The Mastery of Grief

Following Christmas morning two years ago, I went to the garage to open a new bag of bird seed, having noticed that the feeders were empty. Holding the bag in my left hand and pulling the blade of the box-cutter toward me instead of away from me, I sliced my wrist wide-open. I pulled my T-shirt off, wrapped it around my wrist, stuck my arm up in the air and methodically went upstairs and asked Terry to call 911.

On the way to the hospital, the medic explained that he had already been on three suicide calls that Christmas morning, thinking that I was his fourth. We spoke about depression and the emotional difficulties that the Holidays pose for many people on the way to the emergency room. We were a relief for one another.

A valid working definition of grief is "having to say goodbye when you don't want to, having to let go when you don't want to." It doesn't matter whether you are a child who has lost their favorite blanket or an adult who has lost a job. Loss is loss and after enough years go by, every human being will have lost a lot. There is a lot to cry about in life.

In a powerful movie, "The Life of Pi," the protagonist, Piscine Molitor Patel, an Indian boy from Pondicherry, nicknamed Pi, spends 227 days in a boat with a Bengal tiger following a shipwreck in which he loses his entire family. As he recounts the story to a journalist at the end of the movie, he explains that when he finally reached land, the tiger who was called Richard Parker, walked to the edge of the jungle and without even looking back at Pi, disappears into the jungle. Pi tearfully explained that it was this moment that broke his heart, a  moment in which the two of them did not even get to say goodbye, to thank one another for having kept the other alive during the ordeal. He says to the journalist, "I wept like a child."

Grief is a powerful and healthy emotion, an emotion that most are taught to repress, particularly men. When grief is expressed, when you learn to move into the upset, when you learn to cry, to feel the pain and the loss, you will begin to heal. The result is letting go, releasing, saying goodbye to what you could not control, to what was unbearable. When grief is repressed and stuffed down, it turns into depression and if practiced enough, paralysis. Depression is resistance to what is or has happened and not being able to accept it. Individuals who never allow themselves to feel grief, who rise triumphantly above the pain of their past without honoring their own journey of loss become immune to feeling the losses of others, the pain of others because it ignites their own which they refuse to feel.

Mastery of grief involves knowledge and seeing life correctly. For example, the following statement is true and has no opposite: all relationships end. All relationships end through death, divorce or separation. All of them. And yet, when these events happen, we struggle to hold on, to fight for what cannot be won, for what is gone. It is so painful. Enlightenment allows the individual to see himself and the world differently. Conscious tears take one to peace, to letting go, to clarity and it is an on-going process throughout all of life because all of life is a letting go. All of life is a saying goodbye when you don't want to.

Give up the resistance to truth and call to yourself the power to rise above the pain and loss, the deep anguish that loss sews into the mind, the body and the emotions. Through the tears and upset, follow the pain down the rabbit hole and eventually, with enough practice, you will discover an immutable truth about loss: that you never lost anything but only thought that you did. You will realize that you are whole and complete, needing nothing from anyone for any reason. Therefore, nothing outside of you can satisfy you, can make you happy, can heal you. It is loss from oneself, from one's core, that is the ultimate cause of depression.

But allow for the hurt. Allow for the setback and feel the pain. It's OK. You are strong and you are capable of seeing things correctly.

It will take you home.

Self-AwarenessAshleigh Stoia