The Many Faces of Grief: A
Grief is the universal issue that we all deal with, and she has many faces; you’ve seen these faces, but you may not have recognized them as grief. It’s human misery that we transmit if we don’t transform it.
This is an invitation to recognize and acknowledge the face in the mirror, the face of your loved one, the face that you fear or hate. Or the face that hasn’t yet been named. Or met.
From suffering to thriving, with great compassion, we have to pass through the necessary darkness. In doing so, we finally wear the authentic face that radiates peace and well-being. Meanwhile, let us bless every face that we meet, for we never know the grief that another carries.
Addiction, Abuse, Aging, Attachment disorder, Abortion
What the ego hates more than anything else is to change—even when the present situation is not working or is horrible. Instead, we do more and more of what does not work, as many others have rightly said about addicts. The reason we do anything one more time is because the last time did not really satisfy us deeply. As the English poet W. H. Auden put it:
“We would rather be ruined than changed,
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.”
Addicts—which I’m convinced are all of us, in one way or another—have an intense resistance to change. We like predictability and control. That’s one of the reasons addicts find it easier to have a relationship with a process or a substance rather than with people. Unlike objects, people are unpredictable. Having a drink, making a purchase, or turning to our devices can change our superficial mood very quickly. Even though the mood shift doesn’t last, it makes us feel like we are in control for a while. We don’t have to change our thinking or way of relating to people. We don’t have to sit with our boredom, discomfort, or anger, which short-circuits our ability to grow up and to move beyond whatever is in our way.
Until we bottom out and come to the limits of our own fuel supply, there is no reason for us to switch to a higher octane of fuel. Why would we want to change? We will not learn to actively draw upon a Larger Source until our usual resources are depleted and revealed as wanting. In fact, we will not even know there is a Larger Source until our own source and resources fail us. Until and unless there is a person, situation, event, idea, conflict, or relationship that we cannot “manage,” we will never find the True Manager.
~ Richard Rohr
I stayed devoted and loyal to men who hurt me. Why? Because I had been treated worse. At least there were a few good crumbs and I could cope and survive on them. But I was dying. You can’t thrive on crumbs. You can’t grow or develop on crumbs. You can’t heal. You’re still an abused child.
Children don’t fight or flee when traumatized – they attach. I was attached to men who hurt me. I gave them control over my life. That’s the only way I know how to be in relationship with men. There’s no blame here. It’s just the pattern. NO safety. NO trust. Powerless. This is my woundedness – the perpetuation of childhood abuse.
Dis-regulated people will partner with other dis-regulated people. Go figure.
I’m breaking down in sorrow and tears; so, what am I doing? Moving furniture – trying to get some control here in my little corner – to get it right – to bring some order to things that I can control. My furniture.
My friends, let’s grow up.
Let’s stop pretending we don’t know the deal here.
Or if we truly haven’t noticed, let’s wake up and notice.
Look: everything that can be lost, will be lost.
It’s simple – how could we have missed it for so long?
Let’s grieve our losses fully, like ripe human beings.
But please, let’s not be so shocked by them
Let’s not act so betrayed.
As though life had broken her secret promise to us.
Impermanence is life’s only promise to us,
And she keeps it with ruthless impeccability.
To a child she seems cruel, but she is only wild,
And her compassion exquisitely precise:
Brilliantly penetrating, luminous with truth.
She strips away the unreal to show us the real.
This is the true ride – let’s give ourselves to it!
Let’s stop making deals for a safe passage:
There isn’t one anyway, and the cost is too high.
We are not children anymore.
The true human adult gives everything for what cannot be lost. . .
~ Jennifer Welwood
Aging offers a thousand opportunities to crash into our own beliefs, a thousand opportunities to crash into the truth of loss and impermanence. We may experience the chaos of confronting unexamined beliefs. We may experience the chaos of dealing with our reactions to aging bodies gone a wry. We may experience chaos in our reactions to the rudeness and indifference with which we may be treated. Or we may experience chaos in our reactions to the kindness with which we, now among the old, may be treated. Unexpected expenses, illnesses, falls, diminishments push us up against our assumptions about the way things should be, push us face first into the unexamined attachments and aversions that have led us through our years.
In the Foreword of her book, The Power of Attachment, Dr. Diane Poole Heller states that “Within every person, there exists the weight and opportunity of a hero’s journey”. Within every single one of us dwells a powerful foe – an inner obstacle to well-being that exists to wound and destroy the hero.
Attachment to self and others is described as the inner hero. “It describes where the hero comes from and commands a path that must be taken.” So, what exactly is “attachment”? It’s all about connection, and all of us have some issues around healthy attachment. It’s just part of the human condition, but so worthy of our attention and understanding because it impacts our nervous systems and sense of safety in the world and in our relationships.
Dr. Heller suggests that we all have an “attachment style” and that “the wisdom of our bodies provides the answers to how we may carve out a protected space in the roiling currents” of fear, trauma and panic and anxiety.
Since ancient times, the Greeks reminded us to “Know Thyself”. Indeed, to thrive in warmth and connection, it serves us well to know our Attachment Style and how deeply we grieve if there is an attachment disorder – and if there is, you are among the majority. Thus, we understand the “weight” and the “opportunity” inherent in this hero’s journey.
One of the great causes of grief since time began is the issue of abortion. This grief is so complex and multi-layered that we couldn’t begin to unpack it here. But if we were to set aside religious and political stances on the issue, we just might be able to pause and allow for compassion to rise and grow. At the very heart of the matter, we each have a moral compass that ideally guides our actions and decisions. Many years ago, I was advised by a team of doctors that I should have an abortion. Oh, the grief and agony of that time still takes me to a place that I will never forget – a decision that would have altered forever the out-picturing of innumerable lives. Let us be more kind; more compassionate when it comes to the grief of abortion. Let us soften our stances and judgments and allow each other the benefit of True North.