Entering In: Grieving in the Land of the Living

This post is dedicated to the brilliance of my precious counselor, who dares everyday to enter into her own pain and become a light for fellow sojourner’s. This is credit to her brilliance. She is a wise sage indeed. Eternally grateful. Love, Me

I lay in my bed cocooned in the oversized hoody, my head buried under the cave of my blankets, letting out wails which make my head pound in pain. I cling to the photo so tightly it crinkles in the grip of my fingers. Knees up in fetal position, my dogs curled up against my side, and my head on the pillow. All of this does not come close to relief until I cry myself into silence and the slumber creeps in.

This loss is like a death. Here I am again, grieving the living. Why Lord? Am I doomed to live a life in separation, cut off from the belonging of family? I catch the distortions in my mind as they try to accuse me that I deserved this somehow, or I am paying for my sins. “LIE!” I told myself as I sopped up my tears with the sleeve of the sweatshirt.

“For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
― C.S. Lewis

I see myself in this quote now. Some days I wander in a fog, a single thing causing a rush and wave of ferocious sobs. Driving down the road and having to dig in the console for that darn napkin I swear I left in the car, while mascara drips down my cheeks. Other times, I feel competent, distracted enough that life feels focused, driven and purposeful. “It’s fine… I’m fine… I got this!” Then the silence, and I am left to grieve and mark the loss in a new way each and every day.

There is a delicate balance when it comes to grieving as a life-style. We need community to help carry our burden of pain. Their words of love, comfort and kindness can carry us through to the next five minutes, and then the next. Those who have deeply grieved and excavated their own losses can truly hold space for mine. Community can come around and remove the burial clothes that I may drown in, they help to re-clothe my body in hope, perspective and reality. They are a part of the grounding force which brings me back to this present time.

The silence, gives me pause for reflection, to listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, and my nurturing self. They work in tandem to coach little Rochelle through her terrified state. She is so afraid that she will be alone forever, unloved and unaccepted. The nurturer knows better – she is there to pick up the little one, hold her close and remind her that it is good to be sad – this too will become a single piece in the larger tapestry of her life. This love story will be honored in good time, and yet now, in this moment, it burns.

Living out of the love and joy that has built up a reservoir in my soul feels good even as I grieve. My life is full of beauty, joy and goodness. Engaging in this beauty by giving to the women and children I work with, partaking in the genesis of my own creativity by picking up a brush, a ball of yarn or a cross stitch needle. Letting out my feelings with an oil pastel – all ways to create beauty from ashes.

The balance must be in not too “busy” where I outrun my feelings, but have enough time to reflect and allow myself to feel each cry and lament. I want to feel the push and pull of each new wave as it comes.

I have thought, for this entire life in recovery that my job was to surrender. I needed to surrender to the waves of loss, recovery, behavioral change, feeling and question. I was pondering so much about the river of life – holding that water loosely – allowing things, people, animals to flow in and out. Surrendering to each bend in the waterway. What will the next bend of life bring? I equated “Letting Go” with “Surrender”. Letting go Is healthy, but the way we go about that concept matters greatly.

I’ve noticed that in many, many Co-Dependent Recovery Materials, they use the word “Surrender” instead of a co-dependent trying to “control the circumstance to their required outcome”. I can see where they got this word, and how this material has conditioned me, but then, my mind was blown WIDE OPEN.

As my counselor witnessed my grief, she gently pointed out that she was not using the word “surrender” when referring to the grieving process. She pointed out, “In fact, Jesus did not surrender, he leaned into the pain.” In the most beautiful way, she challenged my belief system.

DING DING DING! Light bulb! Total reframe – and I am ALL ABOUT reframing the pain! “And!”, I said, “The people who needed healing didn’t surrender either! In fact they pushed IN and ENTERED THEIR PAIN, they didn’t know the outcome, if Jesus would truly heal or not, but they took a calculated risk anyways!”

If you have spent any length of time in my groups, working one on one with me through coaching, or reading my posts on the My Dear Sister page – you KNOW I am all about becoming an OWNER of your story. We do not stay victims. Life does not happen TO you – we RESPOND as life happens. We can move from REACTORS to RESPONDERS. I don’t want you to surrender your rights and remain a victim your entire life. I want you to become empowered, find your voice and move into a one -up position when life continues to ebb and flow. YOU have choices, you can RESPOND when life throws you a rainbow or a curve ball.

And why would grief be any different??!

Here I am “embracing” my grief – drawing myself in these images “surrendering” to the currents of the river. However, if I surrender it gives me no choice or power in the matter of my own grief ritual. I need to ‘Enter In’ to the river. I am not a victim, I am a thriving survivor, an owner in my story and I have choices. I could choose to outrun and avoid my pain, self-harm and wallow in a victim mindset (trust me I did this for years in abuse and I’m still a work in progress), OR I can choose to completely embrace this pain, doing what I can to metabolize each new day and the grief it brings with it. Fully engaged and aware; “This is painful and this too shall pass, just hold on Rochelle, this will become a part of the story one day, but today – you get to be sad and devastated.”

As with all things in my recovery story I want to be my healthiest self by gaining ground from a “one-up” position. What do I mean by this? The “one-up” position comes from an empowered self, I see myself ‘above’ the circumstance and I will intentionally come from a position of grounding, she knows her choices, and can take a calculated risk. She is aware of her reality and surroundings. She is not the victim, but an active participant in the narrative. She has access to her adult self and can nurture her way through the circumstance. This is Entering Into the process within the empowered self. I engage as my empowered being, fully grounded and aware.

