Are You Grieving Well?

A lot can change in a year…and so much healing can happen.

April 11, 2014 was the first anniversary of my Mama’s death, and, in a cruel twist of irony, it was also the day of the final divorce hearing that ended an incredibly toxic relationship.  And, 16 days before, I’d had to make the choice to euthanize my beloved dog to end his suffering from kidney cancer…and 6 days after that, I’d moved, for the third time in less than two years, this time an hour away from my spiritual community.

Although I had spent most of the previous winter working on healing, physically and emotionally, to say I was shattered on that day wouldn’t be an understatement.

As I prepared to travel to the court, I was a trembling, weeping mess. I didn’t want to have to face my about-to-be-ex-husband on this of all days.  I was angry at myself for being so emotional, because I sure didn’t want to cry in front of him at the hearing (or in front of all the other people there for their own divorces), letting him see how broken I was.

When my first-born daughter checked in with me that morning, I told her how I was feeling about that and she had a very profound response: why not cry in court?  Too many people go into a divorce hearing unemotionally, as if the marriage had never mattered – and daring to be different and show emotion was a healthy choice.

That advice shaped the foundation of a new phase of healing for me.

And, ultimately, it refined the focus of my calling, my passion for helping women heal.

We’ve learned to hold our grief deeply inside.

Through cultural conditioning, we habitually ignore our pain and trauma, pushing it down and covering it up, sometimes anesthetizing it with our addiction of choice, or we substitute anger as the socially acceptable emotion.  Anger at the circumstances, at the other person, at God or fate, and at ourselves.

Both responses give the illusion of strength in adversity.

They are no such thing.

Suppressing, or anesthetizing, our grief and pain, or replacing our more sensitive emotions with anger, is a toxic process leading to physical and emotional fallout somewhere along the line, weakening us, not strengthening.

I came across a quote by the Dalai Lama on Facebook that aptly speaks to this: “We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us, and make us kinder.  You always have the choice.”

It reminded me of something I had read about 25 years ago.  It was a daily reading item in (I think) The Upper Room.  The story was about a grandfather speaking to his granddaughter about resilience.  He told her to “be a pine tree.”

I don’t remember all the details of the story, but that phrase has always stuck with me.  He was advising her to be more flexible and bend a little in the storms because, in being softer, she wasn’t as likely to break.

Not properly expressing our grief hardens us.

Life gives us many things to grieve, not just the physical death of family and friends.  There’s the death of beloved pets; the loss of a relationship; losing or leaving a home or a job; serious illnesses and accidents (our own or others); miscarriages; regrets and mistakes; difficult childhoods; abuse; traumatic relationships; financial hardships; loss or destruction of meaningful possessions; and on and on.

We barely allow ourselves time to grieve physical death in our culture, and we don’t consider all the other things something to grieve at all.

As a result, we just keep stuffing it down.

And our minds suffer.

And our bodies suffer.

And our hearts suffer.

What if we allow ourselves to grieve and it begins to heal us?

I went to court and I cried the whole time, tears steadily leaking throughout the process.

Then, I walked straight out the courthouse doors, visited with my spiritual advisor friend, and had a massage.

At the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I had anything left inside of me.  I felt like all the grief, all the anger, all the pain had leaked out with the tears, and I felt empty and alone.

I wasn’t even all that sure of who I was anymore.

But, I’m convinced letting myself begin to grieve all of my losses that day, and in the following days, is what ignited the path to who I have become.

A lot of unexpected things happened in the next 12 months: I got rid of a bunch of “stuff,” decluttering and lightening my load of possessions, keeping only that which has significant purpose or meaning to me.  I left my 20-year career to launch a business focused on helping women heal from trauma, and that has evolved in interesting ways.  I moved yet again, this time learning to embrace a far different set of circumstances than I’ve ever experienced.  I entered a new relationship, one much healthier and safer than I’ve had before, and having a level of support I’ve never had.  And we acquired a pair of dogs that bring us a lot of joy.

A thousand small things have changed along the way, too.

