Sitting with Grief

I have witnessed many sources of grief this month:

An ended relationship, lost pets, a miscarriage, the Clayton Fire, the end of one job for a more desired one (yes, grief even there), the effects of a custody battle on a child, the failure of a long-hoped-for project.

I have also witnessed many sources of joy: garden harvests, vacation with friends, new loves, family reunions, visits among old friends, job promotions, unexpected gifts.

The grief rests alongside the joy, often more quietly. Yet, it is there.

When we lose something, our perspective on everything changes, and everyone responds differently to change.

A while back, I learned about the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva, in which family members and friends come to sit with the mourner in their house. These visitors enter the home in silence and remain silent unless the mourner initiates conversation.

I love how this tradition honors the reality that loss has changed everything in a person’s life. It gives them the opportunity to sit in stillness (while embraced by community) and allow their eyes to adjust to how the world looks with this new lens on it.

Loss often brings disorientation. The grief can be so subtle and close that attempts at explanation seem to dishonor it. Any demand for sense or for a plan or to pluck up and move on seem impossible.

Gentleness here is key.

Yes, we are strong. Yes, we are survivors. And yes, we can also honor the shock that change brings to our psyches. The world is not as we once knew it to be; what will we do with it now?

The flipside of any grief is that it tells us there was love, or hope, or delight. That fact connects us to our own possibilities. The change that comes with loss offers the opportunity to see ourselves in a whole new light, which is always a gift.

If you hold a grief within you, I invite you to connect with how it feels and to allow some space and silence to be present with it. Perhaps ask someone you trust to sit with you. When we are simply present with what is (within and around us), we eventually discover incredible potential for the ingredients we now hold in our hands.

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