Reflecting on Grief, That Perennial Walk Through Dark Woods in Strange Country

I’m reflecting on a setback I’m having at this precise moment. And after an especially good day yesterday, including 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 empathic mom, and Poker Night with two of my sons and their ladies. Then, boom. The hammer came down. I cried off and on all night.

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

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 mother all night right before she died. Now it’s a way of keeping her near me.

And I’m reflecting on the deeply internal roller coaster ride of these almost two months since her death. I’m seeking guidance, too, as always. But in new ways. 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 emerging from the rubble of a fallen building, young and strong, with flaming red hair, wearing a bronze raincoat. And another 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, like my spirit actually did get down on the floor without my body. Talk about guidance. I’m workin’ on it.

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 explicit 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 poignant leg of my own life journey.

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 where I am in this moment, grappling with death’s hand in the human condition, up close and personal. And 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 particular, impenetrable stretch of unknown territory.

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 that 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 good and right. Not to be dreaded. Swallowed. Papered over. Made pretty. That in fact such an error would be the makings of future trouble.

Grief will have its space, time, and impact, whether sanctioned and embraced or driven down into the unconscious if we seek to avoid the mess. If well-meaning others succeed in advising and expecting us to close that door and “forge ahead.”

After all, you can’t cram for and knock grief out, like prepping for a big meeting or taking the written test at the DMV. This is soul time. And the soul cares not about “linear” time. It just wants what it wants and needs, what it knows is the work at hand. Work that may indeed inform our trajectories. Our creative and contributory destinies.

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 everything and 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.