Paula Shaw, grief expert talks about changing our views when it comes to grief and loss.
Last month in a blog entitled Grief and Death…Horse and Carriage? Yes and No!, we were exploring the scientific truth that energy cannot be created or destroyed…it can only be changed. Most of us heard this for the first time in high school Physics class.
With that said, it is my personal belief that there is no real death. Nothing ever really dies, the energy that animates and gives it life changes but that energy never gets destroyed. It changes form and not having access to the original form we loved can cause us the pain of loss.
Whether it was your cat, your dog, your child, or your mother, when the energy that animates them and gives them life leaves the body we suffer. Because we can no longer hold them and interact with them, we experience pain, but that energy still exists in another form. Looking at it from this perspective we can see that death isn’t really all that final.
I suggested that if we could really embrace this idea we might be able to reframe our feelings about death and grief and perhaps not suffer as much. Does this mean that we should just embrace this intellectual truth, suck it up and not grieve? Of course not! The truth is that what really causes us pain is change and losing someone you love causes huge upheaval and change.
So why is this change so hard? For one thing, it is natural for us to focus on the lack or absence in our lives. It is emotionally painful to no longer have a certain person or animal to cherish and absorb love from. We don’t like to move our homes or offices and we want our bodies to always stay in the same, perfect, high-functioning state of our youth.
We hate change and yet without it life gets stale and boring. This ancient battle between our need for change and our love of sameness is the core of the human dilemma. After a loss, we focus on this current pain as the final state to which we must adjust instead of seeing our discomfort as another avenue for growth and development that eventually can lead to a state in which we are better, wiser, richer human beings.
What is that saying; “The Devil you know is better than the Devil you don’t,” or something like that. This is the human tendency. Even if we are bored or angry or miserable or imprisoned…we will opt for more of the same rather than deal with the upheaval and pain of the grief that must be endured on the pathway to something new, something that will challenge and enliven us.
Carolyn Myss says “we would rather die than change.” I thought that was rather extreme when I first read it but then I thought about all the people who have died of lung cancer and liver disease because they didn’t’ want to give up their cigarettes or alcohol. And what about all the people whose spirit is dying but they won’t give up their dead marriages and suffocating jobs. Why? Because we are willing to sacrifice aliveness at the altar of sameness.
So, okay what’s my point? If we can find a way to reframe that thinking and focus more on the change as a gift rather than as the enemy, we could experience life in a whole new way. We could see our time of grief as also being our time of growth and we would automatically have the hope that better things were on the way.
It isn’t that we wouldn’t feel the pain that loss brings with it but we wouldn’t be experiencing it from such a platform of dread. We wouldn’t see the pain as the final state in which we now have to serve a life sentence.
The problem, however is that because most people don’t look at loss and the resulting grief in this way, they don’t grieve productively. They ‘white knuckle’ it through hoping that once enough time has passed, they will feel normal again and life will be the same.
The good news/bad news truth is that once you have experienced a significant emotional loss, you will never be the same. Your life will never be exactly as it was before. But as we have been discussing, this is a good thing. This enables you to have new, interesting and even exciting experiences that you couldn’t have had before. The old normal is gone but a ‘new normal’ can now emerge as the gateway to a better quality of life than that which existed before.
It can all be summed up in a cartoon I once saw in a magazine. It read: “When God closes a door, he always opens a window…but it’s Hell in the hallway!” And even though that time in the hallway might open us up to new experiences in life, we may have to be dragged there kicking and screaming. I know this has been true for me and too many times I have stayed in something far longer than I should have because it was familiar and comfortable. How about you? Is this something you have done? I’d love to hear. I somehow don’t think I’m the only one in this boat. Let’s talk.
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PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the author of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as "Grief...When Will This Pain Ever End?" Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair After Profound Loss.
Former Blog Archive
Thank you for reading Paula's Blog. Because our site moved in June, we were unable to transfer all of our blog posts over. You can however, read the rest of them by visiting our old blog site. HERE