The kind of pain experienced or anticipated with any kind of loss is enough to make us take whatever steps we need to try and avoid it. This is why grief is our most resourceful emotion.
If you look around at popular organizations, they were born out of great pain. For example, Candace Lightner began Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 1980 when her daughter was killed by an impaired driver.
You cannot become resourceful without experiencing the pain of grief.
You have to become familiar with exactly what you don’t want to experience and then work through finding your way to peace.
This is the Yin and Yang of Grief
- The pain and resourcefulness are cyclical and work in tandem.
- The pain leads to thinking about solutions.
- The solutions then make (the known or similar parts of) future pain easier to navigate.
- They also then uncover unresolved pain, to which you work to find solutions.
- And the cycle continues.
Understanding the Yin and Yang of Grief will help you build your resilience in a more organized manner than being at the mercy of the chaos and exhaustion it brings.
The Yin side of Grief is the inner experience within the body, and the acceptance of what is.
The Yin side of Grief is about being, especially being present with all the feelings in the body. It’s about being softer, kinder, and empathic to yourself like you would if your best friend was experiencing Grief. It is observing, being in, and accepting all the emotions like sorrow, anger, fear, shame, resentment, and frustration, however, they show up (Note: in Traditional Chinese Medicine, each emotion can be categorized into Yin or yang, but that’s not the point here.).
It is noticing the feeling of all the sensations with curiosity rather than judgment; like an aching heart, churning stomach, tightening in the chest, vice grips around the head, a bubbling up throat, or heaviness around the neck and shoulders.
You may know those emotions and sensations, but chances are you’ve tried to push them down or out of the way and put on a face that you think emulates a sense of calm and control.
But have you ever leaned into those sensations and really felt them? Really let them grip you and hold you down? If you haven’t, no worries, you’re part of the majority.
If you leaned into the emotions and sensations, then you’ve come away with a sense of knowing; knowing who you are in pain, knowing what you are able to tolerate, knowing which tools or resources help the most, knowing how to ask for and receive help with grace, knowing how long each sensation lasted.
You probably were never taught to lean into the pain of loss, really feel it, emote openly and comfortably, and let the emotions ride their course.
- How about asking for and receiving help?
- Were you ever taught to feel and handle vulnerability safely?
- Were you ever taught to just surrender rather than fight emotions and feelings?
Possibly not, and this in my experience and observations, is the biggest source of ongoing and unresolved suffering.
These questions may sting with discomfort or shame. They may also make you want to look away. But you can’t. Because there is so much truth here. Emotions and feelings can’t be ignored, avoided, or repressed. They’ll find a place to show up in your body, as an illness or an “issue in your tissue”.
In practicing Massage Therapy for over two decades, I can say that the “knots” that you feel in any part of your body have an emotional component to them.
This is why asking the therapist to jab elbows into those knots isn’t the solution to releasing them when your mind is still hanging on to the emotion or the story buried in that knot.
Emotions must be felt and witnessed to feel less threatening or foreboding. This is why having a close friend comfort you as you shed tears feels meaningful. It possibly brings more relief than if you were sobbing in isolation.
Opposing the Yin side is the Yang side of Grief. This is the outer experience of Grief.
The Yang energy is active, and more about doing than being.
You ask, search, wrack your brain, buy, pursue, beg; all in the vein of making the painful emotions and feelings go away, or quickly getting past the discomfort and unknowns of grief.
You’re willing to look and fight for the prescription, antidote, method, tool, or access. This is how you ignite your resourcefulness in a way that is not your norm.
The Yang side of Grief also looks like incessant talking, circular thought, arguing, chaotic communication, and looking for black-and-white options. The mind is deeply engaged and directs the doing, analyzing, and instructing.
The whole experience has a harder, forceful edge to it.
Grief is daunting, messy, unpredictable, frustrating and deeply exhausting. And it seems like the more you seek the one thing to make it go away, the more Grief keeps you struggling.
When it comes to managing Grief, here is no one solution or guidebook, nothing streamlined or nicely packaged.
Grief comes in many forms, is unique in every experience, and has many ways to work with it. You can choose to do all the things to deal with Grief: psychotherapy, acupuncture, doctor visits, meds, supplements, support groups.
I’ve seen clients try everything all at the same time. It seems like they’re throwing as many things at Grief to keep it from coming to get them. The fear humming in the background is what drains the body and brings on the deep exhaustion.
I haven’t seen many people experience relief from Grief when they do all the things and chase all the options.
If anything, you’ll keep the mind busy.
You may find something new to try and it’ll give you temporary relief. But if you’re expecting it to be a permanent painkiller, I doubt you’ll find it on the outside in a way that is safe and sustainable long term.
On the contrary, you’ll continue to wear out the nervous, immune, and digestive systems, putting you on the accelerated path to illness.
Now that you know the Yin and Yang sides of Grief, it’s time to look at harmonizing the two to ease the vice grip and exhale with grace.
It takes embracing all the feels of each shade of Grief and becoming resourceful about accessing peace simply and self-sufficiently. Harmonizing Grief could be taking rest with grace after completing a small task. Or allowing yourself to feel sorrow in stillness, followed by spending time in a meaningful activity like meeting with a close friend or loved one.
- It is allowing the being and receiving to flow into the doing and giving, without judgment, guilt or self criticism.
- It is allowing yourself to pour into yourself first before pouring into others, regardless of societal rules or norms.
The outcome of harmonizing Grief is a sense of well-being.
It brings on hope and confidence, which feel peaceful and grounding.