And why would grief be any different??!

From my ‘one-up’ position, my empowered self, can PARTICIPATE in the grieving process, marking loss, asking questions, feeling the waves. I get to CHOOSE to enter into the loss and allow it to teach me. I don’t surrender to it and then react. NO, I RESPOND to life’s losses. I can connect to the Earth beneath my feet, reach out for help, and allow my tears to fuel my creativity, or I can curl up in the fetal position with that oversized sweatshirt that brings me so much comfort these days. I am JOINING IN the process of letting go. I TAKE PART in the story of loss, rather than the story of loss controlling and manipulating the little girl inside myself. If I say I “surrender” to the the grief – I am saying “I guess I’ll just let life happen to me.”

Reframed! I ENTER INTO the river! I choose to engage and embrace the waves and current of grief. I can decide how I want to respond to the ebb and flow of pain. I enter into this ritual and I call it my own.

Surrender is the opposite of what Jesus did. He did not just “let life happen to him.” No, he JOINED INTO the plan for His ultimate loss. He never surrendered – he TOOK PART in the story that needed to be told – the ultimate love story.

When Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath, in front of the Pharisees, he intentionally started momentum toward his end. He knew why He was on this Earth, He knew it was time to stir the pot. FULLY aware, he joined into the plan – he did not “surrender”. He initiated the loss that was to come. It says in Luke 6, “He KNEW their thoughts” meaning, He knew the Pharisees were there looking for something to which Jesus could be condemned. Rather than avoiding the oncoming pain of death and separation from His friends and Father – He bravely ENTERED INTO the narrative. He wasn’t allowing life to happen to Him. He was fully engaged and participating. So how did He respond? “Get up and stand here, I ask you: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” After looking around to make sure everyone was watching He declared, “Stretch out your hand.” The man did and his hand was fully restored. The Pharisees were of course, outraged and in that very moment started planning how they would make Jesus pay.

That does not sound like a man who surrenders to life and loss. In fact, it sounds like a fighter. Regardless of His reputation – He knew the truth and embraced it: pain and all.

We also see Jesus ENTERING INTO his grief, rather than “surrendering” when he BEGGED His Father to take this cup of suffering from Him.

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:24 I love this passage because it shows me what it is to participate yet also honor the waves of grief that hit us deep within the corners of our minds and hearts. ENTERING INTO grief means I embrace the harsh waves, the non-linear experience and the questions which sometimes go unanswered. Jesus modeled this for us here. He honored the wave that moved through His body – He engaged the grief by asking a really difficult question. He did not shy away from the loss and the pain that was to come, He knew it would be painful and He was terrified. This is a divine moment of grief observed.

And what of the people who entered into their grief by FIGHTING for their freedom? They participated in their narrative of grief by pressing into the pain, they didn’t know if healing could really happen, yet they took a risk. Can you imaging pushing through a hot and sweaty crowd, while you are bleeding and ill- just to touch the hem of his clothes? Or, what about carrying your son miles, just to see if the Rabbi could touch and heal him? And, being a friend who FIGHTS for your comrades healing? Never surrendering until his paralyzed body can be seen by this man from Nazareth? You are determined to take the leap of more suffering just to see if one touch could free your legs from this bondage.

And what of the woman who bravely FOUGHT THROUGH THE PAIN OF HER PAST, ENGAGED WITH HER STORY by pouring perfume over Jesus’ feet and wiping it with her own hair? Her testimony of GRIEF AS A RITUAL has been told over and over by each generation. And what of the women of famine, who participated in their grief daily – never having a son, nearly starving in their own home, and yet STILL willing to FIGHT and ENTER INTO their grief story by asking for help.

Over and over the testimony of ENTERING INTO grief and embracing pain caresses every page of His Word. Jesus and the others DID NOT SURRENDER, they participated and engaged with the loss, suffering, and pain of their story. I don’t believe ANY of these souls got their healing as victims, they received it as FIGHTERS. Without even knowing it, they laid the example of grieving in the land of the living for the rest of God’s children.

You know, that day in my counseling session, my wise sage said these words; “Rochelle, I don’t think you have ever surrendered a day in your entire life.”

I had never thought of it that way, but she is absolutely right. I never have and I never will. I never surrendered when I left an abusive system, rejecting indoctrination even from childhood. I didn’t surrender when I sold half my belongings and moved to a city far away, divorcing my husband. I never surrender when grieving a lifetime of betrayal.

I will never surrender, just like Jesus and those who have gone before – I will choose to FIGHT and ENTER INTO my story of grief.

Grief is good. The pain will slowly become a part of my narrative, it will be processed and metabolized. Not because life happens to me, but because I embrace and take part in my unfolding story.

My Dear Sister,

I don’t think you have ever surrendered either. Yes, you have days where you curl up in the fetal position and hide under your covers. It is okay to weep, wail and lament. It is okay to be devastated, paralyzed with the great unknown, and within these moments of intensity – you are STILL ENGAGING in a beautiful process that will one day become an intricate piece of your tapestry.

Be brave, my love and Enter In.

Love,

Rochelle Sadie

2 comments

  1. This is a very powerful post. I had never thought of Jesus leaning into his suffering rather than just surrendering. That is such a good point.
    I also love your statement: “We do not stay victims. Life does not happen TO you – we RESPOND as life happens. We can move from REACTORS to RESPONDERS. I don’t want you to surrender your rights and remain a victim your entire life.” This is so empowering and such an important truth to keep in mind. Thanks for sharing your insights with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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