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5 Ways Grief Forced Me Forward

Grief is a core aspect of the growth mindset.


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Peter Middleton

4 months ago | 6 min read
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The force woke me up

The force is strong in you young one. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

I love the Stars Wars films because I’m a big fan of Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology. George Lucas worked with Campbell in the making of those films.

Even though I have a good sense of the ‘life-force’ in my body, it was nothing compared to the force of grief that hit me this year.

Grief is a concept that we don’t talk about much in western society. The narrative is that we can somehow cheat it, allude it, face it only when we are in the moment of death and deny its existence altogether.

Grief is a core aspect of the growth mindset.

Not recognizing grief means that we don’t remember the cyclical nature of life. When you get to the top of the circle, you want to climb higher. This is not the nature of energy, it means every time we do go through death, destruction, or dismantling in our lives, we do it reluctantly, we’re delusional about it, or we shame ourselves for not being good enough.

Death is inherent in everything.

Even our emotions must come in this cyclical nature; our emotions must die; we must be willing to let go of them until the next time they are appropriate.

Grief this year has forced me to move out of a house, to set boundaries with my family, and to retrain in a different career. It’s powerful!

Countries that have seasons observe this well. Autumn, or fall, is a time of preparing for the scarcity and death of winter. The leaves fall and are harvested by the fauna of fungi, insects, and worms. It is revitalizing the surrounding ground with nutrients, preparing the ground for the nutrient scarce winter months.

You see, if you do not adhere to these cycles, you may be making yourself exposed to the fallow seasons.

Life crises are significant to note here; they will happen. The break down of a relationship, a marriage, perhaps you have kids, and they are affected. Conscious uncoupling is a new phenomenon, and it seems helpful because it honors the death of the relationship and what the two parties need to uncouple respectfully.

How many stories are there of divorces that end in bitterness, resentment, and fighting? Pretty much all of them.

I’m not arguing that divorcing is easy, or even simple, and of course, there are going to be areas that people disagree on. From these areas arise anger, sadness, despair, numbness; grief.

One thing that isn’t built into our society is a safe place to witness feelings in a facilitated way. We have to rely on our close friend’s ability to do that. As a man, that’s not very likely.

So you see that grief and death can come into our lives on a spectrum between subtle and overt. Building a picture of how you deal with grief is vital because it’s a strong natural force, and it cannot be controlled.

Here are five ways that grief’s force has affected me this year:

Pulsing energy

My Dad’s mum, my grandma, passed away this year. I loved her so dearly. She was so sweet and loving, forceful, direct, faithful. We shared some essential times just before she passed in the hospital whilst I was holding her hand — pre-COVID, in February time. I’m so glad I got that time with her.

To talk through her feelings honestly; although she didn’t spend much time reminiscing on her experiences of life, she was able to express to me how she felt about the oncoming of death.

She’d struggled through the five years previously, losing her mobility and her ability to swallow. She was being fed by drip, and the vitality of life diminished for her. at the end of her life, she said to me: “I’m sorry I can’t be reconciled, and I wish you well on your travels.”

This comment seemed profound to me, not only that she knew physical traveling was so important to me, but that she also wished me well on my soul’s journey through the rest of this life. It still makes me cry to think of that.

At her funeral, we were in the form of early lockdown. They allowed six people to congregate. It was strange and unnatural.

No-one could hug or touch each other’s arms and shoulders in solace. It didn’t reflect her warmth and life, the number of people who cared for her in her community — a fundamental human need in grieving.

One thing this did do was enhance the inner energetic experience that I had at the funeral. The energy was washing upwards in a wave-like motion from my core up to my heart, then sometimes upwards to my head.

Related to crying, and why I advocate crying as the beautiful release that it is. It seems that crying helps us to clear energy in our bodies by washing the body’s energetic systems. I wonder if I can find some research on that!

Much like when we sleep, where the brain washes electrical signals from the front to the back.

The force of this experience was so strong; as I mentioned before, this would be on the overt side of the spectrum. Losing a loved one from the physical realm can evoke this kind of response in our bodies.

A chance to evaluate and process

Losing my grandma gave me a chance to evaluate all the ways that she affected me in my life and personality, and my parents in theirs.

I understood myself better after that. It’s a practice I have brought into my life because I recognize the value in evaluating what people offer you and why you appreciate them; why you’re grateful.

There’s also value in evaluating why you feel negatively towards someone; what you can change, if you have any questions, and if there’s anything that needs forgiving.

Sharing stories

Sharing stories of your loved one keeps them with you. You realize how they shaped your life and what you were grateful for, you also realize the challenges that you faced with them or because of them.

Sometimes it’s not common to share stories of loved ones that are still with us. I think this is a missed opportunity. I believe sharing stories is an incredible way to connect to the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual bonds that are forged in lived experience.

When the soul leaves the body, the body is escorted to the earth, or into the fire. Then the ashes may be scattered, or the body may return to the earth. What we have left, as loved ones, is the stories.

We keep our loved ones alive in our consciousness and memories this way.

Observing the grief process

Observing the grief process allows you to experience life more fully. It’s a fundamental aspect of life, half of it. The death cycle is half of life, and it is severely unmentioned.

Grief forces us into this realm, it’s undeniably strong, and you can’t ignore it. It pushed through your body. It forces you to make decisions about your life.

These decisions that you may have been putting off need to be made in grief.

Maybe it’s the work situation that is a higher level of stress than you can tolerate, or a family member whose relationship to you has become imbalanced. Grief forces you to make innovations because sitting with the grief and dealing with these imbalances is impossible.

Legacy

Grief is one of the only times that we talk about legacy in the west, yet legacy is fundamental to our life experience. When I speak to clients in my coaching practice, legacy is fundamental.

Everyone has an idea of the legacy that they want to leave on this earth. There seems to be an imprint already present that we call from in this way. If we’re living too far from this imprinted legacy, then your life will be full of friction and doubt; you’ll be miserable and anxious.

Time and time again, I see the relief on people’s faces when they uncover their legacy and the steps forward that they need to take to live in alignment with that legacy.

Think about after you pass from this life, what legacy do you want to leave behind for your family?

When a loved one passes, all we have left is their legacy; what they did, said, and how their actions affected themselves, their family, the community, and the wider world.

Integrating thoughts

Grief isn’t an easy subject. It’s messy, convulsing, emotional, and it can seem like the world has been turned upside down.

It can foster feelings of despair and hopelessness. You may feel that you don’t know how you’re going to survive without the loved one.

Grieving a loved one is an opportunity for you to step into providing all the things that they provided for you, for yourself.

Stepping into the inspiration for their beauty and community strengths. Doing the inner work around their weaknesses and how that translated into your life.

In truth, grief is natural, and it’s a powerful experience that can be transforming if you see the opportunity in it.

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Peter Middleton

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Peter is a creative coach working to unblock people's authentic creative essence and expression. Using transformational life coaching, meditation and embodiment techniques. He is passionate about mental health, trauma informed practice, spirituality and how to create sustainable cultures that empower in equity.


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