Drinking the Tears of the World: Grief as Deep Activism

“No-one escapes suffering in this life. None of us is exempt from loss, pain, illness and death. Yet, how is it that we have so little understanding of these essential experiences? How is it we have attempted to keep grief separated from our lives and only begrudgingly acknowledge its presence in the most obvious of times. Without some measure of intimacy with grief, our capacity to be with any other emotion or experience in our life is greatly compromised. It is our unexpressed sorrows, the congested stories of loss, when left unattended, that block our access to the soul.” – Francis Weller

There is so much loss in the world at the moment – death of those too young to die, destruction of the environment, losses of homes due to fire, the slaughtering of rhino……the list goes on.

In this article on grief  Francis Weller speaks of the Four Gates of Grief:

  1. the losses connected to losing someone or something we love
  2. the grief that occurs in the places never touched by love – these are the places within us that have been wrapped in shame and that we do not show to the world
  3. the losses of the world around us
  4. the expectations coded into our physical and psychic lives – expectations of a connection with the sacred

“It is difficult to resist the temptation to retract and close down the heart to the world. What then? What becomes of our concern and our outrage for the way things are going? Too often we go numb…”

It is a long article but really worth the read.

Why We Should Start Developing Self-Compassion

I remain amazed at how much pressure parents put on their children to perform and excel – and it seems to be getting worse and worse. How do those children grow up feeling good about themselves if they do not meet their parents’ high expectations? How do they learn to have self-compassion if they are getting no compassion from their parents when they do not meet these expectations? How do they feel good about themselves without the need to compare themselves to others and the need to be better than others?

Self-compassion enables us to feel good about ourselves without having to compare ourselves to others and meet our own high expectations.

Self-compassion is a willingness to look at our own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding.  When we are self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, we neither judge ourselves harshly, nor feel the need to defensively focus on all our awesome qualities to protect our ego.  We can be self-compassionate while still accepting responsibility for our performance and we can be self-compassionate while striving for the most challenging goals.

Dr Kristen Neff  writes about how we can learn to feel good about ourselves not because we’re special and above average, but because we’re human beings intrinsically worthy of respect.

If we develop self-compassion we will also develop compassion for other people – helping to make our world a kinder place to live in.

Carl Jung And The Art of Aging Well

A new client of mine told me that one of the reasons that he had chosen to come to me for life coaching was because I was “older” and that he believes that life experience is very important. Given the fact that he is not super young himself and that the photo on my website is a few years old I did not really relish his comment. But I do completely agree with him and also why Carl Jung urges us to use the later part of our lives to become more whole by discovering who we are and wisely sharing it with others.

I have spent quite a lot of time at a retirement village recently and I do believe that western culture is not encouraging us to do this – instead our culture continues to spread the idea that aging is best either denied or concealed – often even between old people themselves.

In this article Kathy Gottberg writes that ultimately it will come down to us to answer certain questions for ourselves: Does our continued existence at our increasing older age have value? Do we have something to contribute over and beyond just existing in a fairly well preserved body and mind, with enough resources to keep us reasonably happy, until it’s over? Will we as elders have a purpose that can benefit the world and others, no matter how fit, able and active we are?

“A human being would certainly not grow to be 70 or 80 years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species to which he belongs. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning. The afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning; only, its meaning and purpose are different….” – Carl Jung

 

The Fledgling’s Prayer

I came across this poignant poem written by Gretchen Schmelzer – a poem written by a young adult child to his/her parents.

The Fledgling’s Prayer

These are my wings—
Feathers and muscles and sinew
grown from your love and care,
sewn and mended
with your devotion and constancy.

And now—
I am ready to soar
with all that I am,
from all that you gave me.

All flights are practice flights.
They happen in that
blessed space between us.
A space wide enough
to stretch my wings
but not lose touch.

Tossed into the air
an arm’s length away.
Jumping off the dock,
three feet away.
Dropped off at Kindergarten,
three blocks away.
Dropped off at college,
Three hours away.
All flights are big flights.

