|"Dark emotions don't go away. They simply come to us in|
whatever form we can bear. When we master the art of
staying fully awake in their presence, they move us
through suffering. We discover that the darkness has its
~Miriam Greenspan, Healing Through the Dark Emotions
The sadness of grief runs neck and neck with the exhaustion we feel from trying to be something we are not. Huge chunks of my time and life were wasted on this grief journey in trying to be or pretending to feel something other than what I was actually going through in the moment. My self esteem took blow after blow as the everyday culture around me conspired to let me know there was something wrong with whatever was happening to me in those first years after our son died.
When I meet people today, and they say that I seem so in my skin or that they wish they could be okay with their grief they way I am.... Well, I have to remind them and myself that it has taken every single, hard fought second of these 10+ years to find my way here. My turtle pace and loopy being often fought with this impatient world, battling for everyone and everything to just give me time, slow down, let me be!
Part of the reason I do the heART work I do now is because breaking the silence on these ideas is a passion for me. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Even when the world seems to conspire to tell you that the anger is too angry or the sadness is too much, or to suggest you must "get better" now or "fix things" or whatever. YOU ARE PERFECTLY EXACTLY AS YOU ARE MEANT TO BE IN THIS MOMENT.
Giving myself permission for that was the hardest thing. Because there was no permission coming from the outside, I felt even more isolated. Of course once I started to eek out some kind of support system, then I found models of permission. In support group. In mentorship with other bereaved parents who were surviving this reality. In films like "Losing Layla." And so slowly, I began being more and more able to grant myself that permission.
One tool I've tried to embrace is stating the obvious. The elephant is already in the room. So why be silent about it. I'm stomping mad, I'm tossing things around the kitchen, everyone else in the house is tip toeing around me. The best way to grant permission?? NOTICE!! I began noticing the elephant. And then talking about it. I catch myself in these moments, and I turn to the person tip toeing and say, "I'm so mad, I don't know what to do." They usually reply with something like, "No kidding?!" And we might even laugh a little and the spell is a bit broken. I'm still hopping mad, but I soften now to see behind the "mad" is grief, something crying to be expressed. And now, by noticing and voicing, there is an opening for me to say or for the other person says to me, "Let's go down to the water and throw rocks and scream at the ocean then!" YES! Let's do that! Hang the phone, the bills, dinner to be made, whatever -- who cares -- that will all be there! Go do what the elephant in the room is crying out for now! Give the elephant permission to scream at the ocean.
It can be confusing to find your way through all that grief seems to throw in the path. Be gentle with yourself. It is okay to slow down. Take whatever time and space you need to notice what you are really feeling. BE with those feelings. Give yourself permission to express and let this emotion roll on thru to the next emotion. Grief is a rollercoaster, it's okay. Know that the world is impatient, but you can take as many days, weeks, months, years as you need to make sense of what has happened. There is nothing wrong with you. You are simply tending to a heart that has been shattered. Of course you hurt and feel disoriented. Why in the world wouldn't you feel those things?
Why isn't it just fine to feel what you feel? I don't know why "the world" seems to conspire to tell us it isn't okay. But I can tell you that it is okay with me that you feel what you feel when you feel it. If you can't give yourself that permission yet, I totally and completely give you permission!
Kara L.C. Jones is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where she studied Literary, Cultural Theory and Poetics with a minor in Child Development from Chatham College. When at CMU, Kara mentored with Hedda Sharapan, David Newell, Fred Rogers and the team at Family Communications, Inc., producers of Mister Rogers Neighborhood.
In 1999, after the death of their son Dakota, Kara and her partner Hawk co-founded KotaPress (KOTA: Knowing Ourselves Thru Art), an expressive arts outreach. Through their KOTA work and in partnership with the MISS Foundation, they have been mentoring other bereaved parents and caregivers around the world, offering creative perspectives on learning to life again after loss. In 2001, they were featured on NPR in an interview with Megan Suyks who then hosted KUOW's show "The Human Condition."
Kara received her Reiki Master-Teacher certification with Masters Jeanne Robinson and Jane Valencia, having apprenticed with them since 2004. In 2007, she began an apprenticeship with Professor & Coach Sherene Zolno exploring The Hero's Journey (based on Paul Rebillot's work) as a personal and professional development tool. As a coach to private clients, Kara facilitates the exploration of grief and creativity using many tools for alternative mind, body, spiritual health. Some of her specialties include henna art, heART-making, co-active coaching, Reiki, Tapping, asking the answerable questions and more.
She is an expressive artist working in many formats from henna art to ATC, from altered books to handmades, from poetry to prose. With her HennaHealing.com adventure, she explores intentional henna art as an expressive tool for everything from celebration to grief, solace to release. Please visit her excellent and resourceful Kota Loss and Compassion Blog. You can be in touch with her via firstname.lastname@example.org.