Each step I have made has been another step forward in the grieving/healing journey.  As I’ve made decisions about each choice, I’ve consciously allowed myself to examine and acknowledge the hurts of the past and then equally consciously chosen to let go of them and move forward into a healthier place.

When we don’t allow time for grief, our pain eventually defines us.

Pain isn’t meant to define; it’s meant to refine.  When our bodies or our psyches hurt, it’s the warning signal we need to pay attention to something important and allow time for it to heal.

If we have surgery or a significant illness, we know it takes time to get better (although in today’s culture we don’t seem to allow well for that, either).  We’ve forgotten how to allow enough time for grieving because we’ve devalued the process.

If you don’t believe that’s taking its toll, think again.

Women suffer the highest percentage of many chronic pain syndromes, as well as the highest percentage of anxiety and depression.  We survive in a state of chronic overwhelm, stress, and always feeling deficient.  The volume sold of prescription medications for pain, depression, and anxiety is astronomical.

Holding on to all the pain, trauma, betrayal, and hurt of our lives is at the root of the problem.  How we heal depends on how we process our grief, and the mindset we utilize as we rebuild after our losses.

And this includes the losses we choose ourselves: when we leave the relationship, leave the job, decide to move, choose to end contact with someone toxic, decide to euthanize a pet, let go of “stuff” that once had meaning, etc.

It’s not a fast process.

Here’s the thing: our current cultural paradigm says everything we do should be fast-forward, 24/7, quick fix, 30-days-to-better-X.

I’m not going to lie to you.  Reprogramming how we think, how we process trauma, how we redefine ourselves and rebuild our lives isn’t a quick and easy process.

But it’s worth the time and effort.

I’m also not going to tell you it’ll be all unicorns and rainbows afterwards; more things will go wrong in your life, and you’ll make other mistakes, and you’ll have more things to grieve.

But you’ll be better equipped to handle it in a healthy way once you learn to grieve properly. You’ll know how to care well for yourself, how to nurture yourself, and how to process the pain instead of storing it deep down where it will cause more havoc with your body and psyche.

As I mentioned, a lot changed in a year for me, and my daughter’s advice on that day markedly refined the focus of my calling.

I’ve always known I wanted to help women in pain, I just didn’t always understand the grief component.

As the first anniversary of losing my dog approached on March 26th, followed by the second anniversary of my Mama’s death on April 11th, I was thinking a lot about grief again.

I took a couple of weeks off, first to take a Florida vacation with my guy and then to complete some renovations and reorganization in our living space. We didn’t contrive to coincide with my personal season of grief; like so much else this last couple of years, “it just happened” that way.

And while I was away, my previous blog post about the day my Mama died, and our culture of inadequate grieving, was selected among the winners in the Boost Blog Traffic Spring 2015 contest.

Since I’m not a big believer in coincidence, it was an ah-ha! moment for me: I consider myself a healer, and I’ve come to understand my particular area of expertise is teaching women how to grieve and release their pain, trauma, and loss, helping them heal and create a the next chapter in their lives.

It proved itself in a hurry: in conversation with a new client, it quickly became apparent that talking to her about teaching her to grieve was part of the answer to her healing.  The conversation simply flowed, and she was excited to begin.

The traumas of my life and my work to heal myself were the training ground for what was coming next. In order to teach women to heal, I had to experience the pain and work through the process of my own healing.

And it really began when I stopped thinking I had done something to deserve all the pain and started allowing myself to grieve my traumas and my losses. Once I emptied myself of grief and anger, I began to find my value and worth hidden under all the debris.

But that’s a story for another day.

For now, take some time to consider what you need to allow yourself to grieve, and let me know your thoughts on grieving as part of healing below.

Love & Blessings,

Katt

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About The Author

Katt Tozier

Katt Tozier is a writer, podcast host, and Divine Life Flow Guide. Through a unique combination of intuitive reading and practical guidance, she helps women clear the patterns that keep them trapped so they can invoke their healing power. Katt is the Founder of Indomitable Women; she believes, as women, our power is in our individuality and our strength is in our unity, and she facilitates gathering spiritual women together to support our collective healing.

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