Losses are plentiful: loved ones, hopes, dreams, connection to community, biodiversity. The guise of social media brings the loss of authentic connection, and modern living means little time spent in open spaces. Loss is also absence – when what is longed for isn’t present, such as intimacy, approval, a child or a sense of home. Some losses may not be in full consciousness, such as connection to heritage and lineage or impending mortality. Every loss experienced provides access to deep chambers of the heart, revealing the sorrow, yearning, helplessness and fear carried from previous losses. When we lose who and what we love, the depth of longing can be humbling.
Loss is inevitable. The natural grief that follows may feel suffocating. It can create the sense of homesickness or unrelenting hunger that nothing can satiate. Grief can be insidious or chaotic, yet is there as an ally. Though it is often arduous, grief slows us down, reorients us to the present moment and aligns us with who we are becoming.
Grief is not a singular experience but rather a process; it holds an innate and powerful wisdom. Intentionally engaging this process helps us live our lives as they are. When we inhibit participation with grief, we deny an inherent, generative process that's present in service of healthy adjustment. Out of this restraint may flow undesired outcomes, including feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression, a compromised immune system, loss of vitality, challenges with trust or unabated guilt and shame. A conscious encounter with grief liberates its transformative potential and plays an integral role in our growth. Healing events that manifest only through and because of one’s participation with grief help to actualize life’s continued creative unfolding.
There is so much we learn after a loss – about ourselves and our humanness – that we could never have known beforehand. Grief may awaken us to aspects of our being that we’ve been unable or unwilling to see. Grief symptoms (and there are many) are signals, pointing us toward what we need; they are the compass, orienting us to the path forward.
Grief is transformative - it is the process of becoming what is not yet known. In essence, the path of grief participation is toward grief integration. Through grief participation, we are introduced to our new selves; grief integration is a meaning-making endeavor in which we embody these new selves. Grief integration means inviting the transformation into our lived experience, and living from and into this newly discovered place. A new form of order in our lives emerges, reorganized around new meaning, and we encounter a sense of wholeness while embracing our losses.