On Grief and Growth: Strange New Inspirations and Insights

On Grief and Growth - Life Coaching with Teresa Young

My dears, I feel like reflecting on how grief and growth may—as I’m discovering—meet in our lives. So I’ll hit you right up front with what feels deeply personal to me.

Since last fall, when my mother had some awful surgery, then Hurricane Michael pounded my parents’ house and town, and my mother declined and died, I’ve been immersing myself in research on dying, death, and “life after.” If you know me, you know this is very different for me.

Though I do have a memory of myself sprawled on my pink bedspread at 13. I was writing a piece on the logic of the immortal soul that no one had assigned and no one was waiting to read. Awww, right? Eternal life was crystal clear to me then.

Fall from paradise

But that sweet certainty was shattered in a college history class in the fall of 1980. I had just become a young mother. Then we spent weeks on the Holocaust.

A hammer of shock and grief came down on me. When the apocalyptic dust settled a bit, I declared myself an atheist and an existentialist. Though in truth I also railed at God for allowing such atrocities.

I remember one bike ride home. I was livid, cursing and swerving all over the road! And newly free somehow.

Out went the Catholic creed I’d recited by heart since childhood, and the baby with the bathwater in terms of any belief in a higher power. I didn’t believe in anything beyond these mortal lives of ours. I just believed in myself, and in the folks around me.

Thinkers like Viktor Frankl moved me. My passion for the human journey was born.

Jung and mystery in the mix

My continuing explorations, especially reading Jung and experiencing synchronicity, brought me back to a kind of center from that brink. But I was still an existentialist. To me, the shorthand for describing this philosophy is that we create our own meaning and purpose in life. That’s what—as in all—there is.

And as a coach, that point of view has been a space of freedom for me. A creative space. In fact, my energy-based training has fit well with my existentialist mindset.

The realm of quantum physics has been the unifying field for me. Everything can come together there without religious or New Age language that may alienate people for all kinds of reasons.

Though I’ve also, always, still, had a soft spot in my heart for mystery. For what we can’t explain. Was that a distant fife and drum calling out that change was coming?

Then my mother passed through death’s door

So now I’m deep in this study of death and beyond. And I’m clear that my new interest isn’t temporary. My grief and my creative process are coming together right here.

After all, I am an explorer. Always have been.

These days I’m also in daily conversation with my 83 year-old dad. It’s a new ritual for the two of us. We’re talking it all out here in this strange country, him without his wife and me without my mother.

With beauty in this dark brew

More truth: I’m 100% clear that in this season of loss, there’s beauty, too. I experience large and small daily gifts of awareness and insight, and bits of delight like a flower or a bird or a glass or a fabric that my mother would love. It’s goose-bump city around here.

And I’m feeling energized by permission I’ve given myself to delve into soul territory. The word feels like rich brew that I’m tasting in some stranger than ever act of freedom.

Yes, it’s beautiful and confusing territory. Here’s an example of what I mean:

I attended Walt Disney Concert Hall’s Jazz Series this season with my dear friend Maggie, a Brit who has lived in L.A. for decades. The series included a recent tribute to Oscar Peterson.

“To Oscar, with Love” was a night of exquisite sounds and a sweet vibe, featuring world-class jazz pianists and a legendary bassist. And I had a confusing experience in the midst of it.

New urges and uncertainties

During one gorgeous piano solo, I slipped into a dreamy, ecstatic state. And just then I felt a sudden wave of regret for something that had happened earlier.

Because in the pre-show traffic madness on Grande Street, with the clock ticking toward the concert’s downbeat, we were trying to turn right in front of the hall to get into the parking structure. Meanwhile, all the folks valeting cars or dropping people off were heading left out of there. And that included an enormous black tour bus. Classic gridlock.

I’m an L.A. driver with plenty of street battle under my belt. So I was holding my ground with the bus driver while trying to get into the lane on my right to turn right. But he was just as determined to squeeze into my lane ahead of me to go left.

My eye-to-eye, non-verbal cue was, dude, I’ve gotta go right! He gestured at me wildly. Lady, I’m going left!

Later, as the music relaxed my busy brain, I suddenly registered unhappiness with my approach to the bus guy, not relief that we got in there on time. The messy truth is that I’m ever more aware this season of my own habitual ways of being.

I’m processing one message in my current studies, that a big part of the work of our lives, let’s say at a “soul level”, is really just kindness. Simple care and concern for our fellow travelers, both human and other. In short, I’m feeling challenged on a whole new level.

Beauty and confusion as delicious combo

Confusing, indeed. Because I’m not about to start expecting doormat behavior or perfection of myself or others. But it’s really delicious confusion for me.

Like the conversation Maggie and I had the next morning, inspired by the music and our ride down after in the packed elevator. We were buzzing with all the equally thrilled folks around us. And the chance to reflect on my new confusion with my old friend over coffee was a lovely part of the mix.

The point for me now is to continue living in the unknown in this odd new phase. I’m feeling my way.

