Why Understanding Grief is Key to Your Success
It is a snowy winter morning, my puppy woke me up at 3am to go outside and so I am feeling a bit of that interrupted sleep fog that I am sure many parents know well. He is so adorable I just don’t even care.
Today I want to write about grief. This topic is very dear to my heart as many of you know, I lost my mom to cancer when I was 22. But, losing my mom isn’t the only reason that I have faced grief in my life. I have grieved relationships, I have grieved the loss of Grandparents and friends and I have even grieved cities that I have lived in and jobs I left for better opportunity. I think loss or even change, however it shows up in your life, always brings with it a dose of grief. Each of us experiences grief differently based on a lot of variables which is why I think sometimes it such a taboo topic.
Today, on this snowy day in December, as I wrap up another year of a beautiful and complex life, I can’t help but want to spend some time with my mom talking over coffee. The thing I miss most about her are her soft, yet strong, hands. I can remember laying in bed with her on rainy Saturday afternoons and she would sweep her hand over my hair and forehead, it was so safe and so comforting.
I also really want her to meet my dog, although I think that perhaps my dog is actually her. I don't mean that in the literal sense, I just mean, there are things my dog brings to my life that feel a lot like the things my mom brought to my life and I feel very very blessed to have found him in the shelter wide eyed and ready to come home.
While I have dealt with a lot of direct grief and by direct I mean, a tangible loss where something was here and then it suddenly wasn't. I have also felt the grief of losing parts of myself. I have been doing a lot of work lately on my “self”; exploring the layers of conditioning and looking inside at what is actually me, not the things I think that I should be. This introspection is causing all kinds of disruptions to the image of my life that I have held onto for a very long time. The letting go of that image, or as I would say, the destruction of that image has been painful. But it is also really really exciting.
In the study of mediation you really work on letting go of control and outcome. You work to move into this place of acceptance, of understanding, of neutrality. My old belief always was that if I didn’t hold on tight to the things I want and demand certain things of myself and others, that I would never live the life I want to live. More and more I am learning that the more I let go the more it shows up for me, especially when I am holding the image of the ideal self in my mind. What a strange contradiction! But allowing feels so much better than white knuckling. I can feel right now as I type this a weight lifting off of me. Yes, allow allow allow. What will be will be.
So of course, because I am on this kick about self commitment I want to tie this back to how grief, loss and change go hand in hand with self commitment. When you choose yourself and keep a commitment, the old you, who put others first, never said no, fill in the blank with whatever is your committed behavioral shift, you are literally destructing patterns that are engrained in your brain and behavior. As you continue to navigate this shift in your decisions and actions toward a more aware state of being, you will see how parts of you start to fall off and get left behind. This is what progress looks like, but it can be absolutely overwhelming. I have had weeks where I couldn’t help but cry—my body was just producing emotions that I wasn’t even ready to handle, but I did. They weren’t directly related to anything specific happening in my life—they were a result of me growing and stepping into the person I desire to be. And boy did they push me, they pushed me to look deeper, they pushed me to make really hard decisions and they pushed me to let go. In this process you, just like me, will begin to actually experience the symptoms of grief and this is where that committee meeting in your brain tool can be really helpful. (To learn more about this shoot me an email and lets talk, firstname.lastname@example.org)
The ideal outcome is to get to a place where you have less and less triggers. I call this radical acceptance. When my mom passed I grieved for a very long time but it wasn’t until I had radical acceptance of the reality of her being gone that I started to move forward in my heart and mind. This took almost a decade. I was unlearning the reality I had for 22 years and letting go of my desire for her to return and for everything to be “normal”. There was nothing and will never be anything I can do about what happened to her and losing her, but there is so much I can do with my life in honor of her. Getting to that realization took a lot of hard work and a lot of time, because that is how change happens.
So why is it so important to not drink the Diet Coke when you’ve committed to quitting? Because that is how you exercise the muscle. The small, daily commitments are how you become stronger so that when you are faced with real big decisions and decisions that are tied to your value and your heart—you will be a lot more equipped to make decisions that are in your best interest.
In my experience, honoring the grief, letting it have its space and time is imperative to the growth process. You can’t force nothing, my Italian Grandfather used to say, and he was right. So I am over here, not forcing the radical acceptance but tracking toward the idea that maybe the old me served her purpose and life will be even more beautiful as the new me. Your mind, your heart and the universe will tell you when you are ready to accept and move on, so keep working those small, daily self commitments and soon enough you will look up and realize your ideal self is in reach.
If you want to talk about your self commitments or work some of the tools I talk about here, shoot me an email! I am really enjoying hearing all of the ways you all are tracking toward your ideal selves and making progress on your joy. email@example.com