by Robert Wilkinson
Long time readers know today is one of the “Sacred Days” of my year, when I reflect on the death of one who was as close to me as my own breath.
In the now distant past, an overwhelming heaviness would come over me on this day, sometimes to the degree that I almost couldn’t breathe. I had tremendously complex feelings that threatened to drown me, and for many years I had to ride the waves as best I could without worrying if or when they would crash me on the shore of a timeless hell.
Over the years I learned to navigate the profound and often oppressive feelings like a mariner at sea, spotting the times when I had to “turn my ship into the wind” lest I be capsized and sink to the bottom of “the deep.” And even when I was turned upside down, the feelings repeated over and over and over, making me wonder if I wasn’t caught in some Twilight Zone of “Groundhog Day,” but without the humor and happy ending.
That’s the nature of dealing with feelings that are the result of what I call “deep grief.” We all have it, to one degree or another, as a result of a “Sacred Wound” that leaves us devastated to the core of our being. There are wounds, and there are Sacred Wounds. Sacred Wounds bind us to all others across time who also share some personal variation of that Wound.
All human beings have been wounded. Some of us have been so profoundly wounded that it affects the rest of our lives. Our deepest wounds challenge us to embrace a quest for healing to whatever degree this can be accomplished. For many years I didn’t know how or if I could heal, or even if I could ever get beyond the deep and heavy recurring feelings that took on a life of their own every January 9.
For those of you wondering just what I’m talking about, when you’re done reading this post please begin with my offering of January 9, 2006 which you can find linked, along with all the other January 9 posts across the years, at the bottom of this article. In the six posts from January 9, you will be taken on a journey through some difficult feelings that may help you contact some of your own deeper feelings, buried deep within your psyche, about those you have loved and lost in your own life.
Over the years I learned that we all have experienced the death of loved ones, including pets, dreams, and even our own sense of what’s possible in the here and now of our daily lives. Each of these deaths left us with a wound, some deeper than others. We then are left to carry those feelings around, and learn to deal with them as best we can.
Unfortunately, the modern world and its demands don’t value the time it takes to resolve deep feelings of grief. We are expected to acknowledge them in some way, and then “get on with our life.” Usually we are not given the space, time, or techniques to grieve, and this leaves us feeling heavy, since unresolved feelings within our subconsciousness don’t go away, but stay buried until they find an outlet through some other event that needs to be grieved.
That’s why it’s important to learn how to move through emotionally difficult spaces in our psyche, since honoring those profound parts of our life and death experiences allows us to confront unresolved feelings of loss and work on the deepest levels so we may come to a measure of peace and compassion connected to those life transformations.
Last year’s title stated a universal truth: that death is a fact of life, and love is stronger than death. We all experience the death of loved ones. The challenge is to learn how to live, and live fully, with an open heart and a courageous willingness to face what needs to be faced, after someone or something dies.
I found this process of reclaiming our life, and therefore our power to love anew after a significant death, involves learning to move into emotionally difficult spaces in our psyche for the purpose of feeling whatever we need to feel to achieve a measure of emotional fluidity. Death and loss shock the psyche, and that's why there is some numbness related to realizing things will never be the same.
We must learn to be comfortable with moving through feelings if we're ever to attain peace in life. A tremendous heaviness accompanies the death of a loved one, or hope, or dream. It doesn’t feel so heavy once we learn how to navigate in those very deep feeling waters.
When a loved one dies, we need space and time to enter into our “underworld,” since it is there and only there that we can get to our core feelings about death. If there is a need to honor what was and is good in our life, then we also need to honor what was and is good about those loved ones who have died. Our dead loved ones are not honored by being ignored, and our emotional heaviness is not resolved by being ignored.
As we grieve, we create patterns of emotional response. Part of the process of healing deep grief involves allowing our difficult feelings to come to the surface so we can honor them while not getting stuck in feeling like they will be with us forever. These too will pass, even if in the moment they feel more real than anything else. We just have to be aware in the moment of what we're feeling, and at the appropriate times, work gently and persistently to move emotional heaviness into a deeper loving compassion for our grief and our process of reclaiming life after death.
In bringing deep feelings to the surface, we can honor them as part of our life experience. While it’s important to feel what needs to be felt, it is equally important to remember that we have the power to be compassionate toward that within us which suffers over death. As we embrace allowing our feelings to flow, while remembering that we can open to a greater compassion toward ourselves and all others who suffer, we learn to maneuver through difficult feelings and become a living, loving Soul-force in our world.
Over time, utilizing “the eyes of radical compassion,” we can learn to let go of feelings of heaviness, failure, frustration, and every other difficult emotion based in the separated self and its fears and uncertainties. We then have a choice when to feel what, and can allow different patterns of emotional response to come forth. As we learn to let go of difficult feelings rather than repress or bury them, we find strength and power in our ability to move through all sorts of difficult experiences and emotional heaviness, whether our own or others who we love.
Over time, we can learn how to disentangle the knots that bind the pain of death and loss to the suffering of the separate self. Then we can feel all there is to feel, but will not experience helplessness or powerlessness when we confront the difficult feelings that are part of our generic human experience. This allows us to be loving and compassionate regardless of what we or others are going through, and through that we can know peace and a greater unconditional Love for ourselves, others, and all that lives and dies.
I’ll finish this chapter of “the neverending story” with something I gave you last year:
...as we move through the process of learning how to grieve in healthy ways, we become stronger in our love, clarity, and ability to know what's important and what isn't. We never quite "heal" in the usual sense, but we do learn to live with the wound and use the power of that wound to serve the greater Love we're here to give and receive.
I'll close today by offering you one great big Truth: The price of love is grief, since where there is love between two beings, one must die first. My blessings to all who grieve the death of a loved one....
As most of you who have been with me on this journey know, I have found that when all is said and done, Love is stronger than death. That’s a comfort unto itself.
If you want to explore more about the grieving and healing process, please visit my previous articles. Each one covers different elements and approaches to healing our grief. And of course, give yourself some space and time, since they will bring up some very deep feelings.
From 2008, For Those Who Grieve the Loss of A Child
From 2010, To Those Who Grieve the Death of A Loved One
Happy 24th birthday, Blyth. You've changed my life and countless other lives forever. Thank you for making me a better man. Love, Dad.
© Copyright 2012 Robert Wilkinson