What are we supposed to do with all this grief and loss?
The other day a student in my online class shared that no one knows how to talk about or acknowledge the grief and non-stop loss they experience working in an animal shelter.
Can you relate?
I think that's true for most workplaces, but it's also true for our culture in general.
We don't know what to do with grief (our own or other people's).
So that's where the inspiration for our next book highlight comes from...
This month we have an excerpt from It's OK That You're Not OK by Megan Devine:
"When the body and mind experience pain, we have a biological need to express it. Pain that is not allowed to be spoken or expressed turns in on itself, and creates more problems.
Unacknowledged and unheard pain doesn't go away. One of the reasons our culture is so messed up around grief is that we've tried to erase pain before it's had its say. We've got an emotional backlog sitting in our hearts.
...That grief is painful doesn't make it wrong. Pain is a normal and healthy response to loss. The way to survive grief is by allowing pain to exist, not in trying to cover it up or rush through it.
Rather than erase pain, we might tend to it as though it were healthy and normal, in need of our kind, compassionate, honest care...Only in tending to it can we bear what is unbearable.
...It's useful to separate pain and suffering. Pain is pure and needs support rather than solutions, but suffering is different. Suffering can be fixed, or at least significantly reduced.
...Suffering comes when we feel dismissed or unsupported in our pain, and when we thrash around inside our pain, questioning our choices, our "normalcy," our actions and reactions. Suffering comes with being told to not feel what you feel.
...Suffering comes when we rehash the events that led up to this death or this loss, punishing ourselves for not preventing it, not knowing more, not doing more.
Suffering brings with it anxiety, fear, and isolation. If we want to make things better, your suffering is where we need to look for change.
...The broad answer is simple: pain gets supported, suffering gets adjusted."
For me, this passage is helpful because it reminds me that (1) the pain of grief is normal and needs to be expressed (2) suffering can be optional and (3) our culture is totally grief-illiterate, so it's no wonder we're all struggling.
Over the years I've done a number of in-depth trainings with Heather Plett, founder of The Centre for Holding Space.
What I've learned from her (and The Circle Way) is how important it is for people to have the opportunity to share stories and express pain without being fixed.
We need to speak our grief. We need to be compassionately witnessed by our community.
No advice, no positive platitudes, no comparison, and no one trying to make our pain go away.
We want and need others to hold space, so we can allow that backlog of pain to move through us.
In The Compassionate Badassery Lab we've been experimenting with monthly-ish grief circles where we get a chance to connect in this way and it's been a powerful experience.
Over and over people share their surprise at how helpful it is to just listen and be listened to. They often say, "I had no idea how much I needed that."
So if you're looking for some support around grief, this book is an excellent resource. You can find a copy here.
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