The Lightness of Peace After Sorrow
The weight of our grief is proportional to the significance of what we have lost.
The heaviness of sorrow is not meant to be carried alone.
While we can at times muscle our way through it, going it alone results in aches, pains, bruised and broken parts that we then have to tend to in addition to the grief.
Just like the directions on the side of a heavy box of two figures smartly lifting together, grief needs a carrying partner.
I wonder where the idea that we must go it alone comes from?
Recent fads from the last couple of decades discourage onlookers from reaching out a hand or a tissue to a crying person, lest it interrupt their emoting.
Then there’s my own Spartan tendency to suppress my deepest wails when I’m grieving in front of anyone resulting in me sitting still as stone, holding the sound tight in my chest, forcing it not to escape, stomach clenched, throat closed to only allow the slightest breath through.
So much energy is required to hold all of that pain inside!!!!
Many people wait until they leave my office to cry. It’s too difficult to do it in front of me or anyone else.
Our culture views crying as a sign that something is wrong. I view crying as a sign that something is going right. The body is doing what it was made to do—releasing chemical compounds of joy, sadness, excitement, anger, fear, and elation through our tears.
Here’s the catch, I know that if I stay numb to grief then I have to stay numb to joy. And even though I know this, I still sometimes choose to power through and ignore my feelings so I can get through the day and take care of everything that needs tending.
I don’t judge this modern tendency of mine, I just acknowledge it and the consequences it causes in my life. I remind myself to soften, to tend to my heart, to make an opening for sadness and to exhale.
I learned from my elder, Malidoma Somé, that grieving with others is vital to our body, mind, and spirit. It is necessary for each grieving person to be held safe enough to come apart all the way. If grief is to truly flow, we need a container of community to hold us so that the largeness of grief doesn’t carry away the loosened parts of us. Instead, the container of community holds our parts together. And after the grief has flowed and peace has come in, the parts of each of us will be assembled into something New.
Grief changes us forever.
As does the love of those still here.
Our human family is not the only community that the living world provides us when we are grieving. I recently spent a night in nature so I could let grief surface away from my children. It isn’t that I don’t want them to see me cry, it’s that in my role as mom, I don’t easily let it come up.
I spent only 24 hours away and it felt like much longer. I got quiet and let the trees and earth and the fire and stones help me grieve. They helped me let go and let out so many difficult and heavy feelings that I’d been unknowingly carrying. They helped me to soften my animal body and to rest deeply.
There is no end to grief only a change of its shape and edges. If we allow it to flow it gives way to gratitude then peace and eventually the return of joy. As long as we are human on the earth there will be much to grieve and much to rejoice about.
The lightness of peace that flows into me after I grieve is indescribable. It is a gift, a priceless treasure, that I can then share with others. I open myself everyday to the sorrows that flow through me—the losses and deaths. I give heartfelt gratitude for new beginnings and births that always seem to inevitably follow.
I recently recorded this episode while I was in the forest healing. And this episode from the is about expressing sorrow in community at Elder Malidoma’s funeral.
Here are some of my favorite books about grief and sorrow:
The Smell of Dust on Rain by Martín Prechte
Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser
The Wild Edge of Sorrow by Francis Weller