

Choosing Flight Over Fear