Archive for September, 2012

The Great Paradox of Grief

By Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services, Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

As far as inner transformation is concerned, there is nothing you can do about it.

You cannot transform yourself, and you certainly cannot transform your partner or anybody else.

All you can do is create a space for transformation to happen, for grace and love to enter.

-Eckhart Tolle

One of the reasons our experience of loss can be so significant is that it invites us, dare I say, demands that we change. And change, for most us, is very, very difficult. Nothing can be, nor ever will be the same following the death of someone. Truth be told, not only does our outer world change, the world we created with our loved one, but so does our inner world change. We can never be the same again. It seems to me this ‘changing’ is the great paradox of grief.  It is in surrendering to our grief, moving toward our grief, allowing ourselves to fully feel the pain and fully mourn the loss, that we ourselves are inwardly transformed. This inward transformation is often expressed in our lifestyle and personalities. It’s not uncommon to hear, “You’ve changed since so-and-so died.” Transformation looks different for everyone – it may involve a change in our values, how we spend our time, our spirituality, our approach to relationships, our level of risk taking, our sense of humor, our level of compassion, our readiness to forgive and seek forgiveness.

In the quote above Tolle reminds us that it’s not ours to ‘make’ transformation happen in ourselves or in anyone else – in fact, we can’t. No. We are called to “…create a space for transformation to happen, for grace and love to enter.” This applies to both those who are grieving and to those who companion the bereaved. So, as grievers, how might we create that inner space for transformation to happen which allows for grace and love to enter? As always, only you can answer that question. But here might be some possibilities:

Accepting ‘Help’We can accept the help people offer to us. And we can ask for help, being specific so people don’t have to guess what our needs are. During grief, more than at any other time in our lives, we need others.

ExpressingWe might express our feelings of grief in different ways. Trying a support group, a counselor, sharing with a safe friend, starting a journal, drawing or painting or sculpting, building something, writing a letter to the deceased, and allowing ourselves to cry. It is helpful  to express outwardly what’s going on with us inwardly.

ReflectingWe can reflect upon who we are now and who we want to become. What might my life become – emptying myself to the possibilities of what might be, reflecting upon what kind of life my loved one would want for me.

Being Gentle & PatientWe might allow ourselves to be patient and gentle with ‘us’ refusing to fill our lives with ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ and ‘comparisons’ – letting go of so many expectations coming from without and from within.

Journeying…We can acknowledge in ourselves (and remind others) that the grief experience is a journey that will, in some ways, take the rest of our lives to travel. We move through grief, in and out of grief, and our grief changes, but we’re never quite ‘done’ with it or ‘over’ it because the void in us will never be replaced by anyone or anything.

Embracing Your UniquenessWe might embrace the notion that no one grieves the same way you do and no journey of grief is identical. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Each person’s grief style is as unique as a snowflake, and, how each person chooses to express their grief is as unique as a thumb print. You are you and ‘they’ are they.

InformingWe can become informed about this thing called ‘grief’ – learning about grief and the process of grieving. We might go to grief seminars, read books, ‘surf’ the internet for grief websites. Find out just how ‘normal’ you are. There is both power and healing waiting for us in simply knowing.

Remaining in the Moment…We might choose to stay in the present – remain in the moment, as hard as that can be. Staying in the present can help us with feelings of fear and being overwhelmed by the fogginess of our future and all the things needing to be taken care of.  Following a ‘One day at a time’ philosophy can help us create a better space.

Who would have ever thought that such pain and loss and sadness would hold such possibility for inner transformation?  But isn’t that the DNA of a paradox? What seems impossible for us to fathom, what seems to be the exact opposite of an expected outcome is exactly what unfolds and is birthed.  In the moment it is so hard to see any benefit of the great paradox of grief. But it’s there, and there are many bereaved people who can witness to its power. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves, and our loved ones, is to simply, and sometimes not so simply, create a space within ourselves for inner transformation to happen, allowing grace and love to enter.





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