Grief's Many Faces and Many Gifts
by Leslee Tessmann
Losses come in all shapes and sizes and whether we realize it or not, grief can be a frequent visitor to our lives. Job and career changes, becoming new parents, geographic moves, financial losses, divorce, and of course, dealing with the death or life-threatening illness of loved ones. It’s a challenge to stay with the day-to-day heartaches that come with the various roles we play, whether we are single or in a committed relationship. The natural response and emotional letting go that comes up when we watch our children grow up and leave home, become married, or perhaps go off to war is grief. Being laid off or having one’s spouse or partner lose a job can be disheartening and disappointing. Watching the balance of your retirement funds decrease in tandem with the stock market’s plunges quickly puts us on grief’s emotional and, perhaps in this case, brief roller coaster ride. Supporting a parent as they age or a loved one as they recover from a serious illness or addiction takes us into unfamiliar territory and painfully challenges our capacity to express compassion, forgiveness, and kindness to them as much as to ourselves.
We are a society that wants to feel good NOW and there’s nothing wrong with that desire: it’s part of our human design to want to be happy and feel good. It’s just that the natural ebb and flow of life doesn’t always go the way we think it should, and the more we fight or resist what’s happening, the more we suffer. The simple act of questioning and doubting what’s occurring in our lives because we’d rather be happy ends up adding to our unhappiness. Ultimately we end up delaying grief’s natural unfolding and healing power, which is so vital to our well-being and personal development.
The catalyst to living one’s life fully and completely is the willingness to not only surrender to but also respect and pay attention to every moment and experience. This is also the access to peace. When one declares their entire life sacred, no matter what’s happening, the possibility for unexpected miracles and gifts is far beyond our imagination. Joy and pain can co-exist harmoniously. Language allows us to declare it all as sacred and then go on to experience life with reverence, curiosity, and peace. Take a moment to reflect … what are the words you use to describe your life? Is ‘sacred’ one of them?
About the Author
As her story in Sacred Grief describes, a series of challenging circumstances eventually propelled her into a time of self-discovery. The recognition of her alcoholism and ensuring sobriety in 1994 pushed her into her first conscious experience of working with deep, unresolved grief. She became active in Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and eventually shared about her recovery at treatment centers, colleges, and
Al-Anon and AA meetings and retreats. Her authentic, straight-forward expression of life before and after recovery was appreciated and acknowledged by audiences. Over time she went on to create and facilitate classes that dealt with working with life on life’s terms, a large part of what Sacred Grief is all about.