Finding Meaning In Dark Times
Let’s face it, this shit ain’t easy. I’ve often thought that should be the tagline for my therapy business, but I know it isn’t tender enough….though it does nicely sum up how life often is. Even when we don’t have times of loss, just managing all of our responsibilities can be overwhelming. Times of loss can create more of a strain in our lives. We may notice we are tired, forgetful, and feel a level of heaviness. This is all part of grief, something we deal with our entire lives with each loss.
They’ve added a 6th phase of grieving called Making Meaning. This is in addition to the five that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I am particularly interested in this concept of making meaning out of loss. It can be difficult to find meaning in times that are shattered by loss and pain, especially when we are still in them.
I know it took me 5 years after I suddenly lost my mother to feel that the fog had lifted, to not feel so “in it”. Yet as I look back on the time I have been grieving since that loss, I started early in the process trying to “make meaning.” I believe it was in that effort that I began healing and was able to find the growth and the blessings that came from losing the most important woman in my life.
Often, when you look back at periods of growth in your life, you will find there was some sort of challenge present; a job loss, loss of a relationship, an illness or the death of a loved one. It can be difficult to remember that dark times in our lives aren’t meant to be a punishment, but are meant to aid us in our growth and development as spiritual beings.
Part of the robust experience of being human on this planet includes darkness, pain and loss. We talk about feelings, but often forget to notice the actual sensations they produce in our bodies.
Where do you feel your grief?
Is your heart heavy?
Is your throat locked up?
Can you simply notice it and let it flow?
Stop fighting it.
Don’t resist and it won’t hurt as much. You can move through it. Notice it, don’t try to stop it. Maybe there is a part of you that is afraid to feel it. What if the pain never stops? What if I fall into a puddle on the floor and never get up again? What if I can’t stop crying?
You will stop crying, you will get up off the floor, you will be renewed. Let go.
Once we move through it we can look at it with much more clarity. From a place of calm, a place of peace in our hearts. Once there, it is easier to find the meaning.
Helen Keller spoke of this when she wrote “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
Take a moment to reflect on a dark time in your past. How did it change you? What characteristics were strengthened or developed? What parts of you died? What parts of you were born?
I’ll leave you with a poem by Jungian Marion Woodman.
Suffering and conflict
are one way to grow.
As life moves from phase to phase,
We suffer the death of one,
the birth of the other.
For more resources on grief and loss visit http://www.grief.com/