Leda, our beloved black standard poodle died last week. It was both expected and a surprise, heartbreaking and dear.
While on the outside she was 15 years old and had health issues, we could still see the younger dog who literally leapt off the ground with excitement. Who chased tennis balls until we couldn’t throw anymore. Who greeted everyone joyously, thrilled they’d come to see her. Who would tell each family member goodnight before she went to bed.
She loved deeply and enthusiastically, and we really miss her.
Grieving Leda has reminded me of some very important things about grief. I’m sharing them with you because for the most part, we don’t do grief well.
Being able to harness the power of grief is important for you as a business owner and as someone who’s putting your work and yourself out into the world.
Why? Because grief is a great cleanser, helping you release emotional baggage. The more emotional baggage you release, the more you shine. It’s just that simple.
Here’s what’s important to keep in mind about grief.
- Grief plays an important role in our expansion.
We all have inner armor. Inner armor is that tension in your shoulders, stomach, chest or elsewhere. It’s the walls you’ve built up to hide what you don’t like about yourself. It’s what you do to look good and put together, even when you feel like you’re falling apart inside.
Grief breaks down or dissolves that armor, most often around your heart. Several years ago, I wrote a blog article about being shattered by the death of my daughter that speaks to this. You can read it here.
- Grief is messy.
Let’s face it, grief is not a polite, dab-your-eyes-with-a-lace-hanky kind of emotion.
When you really open to grief, you’re simply along for the ride. This is one of the reasons that people are so uncomfortable with it – both in themselves and others. Some cultures are especially good at expressing grief, and some are particularly good at repressing it.
At the first retreat of a leadership intensive I did, my grief over the death of my daughter 17 years before came up very unexpectedly. I did something I’d never done before – I wailed, and I did it in front of 27 near-strangers. This was no dainty cry or even quiet sobbing. This was gut-wrenching, snot-filled crying like I’d never experienced before.
Being that open and vulnerable, and allowing myself to be seen that way, was a turning point for me.
I’m not saying you have to do that. It’s not something that can be forced or manufactured, and the timing has to be right. Keep in mind, though, that one of the hallmarks of grief is the feeling of being isolated and alone. [BTW, the same is true of stress, trauma and fear, which often accompany grief.]
Grieving in the presence of someone else gives you the experience of not being alone, and of being accepted in the midst of your messiness. This someone else could be a loved one, a support group, a coach, or a therapist. The only necessary requirement is that it be someone you feel safe with.
Most importantly, you can practice being with yourself in your grief. Journaling about it can help with this process, or simply sitting and letting yourself feel it.
- There are many things we grieve – both big and small.
While we know to grieve the big things like a death, we often overlook the grief we feel at things that appear small, especially when they’re mixed in with joy. A promotion or new job can bring grief about leaving friends, a known set of responsibilities, and comfortable habits and surroundings. A move to a new house, while exciting, also means saying goodbye to the old one.
I was talking with someone the other day about how powerful it would be if pregnant women were given the space to grieve their single, less complicated lives and the sense that they had more control then.
What we don’t grieve gets stored in our bodies and our emotions, weighing us down and dimming our light. This gunk also makes it harder to us to be the productive, energetic people we want to be.
- New grief can connect us with past, not fully experienced grief.
Once tears begin to flow, old, unshed tears wash through as well. In grieving for our dog, I’m sure my family and I also shed tears for other losses, even stresses, we’ve experienced. Grief gives us that good cry we’ve often needed and not taken.
And the most important thing:
- Grief can only do these things if we allow it, welcome it, and make space for it.
When we gloss over it, try to be “done with it” or “move on”, we deny ourselves grief’s power. Trying to circumvent grief’s messiness or feeling like we’re taking up too much space with our grief does the same thing. The way to harness grief’s power is to surrender to it.
A critical heads-up – seeing yourself as a victim of what happened means you’re staying caught up in the story of the situation, and that’s the #1 way to rob grief of its power.
If you find yourself thinking things like, “This isn’t fair! This shouldn’t be happening! I can’t believe they did that! They should pay for this!”, you’re caught in the story.
Experiencing emotions happens in your body, not in your mind. In fact, staying in your mind is a sly way NOT to feel your emotions. You THINK you are, but you’re not. You’re just ruminating, re-telling and justifying.
Tweet: When we gloss over it, try to be “done with it” or “move on”, we deny ourselves grief’s power.
Thoughts can be a doorway in to your feelings, but you have to go through the door. You have to cry the tears, scream the screams, allow your heart to break in order for the grief to move on. Experiencing your emotions is the only way to experience the healing benefits of grief.
As hard, as shitty, as painful as it can be to feel your grief, it serves important purposes that can only be realized by surrendering to it.
If this is triggering something for you, that’s your doorway in to deep healing and release. It’s also a sign that you’re carrying around old stuff that you’d be lighter and happier without.
If you want help using your grief for healing and releasing your emotional baggage, let’s talk. You can sign up for a free consultation about how that can work by clicking here.
You’re here to be a leader and to share your gifts. The lighter and clearer you are, the more easily and effectively you’ll do that.
Loved this article Sara. A very useful reminder to grieve for ‘small’ things and release the emotion to shine more fully.
Thank you, Dawn. It’s great to hear from you.
Beautiful and insightful. Thank you, Sara.