The subject of grief has been covered in so many ways, as many of us continue the work of navigating this deeply challenging topic. In my personal experiences and research, as I desperately sought out ways to heal, I found a lot of information that covered the nature of grief - what we experience emotionally, how the trauma impacts every aspect of our daily lives, the stages of grief, and what to expect as we work through this new and uncharted terrain.
What I'd like to share here is a little different. Beyond an understanding of how grief impacts us and what it is we are actually trying to heal from, I have discovered something I feel is far more profound and important to understand when it comes to grief and what it is actually showing us. It starts with looking at the human condition itself, the boat we are ALL in.
As human beings, we find ourselves in a precarious state of awareness. We are members of the animal kingdom with many things in common with our fellow life-forms here on earth. Yet there is one big difference, and that is our ability, thanks to the prefrontal cortex, to perceive our existence in ways that present us with far greater psychological challenges. In short, thanks to the prefrontal cortex, we possess the intellectual ability to understand that we are all on a terminal trip here on earth. We know we're going to die someday. Finding ourselves in this state of awareness calls us to take mental action. Imagine walking around every day, with this knowledge at the very forefront of our minds. We'd be living so cautiously, a life like that might scarcely be described as living at all. A constant focus on this inevitability would have the potential to completely immobilize a human being. In some cases, it does.
A common approach to solving this mental dilemma is to seek to know, what, if anything comes next. We do this through finding faith, looking to others who share stories of experiencing something beyond this physical reality after death, or, conversely, adopt the attitude and perspective that there IS nothing after this to expect or look forward to, and convince ourselves that we are comfortable with the idea of a definitive end to "us." Some, having experienced so much strife and frustration with this human experience, say they look forward to a day when that end comes.
This is what I like to refer to as having our "existential bases covered." We need to be able to function without our greatest fear being a constant in the foreground of our experiences, and these are simply ways that we have found to do so. Now, with these pieces in place, we can rest assured that life gives us plenty of background noise to drown out any of the occasional bleed-through of facing our mortality that might arise from time to time.
But what happens when this facet of the human condition suddenly takes center stage? What happens when death comes knocking on our own doors, and we lose someone we were so close to, it is as though our own hearts have been ripped out as suddenly and violently as the death that has occurred. We suddenly see what it looks like, are faced with what a definitive separation feels like. Our hidden fears, doubts, and worries about what is beyond what we know about life are suddenly running on a constant video-reel loop in our minds that the background noise of life can't begin to compete with.
Although not all of us will experience death and grief to the highest degree (for example, loss of a child, a spouse, losing a loved one in a violent way, or experiencing trauma that nearly takes our own lives), I feel it is very important to contemplate that these possibilities exist for all of us, and when they become a reality, we are all vulnerable to the same sudden realization of the power they have over us to evoke fear and desperation. This desperate and even hopeless state can seem insurmountable when measured against the tools and abilities available to perceive our reality thus far in our journey.
When I experienced watching my son die, as atomic bomb after atomic bomb went off through every minute of the night, as I hoped against hope, but in my heart knew he was dying, the shocking realization that I had been living a life in which this is (and was always) a possibility, was overwhelming. After the initial shock wore off, it was plainly evident to me that for all of the very sincere believing I had done in my life, the KNOWING that was absent from these experiences is what was tormenting me. I had been taught the value of BLIND faith, with such emphasis on how my commitment to this was key to my connection with my higher power. Was there value in this perspective? Absolutely. Being humble and open to the idea that there was something bigger than me, something beautiful and powerful behind the scenes that I could trust in was in fact a key to my heart's desire to KNOW this truth more personally. Yet, within the framework I was operating from so far, it hadn't even seemed possible to consider seeking PROOF of any of the answers I desperately needed. I was in a box and was told that getting out of that box was a dead end, or even worse still, a road to my spiritual demise. And for a while, I stayed there. The elephant in the room was that I was going to bed every night in utter fear and panic for my own mortality, knowing I'd wake up each morning and immediately be met with the shocking realization of the new life I was living, the life where my son had died right before my eyes, and that this was the life-sentence I was carrying out, to the point of madness. I was living with a wound so great, it seemed it was only a matter of time before it would swallow me whole.
