Good Grief! It really is. Grief is a part of a natural process when we experience conflicting feelings caused by the end of or a change in a familiar pattern of behavior. It is that simple. Grief is not exclusive to death. Grief is the result of both “positive and negative” endings and changes. We go through grief at various times throughout our lives, and it is a part of a healing process and not a place we are meant to stay. Grief is not an event; it is a process that has a beginning and hopefully an end. Grief is a part of growing emotionally and spiritually. Grief is good.
Negative endings or changes are something we think of initially as something we do not consciously choose or have control over. Obviously painful and hard to accept are: illness or addiction of a loved one, the death of a pet or a loved one, legal problems, an accident, the loss of one’s home. When these kinds of “out of control” occurrences happen, we naturally expect to experience grief. In these circumstance we often may seek the help of a grief recovery specialist!
On the other hand that which we call Positive endings or changes occur when we do have choices and some control. Somehow, we expect to escape the grief process, and we cannot. Positive endings and changes would include graduation, end of addiction, holidays, a child leaving home for their next stage in life, leaving your church, leaving a familiar social group, even divorce at times, retirement, or a move to a new location, a new job, the break-up of an unhealthy friendship, and so very much more. When the best that can possibly happen to us brings relief, we don’t even suspect that we will have grief! The truth is that relief brings grief.
If we do not go through the process of grief in order to go beyond it, what happens then? Research is showing that grief resides in the body. And for every person it takes residence in a different way and in a different place. No two people are alike. It may be in the head demonstrating as breathing disorders, headaches, a lack of focus, shoulder pain, stomach, sinus, intestinal issues, back pain, etc. Everyone is different.
As we go through grief for different reasons at different times, and it shows up in different ways. What you feel as grief, your friend might tell you, “Just get over it; it’s nothing.” That is not true. I’ve included here one of my grief journeys that was a Positive Ending/Change, and to my surprise I never expected my relief to also include grief. So here is my story.
In my youth I was raised Catholic and tried so very hard to be a “Good One”: All the sacraments, weekly confession, often daily mass, Catholic school and always daily mass as a college student and adult, holy days, Catholic school PTA, women’s lay retreat minister, Eucharistic minister, my children in Catholic school and I saw to it that I never, ever missed having the family at Sunday mass 8:00 AM, in front row, of course! (By the way I had my four babies mid-week so as not to miss Sunday mass!) I tried so very hard! Then one day after having been introduced to Unity it dawned on me that I just wasn’t going to make the grade as a Catholic. For 15 years however, I attended both Unity and the Catholic church with my family. Can you believe that? I wanted to be a good mom and wife. But the time finally came when I went to our family parish priest, a second cousin, and told him that I just couldn’t “do Catholic” anymore and wasn’t doing very well anyway. I told him that since childhood the Catholic teachings never rang true to my soul. I was prepared for a shocked response, and surprisingly he didn’t seem very surprised at all. He empathetically quoted from one of the popes indicating that I must follow my conscience. He kindly told me that I must go where my soul and conscience were leading me. Oh! My Gosh!!! Relief! I was free at last, or so I thought!
So now was the time to let go of the fear, feel the freedom and make the break to Unity 100%! I called my friend who was the church secretary to have her remove my name from the envelopes the church mailed to us each month. Her reaction was very different. She was horrified asking, “Who’s going to bury you?” My response was, “Really?? Anyone in about 3 days!” (Although I thoroughly understood the depth of her question being that I had learned well the Catholic teaching about hell!) I felt so sad. I was feeling grief at this and also the many lost friends. It didn’t exactly go well with anyone but the priest! My husband at the time must have thought I was a lost soul, but then that was probably not a new thought. I asked one of my children, “If I told you that I don’t believe in the faith in which I have raised you, what would you say?” That child responded in a friendly way, “I’d believe you!”
The idea that I was free and living the life I believed in, the awareness that I had left something that I wanted to leave was now filled with grief. Positive endings have both relief and grief. Does that seem strange? I was feeling freer every moment, and yet the grief needed to be healed. I didn’t know how to heal my grief as I do today, but I did the healing work that I knew at that time. I came through grief by becoming aware of where I was feeling it in my body and taking the steps to “recover”. I continued on with my Unity attendance, new like-minded friends, membership and classes galore! Hallelujah! I was excited and alive and pursued the Unity ministerial program. I was ordained a Unity minister in the Fillmore Chapel at Unity Village, Missouri.
I am inviting you today to consider where in your life you would like to move through any unresolved grief. Awareness of discomfort in your body, mind, and spirit is the first sign that grief may be unresolved, but awareness is the first step of progress. What have you experienced that you would not think could lead to grief? Where in your body do you feel grief and from where might that be originating? Where and when do you not feel like yourself?
My experience after relief and grief has shown me that each person will have a different story and a different time frame for healing with right guidance along the way. Good Grief! Free at Last! Grief is Good!
I invite you to email or call me, Barbara Hribar, Unity Minister and Grief Recovery Specialist. Barbara@BarbaraHribar.com