Do you ever feel that life seems more exhausting these days than it did before? Like you’re tired and maybe even irritable seemingly for no reason? Of course, we are dealing with everything going on in the world: COVID-19, wildfires raging out of control, hurricanes hurling toward the coast, riots, protests, senseless killings and everyday overwhelm. The world seems to have gone crazy! It can be overwhelming to process. And thus, we are all experiencing a feeling of collective exhaustion. But what’s going on underneath all of that outer stimuli, is actually grief. All of us are grieving. We miss the life we had before COVID. We miss not feeling so overwhelmed by the reality of everything we are dealing with. Grief doesn’t only happen when we lose a loved one. Grief happens when things change.
What Are We Grieving For?
We grieve for the loss of the old way of life and the choices we used to have. We can no longer just go out to a normal kind of dinner, or go to the movies, theater, sporting event or even to our house of worship. Life as we knew it has been disrupted. Everything has changed. And so we have to acknowledge our feelings of grief about this change. As we long for times gone by, if we don’t take a moment to pause and honor the grief, it comes out in different forms. I remember my High School English teacher wistfully telling her students to enjoy every second of high school career . She claimed that high school is the best time of life. (At least for her it was!) But even back then, I knew that she had never fully grieved for that lost time. All of us have something and/or someone we are still grieving. To pause and honor what we have lost is a holy endeavor. And once we are aware of the grief, we can begin to actively mourn and move through it.
What’s the Difference Between Grief and Mourning?
There is a misconception that grief is the same thing as mourning. These words are not meant to be used interchangeably. The emotions we feel when we have lost someone or something is grief. Grief is the internal thoughts and emotions we feel. Mourning is the way we integrate this loss into our lives. Grief is the inner emotion we feel. Mourning is the outer expression of our grief.
There is no expiration date on our grief by the way. We may mourn our losses for many years. For instance – we mourn a loved one by talking about them, honoring their date of death, or just crying. The various ways we mourn are limitless. The rituals we perform acknowledging our loss vary. My buddy lost his best friend years ago. He told me that every year on the anniversary of the date of his friend’s death, he goes back to the bar where they used to drink together. This is his way of mourning his loss. But any kind of ritual, like lighting a candle, visiting a grave – these mourning rituals are how we express our grief.
Sometimes the feeling of grief is very “in your face” and at other times it is more subtle and right below the surface. It’s quietly there, so quiet, that we may not even be aware that it is there.
Here are some manifestations of grief and how it can affect us:
- There’s a feeling that we’ve lost a part of ourselves
- We may feel a loss of self-confidence
- That we are powerless
- We lose emotional, physical and/or financial security
- Life loses meaning
- We question our faith
- Diminished feelings of joy
Grief Affects Our Health
Grief is exhausting. It is like a full-time job – it takes effort and attention. When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve, it is like blocking the natural flow of emotion. That is unhealthy for our bodies and causes us to feel tired. It’s like an energy blockage in our body. The more we evade feeling our feelings, the more exhausted we become. However, so many of us fight feelings of discomfort, rather than just giving ourselves the space to feel it. That is even more exhausting because we are fighting on two fronts!
In my last blog, I talked about the chakras and how if they get blocked, the energy cannot move through. https://spirituallens.com/the-need-for-us-to-attain-spiritual-health/
Grief tends to affect us in our heart and lung chakra. We sigh more heavily when we are grieving. And unexpressed grief can affect us in that region. If we don’t feel our feelings, and allow ourselves to mourn, we won’t move through the feelings of grief. We stay stuck. And we experience that feeling of exhaustion. Worst case scenario, our bodies get full of dis-ease and can actually sicken!
Grief As A Spiritual Discipline
Although there is no map for navigating grief, there are commonalities about the journey. We all have needs that need to be attended to in order to move through our grief. It is a process that we need to undergo in order to
1. Accept the reality of the death of a person and/or of how things used to be.
2. Allow space to feel the pain of loss and actively mourn
3. Honor what used to be.
4. Acknowledge the new reality of what is today.
5. Live in to a new identity of who we are going forward.
When we allow ourselves to finally feel grief, we can move through it ￼. Although we’ll never “get over” losing someone or something, we can go forward into a new reality. Life can still be meaningful, food can taste again, colors become more vivid again and we can experience some sweetness and laughter without feeling guilt or sorrow.
The world we once had is now gone. Although there are vestiges of hope on the horizon, we have to pause and reflect on our losses. This is a time we can take to sift through the ashes and consider what we have left. This time is our spiritual call to action. We don’t need to find answers, but we do need to allow ourselves to ponder the questions. And in this way, we can emerge from the process more whole and complete. Until we meet again, may you be blessed on your spiritual journey through this grief, back to the sweetness of life.
Prior posts on Grief for further reading: