Several years ago my nephew gave up a full time job, and all the benefits that go with it, to pursue a life-long dream of immersing himself into music. Incredibly risky, three years later he owns and operates a successful online guitar lesson business and has published two acoustic guitar albums which are relatively popular.
As much as we humans want things in life to be neat, organized, predictable, controlled and orderly, there sure seems to be exceptions to that ‘rule’ for what really matters to us. We are willing to take risks, big and small, when it comes to what we deem as really important. In truth, we take risks constantly, particularly when it comes to relationships. Without risk we wouldn’t know what it is to be loved or what it is to love. Without risk we wouldn’t know friendship or have the opportunity to be a friend. Without risk we wouldn’t know what it is to be free – really free – and we wouldn’t allow others to be free. Ah yes, risking is part of what it is to be alive, what it is to be fully alive.
Allowing ourselves to truly experience grief from the death of someone in our lives is also risky stuff.
But, dare I say, without our taking the risk of doing grief work we will not heal and indeed we may walk down some pretty destructive paths – paths that are destructive both to ourselves and to others. So, what might be some of the risks we are faced with on our journey of grief? Here are ten risks most of us encounter:
- Will we allow ourselves to feel – fully feel our pain, hurt, anger, relief, sadness, loneliness, discomfort, confusion, guilt, and resentment?
- Will we allow ourselves to express, in a healthy way, our feelings with safe people, people who ‘get it’, in a support group or to a counselor, a trusted friend, a minister, a beloved pet? Or, perhaps through writing or drawing or building or creating? Or, perhaps through tears or shouting or sighing or storytelling? Will we allow ourselves to admit, to seek out, to ask for and receive the support we need from others?
- Will we allow ourselves to face the reality of the death – to face the reality he / she has died and we cannot change it, nor can we change how they died, or why they died? Will we allow ourselves to accept the reality of their physical absence and cherish their presence through memory and spirit?
- Will we allow ourselves to accept the reality that our lives will never be the same again because of their death? Will we allow ourselves to accept the reality that we, as individuals, will never be the same again? Will we allow ourselves to be hopeful of who we might become and how we might walk in this world?
- Will we allow ourselves to ask forgiveness , or, perhaps, will we allow ourselves to find the courage to forgive?
- Will we allow ourselves the patience and the gentleness we deserve as we walk the journey of grief? Will we allow ourselves to honor and respect our unique way of grieving and not compare ourselves with others? Will we allow ourselves the time we need to grieve? Will we allow ourselves to listen to our intuition, to pay attention to what we need and to not give in to all the free advice and ‘shoulds’ we receive from others
- Will we allow ourselves to integrate this loss into our lives and take on the responsibility to fully live again anew – perhaps in a deeper, fuller way (albeit different)?
- Will we allow ourselves to recognize we are not the only ones grieving this loss – there are others who are hurting because of our loved ones death? Will we allow ourselves to be understanding of well-intentioned people who inadvertently say and do hurtful things out of ignorance and fear?
- Will we allow ourselves to re-engage in relationships, hobbies, interests, faith, jobs? Will we allow ourselves to laugh and experience joy?
- Will we allow ourselves to companion, to listen, to accompany, to be silent, to withhold unasked for advice, to hold another’s pain, to comfort, to journey with others who are grieving?
This is not an exhaustive list, I’m certain you could easily add others. No matter the circumstance or situation, the soil of all risk is vulnerability. Will we allow ourselves to be vulnerable – to give ourselves permission to live from a place of vulnerability with boundaries? And, if vulnerability is the soil, then the risk of letting go is the compost. Letting go of what was, of how we think life should be – how we imagined it to be - to release our grip on what was and open ourselves to what is and to what could be. Truly, vulnerability is the risk we all face as we journey through grief – a risk we either courageously embrace to heal or a risk we reject at our own peril.