Several years passed, and what many describe as "time healing all wounds," was happening to me ... at a snail's pace. This wasn't healing, though. This was simply a buffer, a distance put between me and the experience coupled with a culmination of other things happening within that timeline that began to slowly put noise back in place of my trauma and fears. I knew, with every breakdown I had, between a string of peaceful or even happy moments, that the the wound was still very much there, for the most part untended, and only appearing healed when it was almost wholly unacknowledged.
Many events had taken place that were pointing to something greater going on in this story, that I hadn't quite made sense of. Uncanny coincidences, signs that my son still existed and was near, even phenomena that was happening and increasing over time that defied logical explanation. Interestingly, I found that I had an aversion to drawing supernatural conclusions from these experiences, even as they were occurring. I felt very vulnerable to reaching for things that weren't there to delude myself into comfort, and I felt resolute that giving into such temptations would only cheapen my son's memory. Nothing could bring him back, and I wasn't going to try and resurrect him with a fantasy that couldn't compare with the complex, beautiful, and amazing child that he was.
Be that as it may, I also noticed that certain topics would keep coming up, within a short space, and from random sources. One of those topics was meditation. By now, 6 long years had passed, and I was getting tired. I wasn't just physically exhausted. My SOUL felt weary, like a stone that had been chipped away at relentlessly for so long it couldn't withstand another minute of the onslaught. Knowing very little about meditation, how to do it, or what to expect. I decided I would give it a try, with only the idea in mind that it might give me a little peace.
Within my first three attempts, my life was forever changed, and I experienced what I KNEW was not just a first step, but a giant LEAP into healing. Something so REAL happened to me, that it far surpassed any idea or even my wildest imagining of what's possible and going on beyond what our five senses can perceive. The ever-present question was answered immediately. Yes, we are not our bodies or brains, we are infinite and eternal consciousness having the experience of being finite, physical beings. As I continue to open up this story for you, I will describe in detail what that, and many experiences have revealed to me about what that means, and the purpose of this step in our eternal soul journeys. There are many levels of reality, just as real as this one (and in truth, much more so, from what I have witnessed first-hand). And death for the soul experiencing it is more like the removal of a lens or filter. We still see through this lens while still in physical form, but we have the ability to remove that filter ourselves while still experiencing life as a human.
So why are we here doing this? Why do we find ourselves in a situation where death appears to be real, and we appear to be limited? There is a lot to learn and explore there as well. For now, the important point I'd like to leave you with as you contemplate all that we've covered here about mortality, how we drown it out until it brings us face-to-face in such a way that we cannot look away, is this. Death doesn't really open a wound, as wounded as we may feel when we experience it for the first time. Death merely takes a wound that's been bandaged, heavily medicated, and untreated, and calls our attention directly to it's existence. Only now do we know what needs healing. We remove the bandages - we look at this wound. At first we don't know what to do, we just know it needs healing, and we can't really rest until we find it. The secret is, the moment we see our wound open, is the moment light knows it can enter. It is already on its way.
Death and grief are like trumpets sounding an alarm for something we've needed all along. Something that is our birthright - to find out who we are, to find out we are capable of having a direct connection to Source, God, the Universe, whatever name we choose. None of these names diminish or add to the infinite nature and identity of the fullness of truth and love that is available to us all.
Death takes an asymptomatic wound, and lets us know it's there. When disease (or dis-ease) is present in the body, without symptoms to point to an illness, that illness could potentially kill us, or at the very least, severely limit our full physical potential in life. This analogy seamlessly translates to the wound a soul carries, unknown and untreated. Death is a gift that shows us the wound. And as the poet Rumi said, 'the wound is where the light enters you.'
The last thought I'd like to leave you with is this. Discovering that this human experience is about so much more than we thought it was, and witnessing the wonder of all that's possible is a big part of why we signed up for this amazing ride. In our pain - our most tender and vulnerable state - it is difficult to comprehend this.
I know that pain, and I am here for you. Wherever you are on your path to healing, your perspective is VALID, your personal experiences are happening FOR you and what is the best fit from moment to moment to expand you into the hope and light that is coming your way. Grief is a raw and tender place to be. There is something about the experience of grief itself that only the word sacred feels adequate to describe. I speak from personal experience when I say a broken heart is broken OPEN. May you find peace and comfort as you heal.