—Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I recently went to the seashore after experiencing a significant loss. I longed to be still in a tranquil place to feel my feelings and do what Anne Morrow Lindbergh so eloquently describes in Gifts From the Sea – to accept the ebb and flow of life. Morrow Lindbergh continues… We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity—
Endings, no matter how painful, are necessary to our growth and renewal. Consider how nature illustrates this enduring truth. Colorful leaves turn into murky mulch as fall turns into winter. Winter storms bear down on us, blustering winds and frozen rain, until sprigs of green appear on a sun-drenched branch in spring. Ebb tides, the period between high tide and low tide in which the sea recedes, occur daily, water pulled by the force of the moon in the darkness.
Little light shines when we experience a loss; the pull of darkness is palpable. Anger and sadness, melancholy and mournfulness pull at our heartstrings. Our bodies grow tired; our minds struggle to let go. Life feels hard, overwhelming sometimes, but over time, grief transforms us.
Griefwork, according to author and psychotherapist, Miriam Greenspan, is not a return to the pre-loss status quo, but an opportunity for a wholly new awareness of reality, self, beloved, and the world…. One way or another, we construct a meaning story, and it is through this story that we find acceptance.
The opportunity Greenspan speaks of can never be rushed. A tide doesn’t turn in an instant, and fruit on the vine doesn’t ripen until it’s time. In nature, there are seasons of stillness, yet human nature (especially in our 24/7 world) struggles to embrace transitory times. We leap into the next job or relationship, grabbing hold of something or someone to help us feel more secure or less heartbroken. We get busy doing, distracting, or denying our feelings, fearing we’ll drown in the ebb tide of sorrow.
But we won’t drown if we allow the waves of grief to take their natural course. The poet William Butler Yeats affirms this truth…How many times man lives and dies between his two eternities.
It’s never easy to be still and contemplate life’s endings, but it’s the only way I know to make meaning out of loss. Greenspan knows this all to well, having lost a child two months after his birth. She offers us hope for Healing Through the Dark Emotions, reminding us that out of this stillness an imperceptible movement occurs, from sorrow for what has been lost to gratitude for what remains.