Grief Calling Us

Headshot of woman cryingIn the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, I have been reading and hearing stories about how some therapists, healers, and spiritual leaders have been interfering with people’s grief. If the professionals, the ones who are supposed to help us with our grief, are afraid of the grief and interfering with it, imagine what laypeople are doing. If people are interfering, then how will we grieve?

One of the reasons depth psychotherapy and healing to the root are so important—in fact, crucial—for an individual, and for society as well, is that where we are unable and unwilling to feel our own feelings safely, we end up misusing and abusing those feelings. We act out on them, hurting others and ourselves as well. In our efforts to avoid our grief—both conscious and unconscious efforts—we act out in ways that are harmful to others and to us. This is a real root of abuse of power in our world.

When 9/11 occurred, as a country we did an end-run around our grief. We called others evil—the “axis of evil”—and we started a war in another country and fought amongst ourselves. We did all the same kinds of things to avoid grieving that a dysfunctional family does when someone dies and the family members haven’t done their own inner healing work. And in our dysfunctional avoidance of our grief, we created more grief—for example, soldiers in Iraq who lost their lives and whose families had to grieve; soldiers who came home with physical and emotional wounds that they and their families had to grieve; and female soldiers who had to grieve the lack of safety and the harm of being raped by fellow soldiers. Laws that were instituted under the guise of patriotism and protection in fact damaged freedom individually and communally. And there’s more …

Very few of us knew that in addition to the here-and-now grief that needed to be felt and gone through, we needed to go through all the grief in our past that was unconsciously triggered by the current-day grief.

So, once again I ask: If we are unable or unwilling to feel our own grief about the Sandy Hook tragedy or any loss, then how will we grieve? And if, from our fear of feeling our own grief and having it evoked in us, we interfere with the grief of others, then how will those others grieve? And if we fail to do our own inner healing so that we allow ourselves and others to grieve safely and fully, how do we and how does our society ever emerge from the ongoing, entrenched cycle of a grief-causing event responded to by misuse of the grief, creating another grief-causing event by the ungrieved grief still buried within?

Grief Calling Us Again and Again …

Oceans of grief flowing
In waves seemingly unending.
Hearts contracted, unable to let the grief flow through.
The grief comes anyway …
Breaking the hearts wide open.

Grief …
Living within …
Wanting to come.
Needing to be felt.

Grief …
Alive inside …
Waiting for safe expression.
Needing to be expressed.

Grief …
Calling out to be heard.
Calling out to be felt.
Calling out to be seen.
Needing to be known.

Grief …
Pushed away.
Pushed down.
Buried within.
Crying out to be allowed to flow.
Screaming out to be allowed to come.

Grief …
Feared.
Made bad.
Normalized and circumvented
As a way to reject it.
Grief …
Refusing to be ignored and rejected.

Grief alive within …
Haunting us.
From yesterday, last week, a month ago …
Years ago.
Lifetimes ago.
Warning us to welcome it …
Warning us to allow it …

Grief still alive within …
Eventually causing an eruption
Inside or out.
Eventually causing an explosion
As it wails …
I just needed you to see me.
I just needed you to hear me.
I just needed you to feel me.
I just needed you to welcome me.
So together we could truly move on.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Judith Barr, MS, LMHC, therapist in Brookfield, Connecticut

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Margie

    Margie

    February 1st, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    I will never forget that feeling of sadness and not knowing what to do that came over me when my best friend lost her son unexpectedly a few years back. I wans’t sure if she wanted me to get involved and help if I could or if she wanted to be alone. Although I think that she didn’t really want anyone there, I felt like she needed us there and so I did it. I reached out at a time when it didn’t feel like it was the right thing, that she maybe needed space and privacy but looking back I know that it was the right thing for us to. I think that now she sees that this was a lot more appreciated and it made me feel better knowing that she did not have to go through this alone.

  • LT

    LT

    February 1st, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Grief is to be felt..many people make the mistake of avoiding feeling it..if you do not feel it it doesn’t disappear by magic.it stays within you and will harm you right from within you.its better to go through a bad feeling and recover fully than to cover it up and act like it doesn’t exist.we would never do that with a physical wound why do it with grief?

  • stacy

    stacy

    February 1st, 2013 at 4:09 PM

    this is so true.but difficult it is to get over a habit that’s been present for so long.unpleasant feelings are never welcome and grief is treated no differently.

    same for me.when there is grief all I want is to get rid of it,somehow,anyhow.maybe that’s not the best way to deal with it but yeah that’s how I am and I believe many people are tuned.how do I change this?i could well force myself but there has to be another way?thank you.

  • Judith Barr

    Judith Barr

    February 4th, 2013 at 4:06 AM

    Thank you all for your comments. And Stacy . . . thanks for your heartfelt question.

    I’m so glad you know not to force yourself. Maybe you can find a way to take it step by step . . . and find your own rhythm — which is the only way to go through the grieving process.

    Here are a few suggestions that might help along the way.

    1. You know how people have been making sacred sites where someone has been killed – like in Sandy Hook? Maybe you could make a small personal sacred spot in your home, where you could put a photo or a symbol of the person or people or loss you are grieving.

    2. Perhaps you could spend time at that sacred spot in your home each day, or maybe twice a day – like in the morning and at the end of the day.

    3. During that time you could both think of the loss and also let yourself feel whatever you are able to feel at the time – without forcing.

    4. Also during that time you could ask for help, or make a prayer for help, or make a commitment to find the help you need to do the grieving and go through the grief process.

    5. You might look for a therapist who you sense could help you with your grieving . . . even with the unpleasant and painful places that are frightening to you.

    There are many things to look for in a good therapist. A good beginning list can be found in my article, What to Look for in a Therapist. Don’t give up till you find the right person.

    6. Hang in there with the process . . . be committed and tenacious in behalf of yourself and your own healing. When we have something we need to grieve and don’t. . .we try to go on into our future, but part of us is stuck in the past.

    I hope this is helpful to you, Stacy, and to others who read this.

    Many blessings,
    Judith

  • colette

    colette

    February 4th, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    The more time we give ourselves to grieve than the more time we give ourselves to heal

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