And how did this happen?
None of us ever knows for sure.
I think perhaps Joy and Sorrow
grabbed hands and leapt
—forming the wings
that carry me forward.

But remember no one leaps, really.

I didn’t fly because I
jumped—so much as I simply
forgot for a moment to hold on.
I did. I forgot.
I forgot because the wind,
or is it God? –
whispered in my ear,
and sang the melody of my future.

I forgot for a moment to hold tight
and the wind caught my wings
pulling me forward.
It does. Life pulls you forward.

You are not the wind beneath my wings
as that old song croons.

No, you are the wings themselves.
I carry you with me and
you will always carry me.

The wind? Well that is God’s song
for each of us, our purpose, our passion.
It is the tidal pull of the universe
helping me to find my place,
helping me to share my gifts.

And you, sitting proud and brave
on the edge of our nest.
This small prayer is for you.

May the sight of my wings flashing
and the tales of my long flights
bring you as much joy as they bring me.
I can hear the wind calling and my heart
is full of the hopes we have both carried.

The fullness of myself,
the fullness of your love,
and the fullness of the world you gave me
take up my whole being.

This fullness defies language
except to say
that it used to be the feeling
I had when I leaned on you,
when you had hold of me.

And now—oh joy—
the nest I used to rest in
has made a place inside of me.

But for you, as for me,
there is also sorrow.
I am sad that this prayer
is all I have to offer you
in return for my wings.

And my heart aches imagining views
and vistas we will not share.
Do they exist if you don’t see them too?
Do I exist, if you can’t see me?
If I forget you for a moment,
will you remember me?

I pray that we both may find comfort
in the pages of books you read to me long ago,
that no matter what—
we are doing or
no matter where we are flying—
we both live under the very same moon.
And all we need to do is to look up
in to the night sky
to know that we are still connected,
to know that we will always belong,
to know that wherever we are,
we are home.”

           Gretchen Schmelzer

I am glad, but even more sad, that my two fledglings have left home (mostly) and are soaring (mostly).
I would love to think that they look at the moon and think of me. Realistically though, I think that they look at their rapidly reducing bank balances, lack of data, empty fridges, piles of laundry, and then think of me.
But I live in hope!

8 Simple Words to say When Someone you Love is Grieving

“Our culture treats grief like a problem to be solved or an illness to be healed. We’ve done everything we can to avoid, ignore, or transform grief. So that now, when you’re faced with tragedy, you usually find that you’re no longer surrounded by people — you’re surrounded by platitudes.”  Tim Lawrence

So what can we offer instead?”

This article was shared on Facebook by a good friend of mine. A friend who knows how to “be there with” people who are grieving. To her and my other friends who know how to “be with”  – a big heartfelt thank you for many years ago!

 

The Roots of Shame – the Shaming Witness

“When we become more compassionate witnesses to people’s challenges and traumas, we not only open ourselves up to better understanding of others and healthier relationships with them, but we also set ourselves up to receive that same compassion and understanding for, and relationship with, ourselves; and we then contribute to the growth of a society that makes validating and embracing our genuine experiences and feelings the new norm.” – David Bedrick

In this article on shame David Bedrick writes about the Shaming Witness – a really good read and sadly also very true for many people.

Enneagram

I have just been on a 4 day training course on the Integrative Enneagram Questionnaire (IEQ).  The Enneagram is a sense making map that describes the nine fundamental personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships. With the IEQ you are able to pinpoint your Enneagram type and this can be used in your development journey and pursuit of goals. The Enneagram leaves room for the uniqueness of every individual and helps you to evolve into the best version of yourself. The Enneagram shows you how small you have made your own box and how to get out of it.

Each personality type represents a worldview that resonates with the way in which people think, feel and act and how they stand in relation to the world, others and themselves. The Enneagram will help you understand what drives your own unconscious behaviour, and will give you greater awareness of your motivations for certain habitual responses. We have the qualities of all nine types in us but one of them affects us more than the others.

For more detailed information on the nine Enneagram personalities read this long but informative article by Shira Atkins.

Please contact me if you would like to book an Enneagram assessment and coaching session.