Grief Reimagined


In the foreword of Joanne Cacciatore's Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief, Jeffrey Rubin says, “We live in a precarious world in which loss and grief assail us at a seemingly ever-quickening pace.” I have really been feeling that way lately. Pipe bombs, hate crimes, political rhetoric, fake news, poor moral leadership and more. Loss and grief are hitting hard.

Mr. Rogers used to say that, during scary times, his mother told him to look for the helpers. Mr. Rogers said he was always comforted by realizing there “are still so many helpers – so many caring people in the world.” But, in Pittsburgh, in the very neighborhood where Mr. Rogers lived and looked for helpers, there has been another very scary time.

It is true. There are so many people like you and me who are trying to hold onto the good in the world. But, for me, I don’t think looking for the helpers is enough in this moment. It is important to see the good in people, and, at times, something else is warranted.

In this case, that something else is to feel our grief. The events of the last week have left me feeling overwhelmed with grief, in a way that previous events haven't quite matched.

I recently saw a video that explained grief in a new way – as an expansion and a contraction. I am writing about a similar concept in a new book I am working on now.

In that book, I talk about the shift in consciousness from a mind-centered approach to a heart-centered approach using something I call the Open Heart Process. The Open Heart Process is built around several time-honored maxims and two of them are applicable here:

  • We are beings that expand and contract.

  • The only way out is through.

For the first maxim – we are beings that expand and contract - our body’s natural rhythm is to expand and contract. We expand by opening the heart and moving toward love. Then we rest into this new space, operating from there until we get our bearings from this new vantage point. As we expand and grow in this new space, we begin to realize that it, also, is too small for us and we begin to contract by hitting new limits. Once that happens, we expand again by opening the heart and moving toward love. Two steps forward, one step back. Breathe in and out. All of life follows this simple principle: expand and contract.
I didn’t realize that this principle of expand and contract also applies to our grief, too, until seeing that video on grief. Joanne Cacciatore writes about this in her book:

The natural course of grief, as in the rest of nature, is contraction-expansion-contraction-expansion-contraction-expansion—perhaps endlessly.
Our emotions move within us, through us, and between us.
Disintegration comes first. Reintegration follows.
A contraction allows an expansion.
This is the wisdom of the universe, the wisdom of your body, the wisdom of your heart.

With so much happening around us, it is okay to disintegrate a little bit. Feel your grief. Surrender to your grief. Grief is a reflection of how much you love. Show your deep love by allowing your grief. Contract and expand. Grieve and love.
The other maxim of The Open Heart Process applicable here is, “the only way out is through.” In order to allow the contraction and the expansion, you must go through the process and you must do the work. The only way through it is to feel it. No one can surrender to the grief for you but you. We must face the source of our pain and distress. Journal about it. Find safe space with a friend, a loved one, or a grief professional and disintegrate. It will get better; reintegration will follow. I promise. It’s the law of the land: expand and contract.
Until next time, surrendering to the grief with you.
Tomi Llama

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