This account, by a (rare) psychotherapist who “get’s it,” concerning the profound process that grief sets in motion — or it will, if we allow it; and we, in this culture, usually don’t — reminds me of my own process, what I called, even then, “conscious grieving”:
My husband Jeff Joel had suddenly died, of a heart attack, early on the morning of January 3, 2003, leaving me alone, in the new town to which the two of us had just moved.
Unlike the woman counseled in this story, I did not want therapy; nor did I seek a support group. In fact, I felt intensely grateful for solitude; this setting, for me, was exactly what I needed to allow the precious, exquisite process of disorientation that enormous loss sets in motion. In my case, I not only flooded with tears, I howled, solar plexus convulsing into primal undulations, on a number of occasions. Always alone. And always grateful to be alone, so that I could “let myself go” without the anxious eyes of others to contend with and slow the experience down, or even stop it, cut it short, in the interests of “propriety,” or of making sure I didn’t scare anybody else with my “crazy” behavior. And always, during those months when my body periodically worked through its insistent need to unfurl the locked pain inside, I was aware of the continuous presence of that larger awareness that holds all my experiences in the subtle, sweet field of abiding Love. And — here’s where my unique story is in common with the therapist’s relationship to his patient — in my journal I told the story of Jeff, and me and Jeff. In 2007, I structured this story into a book, This Vast Being: A Voyage through Grief and Exaltation, which won a “Best Books Award” from USA Book News.
What I so much appreciated, in this therapist’s account of “getting grief right,” is the recognition that grief cannot be stopped up without damage to the soul, and that to allow it full expression, we must be prepared for an unexpected and — I would add, truly miraculous, life-transforming — journey.
It is my feeling that our entire U.S. society is riddled with stopped up, even putrifying grief — a pathological condition that generates varieties of addictive behavior as its mask. Millions of people, most with crippling losses, the pain of which they cannot acknowledge and allow themselves to feel, and therefore cannot transform into the sheer unmitigated joy that attends the authentic expression of the truly free being.
Moreover, just as the entire cultural milieu endures this stuckness, so has it been ongoing for generations, tracing back to the grief attending the original genocide that we Europeans perpetrated upon the native peoples of this beautiful Turtle Island land.