Grief, gratitude and holding ourselves close.
Three weeks ago, after a full day of wonderful clients, I walked back to my car, sat my ass down on the desperately-needing-to-be-vacuumed seat, and cried the kind of tears that hit so hard and fierce your eyes fill and your lids can’t close.
I cried for Paris, for Colorado Springs, for San Bernardino. I cried for the pain and loss and sadness humanity’s facing. I cried for the bullshit unfairness of illness. I cried for my own fear, for my lost sense of personal safety, and for my dwindling hope.
We’re living at a time of incredible uncertainty. Little feels safe and even less seems to make sense. And with that it’s so easy to be run over by fear and grief and let the sadness seep into our bones.
A few days after my cry fest I was on the phone with a client and started with the standard, “How are you?”
“SHITTY,” she replied. (Before our work together she would have replied, “I’m fine!” no matter what, so this was a big growth moment.)
“Oh honey, I feel you,” I said and together we took a collective sigh of understanding.
“A dear friend of mine passed away,” she whispered. “She and I are the same age and this shock has got me reevaluating everything. It’s made me feel like I’m not living my best life and I HAVE to because I’m lucky enough to be alive.”
We dug into her guilt, her worry and the incredible expectations she was putting on herself to live a “perfect” life.
The tension in her body and voice was palpable and I knew how badly she wanted to lose herself in this new commitment as a way to both honor her friend and morph her pain into something “useful”.
I had a choice. I could either support her in moseying down her well-worn perfectionist path or gently challenge her to something new.
I took a deep breath and said, “How do you need to be held, right now?”
“What?”, she said.
“You’ve been holding your friend, holding her family, holding everything together over the last few months. What if now it’s your turn to be held?”
We’re so good at trying to hold life together and yet so resistant to holding ourselves when we need it most.
Loss asks for endless holding. Holding of others, holding of ourselves, holding of the duality that while we’re in extreme pain we’re also being reawakened to gratitude and what’s most important in our lives.
I spoke to my client a few days later. She told me that she’d been using the holding question often. “Every time I find myself feeling overwhelmed by grief, or fear or if I’m being hard on myself, I ask, “How do I need to be held right now?”
“Even though it’s sometimes hard to find the answer,” she admitted, “I always feel better after asking.”
We cannot rush our grief or our fear. We cannot go back to the way things were or forget the pain we feel. But we can hold ourselves tenderly and bring ourselves close, the way we do with those we love.
We can hold our suffering and our gratitude, side by side. Our hearts and arms are big enough and are meant to stretch and grow as life asks them to.
At this time of year, in this moment of your life, how do you need to be held and how can you let yourself be held just as you need?
Be gentle and know that when we hold and heal ourselves, we’re also holding and healing one another.
All my love,
P.S. If you need some good holding or support practicing how to hold yourself, I have a few open sessions in my coaching practice between now and 12/31. Simply go here and we’ll get you on the calendar.
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