Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.
The Well of Grief
I’m no stranger to grief.
When I was 30, I was devastated by a sweeping cascade of losses. In a 3 month period, I lost a pregnancy, my marriage, my home, my ability to handle managerial responsibilities as a hospital department director, my position in society and all the dreams of the life I thought I was building.
The two years following those losses were as transformational as they were challenging. I call them “the years of tears” because I never knew when I would be overcome with waves of grief.
One of the many gifts I received from those years was the ability to fully and unapologetically grieve and emerge with insights and treasures – like the ‘source’ and the ‘small round coins’ in David Whyte’s poem. Another gift I received was the ability to hold sacred space for another’s grieving.
In the last 18 months I’ve experienced another series of losses (the end of a 20 year marriage, loss of property, wellness and dreams) which culminated in my son’s departure for college.
I know many of you reading this have children who have recently headed off to college or married. While college and marriage are life changes to be celebrated – I also know there’s a kind of grief for the parents. In my case, I knew I’d feel the loss of my son’s presence and my role in his life deeply.
So I prepared.
I organized my life to allow for the time I would need in order to dive fully into it and move through to the other side. Instead of trying to carry on business as usual: seeing clients, teaching classes, giving keynote addresses…. I drastically reduced my commitments for 6 months. For the 3 months prior to taking my son to college I kept only the absolutely necessary items on my agenda in order to be fully present for the experiences of high school graduation, Olympic Swim Trials, packing and moving. I also allowed myself the time to rest, walk with friends, cry, journal, cry, pray, cry, dance, cry, sleep, cry and – when I simply couldn’t handle any more….binge-watch Netflix and cry ☺
For the 3 months after dropping him off at school I scheduled myself to travel and lead workshops and retreats interspersed with time for resting and healing. In fact I’m writing to you from my friend Britt Steele’s YogaFarm where I’ve spent 2 weeks hanging out with goats, donkeys, horses and golden retrievers; eating veggies from the garden, resting, doing yoga, dancing and leading a weekend retreat.
I’m telling you all of this because I can’t find many examples in our culture of ways to take care of ourselves when we are grieving a life transition like this. What I know in my bones is that diving in and fully feeling grief is actually more effective and efficient than putting on a happy face and moving on too quickly.
I also know, that having allowed for deep grieving, I’m suddenly feeling ready to move on to the next phase of my life. It’s such a great feeling that I wanted to share one of my favorite songs to dance to when I’m at the end of grieving and ready to BRING IT ON! Hope you enjoy the music and that you’ll dance along with me ☺
Music: Bring It On by Jana Stanfield www.JanaStanfield.com
Bring it on!