Being Broken Open: 8 Things Our Grief Can Teach Us
“Our tears prepare the ground for our future growth. Without this creative moistening, we may remain barren. We must allow the bolt of pain to strike us. Remember, this is useful pain; lightning illuminates.” ― Julia Cameron
Grief is an inescapable part of our human experience. It can be a difficult process, but like anything else in life, it isn’t what happens to us but what we do about what happens to us that makes all the difference. In Elizabeth Lesser’s book Broken Open, she discusses how difficult times can help us grow, be empowered, and transform. Like any other human being, I have experienced my share of grief and am currently in the process of grieving for a life that could have been. I learned on September 1st that the new life that I thought was carrying had never really developed. While this news has been devastating, I have given myself permission to grow from the experience and as Julia Cameron suggests, use this pain to soften and find the light in the darkness. I have taken this charge to heart, and here are 8 things that I have learned:
You Do Not Need To “Suffer in Silence”
When I first received the devastating news that my baby was not developing, I remember hearing the midwife say, “you do not have to suffer in silence” and that really struck a chord with me. So often with many aspects of grief, especially miscarriage, people think it is a private matter and one that should be endured alone. I have learned from my experience that the more vocal and vulnerable I am, the more I realize how common suffering is and the more I create space for others to open up as well. Grief is a humanexperience, and many do not leave life on this earth unscathed so the more we can share our suffering, the more we step into our humanity.
2. Every Life Has a Purpose
My colleague reminded me of this, and I have found great solace here. I do not want to think of my “baby’s” life to be in vain; instead, I believe that this “life” has given me the opportunity to explore my writing voice and share my story. This baby existed in my heart, and a good friend of mine given me a heart bracelet as a reminder. I wear that bracelet as I write this and all the other pieces that I have been inspired to write in the wake of this grief. When my uncle passed away a few years ago, I started to read and do The Artist’s Way; my uncle was very creative and that seemed like the best way to honor him. Whenever I spend time with family or connect with my Italian heritage, I am honoring my Nonno. Whenever I shop and get a good deal, I am honoring my Bubbie and whenever I go out for fine dining or travel to Aruba, I am honoring my Grandpa. You must find a way to honor the life that you are grieving and intentionally let their purpose live on throughout you.
3. Lean Into Support
This has been such an important part of my healing journey. I have been doing a lot of energy work recently and learning about the power of receiving energetically, so as this tragedy has occurred, I have truly allowed myself to receive the support. Support has come in the form of calls, flowers, text messages, emails, those who have made me dinner and I am deliberately allowing myself to “receive”. Every time I get a nice message or a tangible gift, I stop and truly feel gratitude for this generosity. My family drove 16 hours in a hurricane to be with me through my grief, and I absolutely appreciate that and the memories we made. I shared my experience with the middle school students whom I teach, and I allowed myself to feel their hugs and support. My almost 2 year old says to me “mommy–hold you?” and you better believe I allow her to “hold me” until she is ready to let go. I am joining a support group, and I will truly lean on the members there. Find support and really allow yourself to feel that support and be lifted up by others.
4. Feel All the Feels
Grief is a process to cycle through the process, you must allow yourself to feel into every aspect. When I got the devastating news, I gave myself a grief day. This may not be for everyone but it was certainly therapeutic for me. I stayed home alone all day and just cried that ugly cry all day. I didn’t get out of bed for hours. I allowed myself to be angry and bitter and sad and disappointed. I cried for past grief; I cried for present grief. I let it all out. When I described this process to a friend she said “you gotta feel all the feels” and I liked that phrase. Allow yourself to feel into your emotions and be present. There is something beautiful in their honesty. No matter what direction life takes, you will never be in this moment again. In many ways you may be grateful for that, but there is something special about living in the moment and really feeling your way through a situation.
5. You Do Not Have to be A Victim
As Grief Expert David Kessler proclaims, “Pain is Inevitable, But Suffering Is Optional”. We get to choose our emotions, and we have control over our own minds. As I mentioned, like anything else in life, it is not what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you that shapes your life. You do not have to be a victim of your grief. Your grief can empower you to make a difference in the world. You do not have to suffer. Cosmically on the day I “lost” my baby, it was the same day as the solar eclipse in Virgo. A major theme of this eclipse was the shift from victim energy to empowerment energy. I am no expert in this area, but my brother who is very tuned in shared this information with me (when he drove down 16 hours to spend the weekend with me–see lean into support). Before I understood this intellectually, I was feeling it vibrationally. During my grief day, I wrote some of the most profoundly inspired and raw writing that I have ever written and felt compelled to share that writing publicly (which is totally outside of my comfort zone). I had already started to step into my own empowerment and grow from my pain, and you can too.
6. Remember to Breathe and Be Gentle
Like anything else in life, it helps to just breathe. This allows us to pause and take inventory of the situation. Find ways to encourage intentional breathing–whether it is yoga or meditation or a breathing sequence that speaks to you or even journaling. And just be really gentle with yourself. This is a process, and there is nothing universal about your individual grief. Don’t compare yourself to others through this process. Yes–feel their support, be vulnerable to them, open up, but allow yourself to feel through your grief in a way that resonates with you. And do not feel guilty or pressure–practice self care. It is the only way to truly heal.
7. Don’t Take On Other People’s Energy or Beliefs
Grief can be a sensitive subject for many, and in their quest to help you, they may say the “wrong” thing or something insensitive. They may project their own fears and experiences onto you. As Miguel Ruiz reminds us in The Four Agreements “don’t take anything personally”. Most often what others say and do is a reflection of them not you. This one seems easier said than done, but it is so important to the success of your growth. You can set up boundaries energetically or verbally. You can repeat a mantra if something doesn’t resonate with you to let it go and not absorb it. You can use Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or the beautiful ho’ponno ponno practice to let go of the energetic baggage. You can be direct with that other person and say something like, “while that might be your experience, it is not mine so I appreciate your concern, but that doesn’t help or resonate”. Do what you need to do to dissociate from negativity.
8. Love Always Wins
This is open for interpretation but such an important reminder through this trying time. Love can be in the form of self love and being gentle with yourself. Love can be in the form of support and really allowing that to seep in. Love can be in the form of holding space for someone so they don’t have to suffer alone or in silence. Just remember when you choose love, you are on the right path to healing.