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 my mother had some awful surgery just before Hurricane Michael pounded my parents’ house and town, then she declined and died three months later, 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, 13 years old, writing a piece on the logic of the immortal soul. No one had assigned it to me and no one was waiting to read it. But it was important to me, because eternal life was a clear and vibrant truth to me. But that was then.

Fall from paradise

That sweet certainty of mine was shattered a few years later. I was in an honors history class, and 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 somehow born through my anger.

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.

As a coach, that point of view has been a space of freedom for me. A creative space. My fascination with the energy underlying all things has co-existed peacefully with my existentialist mindset. I’ve been congruent.

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

And 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 heralding eventual, ever-evolutionary change in me?

Then my mother passed through death’s door

Since then I’ve been deep in a 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. I 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 goosebump 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 anew in some stranger than ever act of freedom.

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

I attended Walt Disney Concert Hall’s Jazz Series not long ago with my dear friend Maggie, a Brit who has lived in L.A. for decades. The series included a 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 discombobulating 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. So it’s delicious confusion for me.

Like the conversation Maggie and I had the next morning, inspired by the music, and even by our ride down afterward in the packed elevator, buzzing with all the equally thrilled folks around us. The chance to share and reflect on my new confusion with my old friend was yet another lovely experience.

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 emerging.

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 that I’ll call soul territory possibly aid and soothe you? Take the time you deserve to ask and answer those questions, toward as yet unknown next phases that await you, and others through you.

 

Life Coach Teresa Young

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take Time to Imagine Your Goals Anew. What Do You Want Right Now, in This “Empty” Season?

Life Coaching with Teresa Young

Thinking about my progress toward my own goals, I’m surprised yet again by my changing priorities. New drives and goals that I couldn’t have predicted a year ago are front and center now. Can you relate?

It’s exciting, and maybe maddening, especially for those who love us. It can cause us—and others—anxiety, too.

But it’s not really surprising if we take time to reflect on it all. Because life is long, and we’re living in an amazing age. So why not go for the gusto?

My Father’s Story

I flash on my father starting his forestry career in the early ’50s. He was 18 years old and fresh out of trade school. He did more training through correspondence courses later.

In those early days, he marked timber in the swamps of south Florida. He tells stories of being up to his waist in who knew what. Sandwich strapped to his back to keep it (relatively) dry. Ugh!

Four decades later, when he left that multi-national company in his late 50s to become a personal trainer, his role in the company had morphed again and again. Meanwhile he raised three kids with my mom, pursued passions for physical fitness, music, and more, and certified as a trainer.

He retired from that mega-corporation as keeper of digital land records for all holdings. By then it was a tech gig through and through.

This daddy’s girl knows the keys to his success included adaptability, a habit of saying, “sure, I can do that” and then figuring it out, and just plain steady growth. No standing still. Year after year.

Fast Forward

The wildest part of this story is that that was then—the last few years of the 20th century, when things were ramping up big-time—and this is now. The world is changing lightning fast these days. Under our feet. Under our fingertips. All around us. All the time. So what’s a human to do?

The truth is, continuous growth and development seem like necessary self-defense in the midst of it all. And guess what? Growth often means change. Permission to change. To shake things up.

So today I’m thinking about one particular insight from some training I did back in the day. It has aided me in countless ways since.

It’s the principle that, well, basically, life is empty, my dears. Oh, and it’s meaningless, too.

Emptiness and Us

I know this news may not make your day, but stay with me. It’s meant to grab your attention. Ultimately it’s about freedom. Freedom to create your own meaning.

For a minute, consider this empty worldview the cleanest of slates. Imagine life without anyone expecting anything in particular of you. Or maybe they do, but in a meaningless universe, what does it matter? Only as much as you want it to.

And of course I’m playing with you a bit, to get you thinking, and then to ask you this: When you imagine the absence of whatever seems to limit your choices, what’s most important to you?

What, in your heart of hearts, is deeply meaningful? What could you daydream and scheme about night after so-inspired-that-you’re-sleepless night?

And maybe as you’re reading this, you know in your heart and gut that you’re already living all that. If so, bravo!

Imagine Your Life

If not, then start reflecting on what really is vital to you, and what might just be habit. Ways of thinking, feeling, and living on auto-pilot. Settling. Giving up.

Try envisioning everything that’s most real and important to you. Then hold onto that vision. Play with it. Give it space. Develop and expand it! Not as wishful thinking, but as one way of working on your personal and professional goals. There’s power in getting crystal clear on what matters most to you. Next step from there is to, well, create some next steps.

And as you start that good work, reach out for expert support toward the clarity and forward movement that you deserve. I’ll be happy to help from my beautiful, empty reality. :)

 

Life Coach Teresa Young Bio Box