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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Öcean LiffAnderson on Making Space for Grief: Tiny Resolutions Jan. 20, 2015

Öcean LiffAnderson
Ed. note:  Today's guest invites us on a deep and profound journey none of us seems to choose and all will experience:  working with grief and loss.  Written just a few days after the memorial service for his father, it contains a lot of wisdom in a few paragraphs.  Ocean is, like his name, a deep vessel.   He's also a biker, a chef, a restaurant owner, and despite the topic in this post, a joyful guy.  Although I had seen him around town for years, my first personal encounter with him was during a visit to his beautiful cob-built restaurant.  When I asked him what was delicious that day, he brought out a plate of halved and dripping-ripe fresh figs, each with a baked dab of goat cheese topped by a toasted walnut half.  It was simple and it was profound and I couldn't stop thinking about it for a long time.  Sort of like this blog piece.  Thank you, Ocean, for being vulnerable in your time of loss, and sharing your heart and your words with us.   --jls
P.S.  Ocean provided the photos.
Tiny Resolution: Make space for grief

In the arms of the father
This is a deeply personal, and timely subject. My father passed away at age 88, just before the New Year. Long anticipated, my father's health had been steeply declining in the last months. His death was in many ways a relief. And yet, my grief caught me by surprise. I am no stranger to loss, nor the feelings of grief. It seems every new encounter with grief calls up and connects to other losses in my life. Like a pathway, leading me deeper into my heart, deeper into understanding and compassion.  With this awareness I write to you, tonight, in the long wee
hours before dawn. Grief has kept me up again.  Woken me after a few hours of restless slumber, with a dream that challenged me.

An important caveat: I am not a psychologist, nor health professional. Deep, long lasting emotional pain may be a sign you need pursue additional support. Don't be afraid to seek it.

Daddy and the boys
Grief is a broad term, encompassing many emotions. Kübler-Ross identified stages of grief in her landmark book "On Death and Dying". It's helpful toview these stages as doorways, as seasons, or as facets of the crystal of the heart. Grief isn't a linear process. It is highly individual, with as many unique expressions as the unique person encountering loss.

Here are some things I have learned, helpful in processing my grief.

 1. Take time to grieve. Our culture values above all else the ability to
perform, requiring a stiff upper lip. Grief requires the opposite. If you
work in an environment where professional appearance is the norm, grief
will throw you.  If possible, take some time off. Or if you must continue
to show up, take breaks as needed, to feel. And of course, sometimes the
an ocean of tears
distraction of work is helpful.

2. Let the tears flow. Weeping is a natural process, with countless studies
verifying that toxins are released from our tear ducts, stress hormones
relieved. We feel better after a good cry. How much? As much as you want.
You may or may not want others present. Sometimes, alone in an empty place,
I can let loose tears and wailing I would otherwise withhold, for fear of
disturbing a witness.

 3. Keep physically active. Exercise, rigorous, or gentle, helps move grief.
Like crying, physical exertion helps release the hormones of stress. The
simple act of walking helps emotion move and flow.  Alone or with a friend.
Move through your grief.

4. Nourish the body. Keep eating, good food. Avoid alcohol or addictions.
Numbing the pain might be tempting, but better to feed yourself whole,
nurturing meals. Take yourself out to eat if you don't want to cook.

5. Creative expression. Write in a journal, compose poetry, paint, dance, work with clay. Take your emotion, bring it out into an external form. Art is a representation of the heart.  Sharing this with others can move the
emotion further.
find places to reflect

6. Devotion and contemplation. Your spirituality can be a solace at times of grief. Or can be a source of further pain. Dark nights of the soul challenge the strongest. You are not alone. Seek support from those you share your faith with. Or your doubts. Sharing this pain helps connect you to the universal experience. Everyone has felt loss. And will feel loss.

7. Humility is a gift. Grief strips me down to my naked core. All pretense and judgement is cast aside. All my most cherished beliefs, arguments, politic, attachments, gone. Here, faced with my own hollowed out core, I find a truth I hadn't expected. Humility, I am open, broken, terrified,
alone. And stronger for it. My heart can hold this pain. Bear me up, ready to open again, to love even more deeply.

I recall a Zen teaching: There is no suffering. There is no end to suffering. Attachment leads to suffering. And I welcome this season of the heart, this dark night.
"its heart may stand in sun"

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

"Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

"And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;

"And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.

"And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
            ~~ from The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran
You can read more about Ocean's journeys here.  

1 comment:

Nuray Önoğlu said...

Öcean, thank you very much for sharing your experience so sincerely and for your advices. I have a father at 86 with declining health and I keep trying to avoid thinking about the future. You made me think. And that plate you served to Jana sounds amazing. Who knows, may be one day I can come there and try it personally.