The Grief of Growth

Hi! Happy October!

I’ve been talking with lots of folks about grief recently. Has this been coming up for you, too? As exciting as change and growth and healing are, there is sadness that goes along with these transitions. It’s something I wished we talked about more, but we don’t. There is so much focus on the beauty of change and healing (which is positivity-washed) that we sometimes forget that sadness fits in with all of it. We might be thrilled to shed layers of self-doubt, low self-esteem, and old patterns that no longer serve us—but sometimes we also have to shed some aspects of ourselves that feel comfortable or safe in order to move forward on the path that feels most right for us. This also requires moving through and processing life events that were deeply sad, and when we engage with them we can be surprised by the depth of our grief. So many of us hold these feelings because there wasn’t any other way to move forward at that time in our life; so when we unpack them and examine them now, we see how long we’ve been stuffing our emotions and that can feel extremely painful and difficult.

We also can’t forget that the change in seasons can facilitate feelings of loss. The winter months in the Northern Hemisphere can be challenging, especially those who are sensitive to temperature and light changes. It’s really important to consider what you might need as we head toward the winter months—some warm blankets, a special hot tea that you look forward to, or even a lamp to support you if you suspect you might have seasonal affective disorder (which doesn’t seem like a disorder to me—it’s totally normal to crave and need sunlight!).

Do you acknowledge and navigate the grief and sadness that accompanies even small shifts in your life? How do you do that? For me, it feels like balancing the beauty and the difficulty, holding them side by side and recognizing that they actually do belong together. They don’t have to exist separately. In fact, the grief can inform us of what is missing in our lives or what feels like too much and what our next steps might be. If we feel sadness and loss about the loneliness of our childhood, we can now focus on building community and being in right relationship with others. If we feel grief around not receiving enough emotional nourishment or reciprocity when we were little, we can work on developing relationships where we feel truly seen and appreciated for who we are. Allowing the sadness to just be can illuminate our path forward. When we reject the sadness of the shifting seasons, our changing bodies, our growing hearts, we also reject a part of ourselves that survived and adapted to challenging circumstances. That part of us still exists and helped us navigate times in our lives when we weren’t so happy or fulfilled, or when we experienced deep trauma or emotional neglect. Honoring that part of ourselves through our grief is the work.

Generally, I don’t think our society or culture does well with grief—but it’s so important that we learn how. Grief will always find us in some form and we have to teach our nervous systems how to process it well in service of ourselves, our experiences, and those who have come before and after us. Loss is painful, but until we provide space for the transitions we experience, we prolong our pain by holding and gripping to aspects of our lives that are no longer working.

What can you honor and release in this season of your life? What no longer serves you? What patterns have supported you before but are now getting in the way of you being able to fully step into your power, embrace your current life, and receive the kind of love and connection you deserve? It’s okay to feel the sadness—and let me remind you, it won’t be here forever. Feeling is healing, my friend, and we can do it together.

In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Warmly,

Elizabeth

Elizabeth GilletteComment