Grief is a fascinating emotion. It doesn’t follow linear time. Pieces of it hide in dark pockets waiting for a safe space and moment to come out and be seen.
This past weekend I participated in a retreat with small group of my wayfinding peers and mentors. Without a personal agenda, I set the intention to allow whatever came up to be. (For anyone who knows me, giving myself permission to not have a plan to take full advantage of the opportunity to be coached by our master of master wayfinders, Martha Beck, is quite unusual.)
Listening to frogs and crickets while sitting under an expansive net of stars in the rain forests of Cashiers, North Carolina, I realized that I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid big Square 1s* that come barreling out of nowhere to knock me off my feet. My habit of planning and organizing is an attempt to play out innumerable future scenarios in the hopes that I can spot a Square 1 coming. And if I can see it coming, that I could somehow lessen the blow or avoid it altogether. (Spoiler alert, this is impossible.)
My husband summarized this best when he said, “When you don’t have something to worry about, you find something to worry about.” (God bless those who truly see us.)
I’ve noticed that because of this, I have not relaxed into happiness. I simply haven’t trusted it. And thus, I’ve been stuck in my Square 3 Hero’s Journey.
Ok, so now what? I thought. Now that I’ve recognized this energy block, what do I do with it? How do I get unstuck?
Equus Coaching is a perfect opportunity to test your energy. A horse is a mirror, which reflects back physically what you’re doing energetically. As I entered the round pen on Day 2, I set the intention to figure out how to release my fear of Square 1 and embrace the elation of Square 4.*
When I tried to spiritually bypass my fear of Square 1 as “necessary for personal growth” and “will bring me to a better place because it all happens for a reason,” my horse Smokey walked to the opposite end of the pen with his hind quarters to me. This was a sign that I didn’t believe what I was saying – I was out of integrity.
When I admitted that, “Square 1s are F-ing HARD! They SUCK!” Smokey ran back toward me and put his head against my chest. When I broke down crying and shared that I didn’t want to be strong all the time, he stayed while stomping and yawning, which physically releases energy.
The heart knows when it is safe to be vulnerable. There’s something special about the sacred space wayfinders hold. It is a pure, gentle and fully accepting cradle of love. To be held so delicately and seen so fully is a true gift.
Although it has been 20 years since my mother’s suicide, I realized that I have not fully processed the grief and post-traumatic-stress around the details of her death. There were still little pockets that needed releasing (and will again and probably again).
In the safe space of my peers and mentors, I allowed all the emotions I’d thought were long past to surface and flow in aching waves through my core and out of my mouth and eyes.
There is no time limit to grieving. There is no deadline to process it. It isn’t a one and done kind of life experience. So if you’ve lost a loved one, or carry guilt and shame about someone’s suicide, know that it is absolutely okay to return to it when you’re ready to let the last pieces go. Even if 20-plus years have passed, it’s okay.
You don’t have to be strong all the time. Give yourself permission to find a safe and sacred space with someone (or people) you trust and let it flow. It does no good and offers no peace holding it in and shoving it down.
I trust that once I’ve fully processed all the remaining pieces, my constant worry about the future will also dissolve on its own. For years, I’d been trying to solve the symptom of anxiety instead of the root cause of grief. While coaching tools can absolutely help with reducing anxiety and managing stress, sometimes it’s a sign that there’s more underneath to explore.
If you, too, constantly worry about the future, I invite you to think about what long-past loss you may have suffered that might need some tender, loving care.
If you don’t have a safe and sacred space to let your grief flow, I’d be honored to hold it for you. Let’s talk.
*Squares 1-4 are Martha Beck terms used in Steering by Starlight and is a framework for identifying coaching tools that might be most useful for a client. Square 1 represents the phase of life where we have the destruction of one identity (or role) before a new one forms. It’s a state of dissolving that can be created by any catalytic life event, such as the death of a loved one.