So another truth is that I’m experiencing my mom’s death not just as heartbreaking loss, but also as opening. Opening into what, I still don’t really know. Though it’s at least in part about growth on some level that’s only possible now.

Growth meets connection

And not just growth, but also capacity for deep connection. As one of my personal heroines, Marion Woodman, said, “It’s suffering that opens us to love.”

 

It’s suffering that opens us to love.
~ Marion Woodman

And now

So the somewhat shocking truth is that, for the first time in my adult life, I can no longer describe my philosophical and spiritual point of view as existential. Though I don’t have words yet for what’s coming.

And that’s fine. All things in the fullness of time. New, unknown life is born, then named.

And you

Is there anything you’re grieving? If so, how could some reflection through a lens I’ll call soul territory possibly aid and soothe you? Let me know. I’m here.

And lastly for now, thanks to Pixabay and Lucinda Faye for use of the evocative image above.

xo,
Teresa

 

Life Coaching with Teresa Young
Photo: John Livzey

Teresa Young wants you living your dream, for real. She coaches by phone, in person in Los Angeles, and via Skype outside the U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on Grief, That Age-Old Walk Through Dark Woods in Strange Country

Reflecting on Grief - Life Coaching with Teresa Young

I’m reflecting on a setback I’m having right… now. And after a good day yesterday! A phone session with an inspiring new client, a great meeting with my own coach, lessons with two super-fun students, a hug from their sweet mom. Poker Night with two of my sons and their ladies. Then, boom. Grief storm. I cried off and on all night.

And yet I also know everything is OK. It’s just a natural expression of the yin and yang of all things, including grieving.

Everything really is OK

So now I’m writing my way through this particular neck of dark woods while listening to Pandora’s “Rain Radio.” I played it for my mom all night right before she died. Now it’s one way of keeping her near me.

And I’m feeling the inner roller coaster ride of these two months since her death. I’m seeking guidance, too, as always. But in new ways. And I’m connecting with her, or at least trying to. Hoping I’m succeeding. Not sure yet.

But just after I got back to L.A., I had a beautiful dream of her striding out of the rubble of a fallen building like an action-adventure star, young and strong, with flaming red hair, in a bronze raincoat. And a dream of getting out of bed early one morning to sit in lotus pose to meditate.

I’m in the mood to consider that one almost an out-of-body experience. It felt so real. Talk about guidance. I’m workin’ on it.

Strange new country

The bottom line is that I’m hovering at the cusp of a dark place. Falling in at moments. Or for hours. Climbing out.

And again, it’s OK. My mother’s life and the beauty and complexity of our relationship are worth this heartbreak. It makes perfect sense to both my logical mind and my deep feeling function.

In fact, I’ve given myself permission to check in and out of “ordinary reality” as needed. Because the truth is that I’m in explorer mode as always, too, intent on learning whatever I can of the human experience while on this new leg of my own life journey.

Learning and changing

So far, I’ve learned that I go from intense need for solitude, for unstructured time, free of productivity concerns, to intense need for human contact. But of a kind that can be with me right here, where I was last night and am in this moment, grappling with death’s hand in the human condition, up close and personal. With the fact that my mother’s death is changing me—my priorities, my obsessions—in profound ways that I can’t predict yet, much less express.

I’ve never been here before. And I can’t see through to the other side of this stretch of unknown territory.

Nothing to fear here

I’m not afraid, though. I trust this process. I guess it’s the explorer in me. And I realize how stable my life had become these past few years. Stable in ways I didn’t know I could lose through feeling so searingly painfully the loss of another.

I didn’t know that what may have in fact become a phase of stasis gives way, in the face of the tipping of some great hourglass, to… what? So far, I don’t know. At least I don’t have words for it.

And yet, again, I know everything is OK. I know all this feeling is healthy and right. Not to be dreaded. Swallowed. Papered over. Made pretty. That in fact doing so would be the makings of future trouble.

It’s time to take time

Grief will have its space, time, and impact, whether honored and given its due, or driven down into the unconscious if we try to avoid the mess. Or if well-meaning others succeed in advising or expecting us to close that door and “move on.”

After all, you can’t cram for and knock grief out, like prepping for a meeting or taking the written test at the DMV. I have a new phrase for the present, at least new for me: soul time, in which “linear” time is no longer the end-all, be-all.

In fact, I’m thinking a lot about the soul these days. This is one of those times when it just demands what it wants and needs, what it knows is the work at hand. Work that may inform our futures. Our creative and contributory destinies.

It is what it is for now

And again, I trust all that. I honor it. It’s one way of honoring my beautiful mother. Of honoring these precious lives we’re all gifted with, both our own and those dearest to us.

Because, in truth, I’m still on my path. I’m still creatively engaged, feeling my way. So far, that’s what I need. That’s all I know. And it’s enough for me.

 

Life Coaching with Teresa Young
Photo: John Livzey

Teresa Young wants you living your dream, for real. She coaches by phone, in person in Los Angeles, and via Skype outside the U.S.