Life Musings

Grief, grace, and gratitude

“I’m angry. I’m just really pissed off at the Universe right now. I’m just….mad.”

I confessed this to a group of women (some of whom I barely know) recently. They watched with tenderness and compassion as my lips involuntarily trembled and hot tears ran down my chin.

Sad-mad. I heard this term while watching the cartoon movie Home and something inside me clicked. I’ve been sad mad for weeks. My thoughts have been on a spin cycle tantrum of defeat repeating over and over,

‘It wasn’t fair and isn’t fair and why me again and again and just cut it out already because I need a break.’

I’ve been equal parts furious, exhausted, and sloppy sad all wrapped up in a burrito of just plain hurt. It’s been confusing and uncomfortable, like a fire fueling its own flame of pain and blame and shame. I’ve even worried that perhaps depression had found a way back and that this was only the beginning of something worse. That maybe I was in for it and probably deserved whatever it was.

“Grief isn’t something you can shake off. Just sit with it. Let yourself feel the pain, let it wash over you…”

I flinched. Sitting cross-legged with my eyes closed, I wasn’t expecting the word grief to come up during a meditation at a freaking Love Rally of all places.

Suddenly, a shudder of awareness went through my body.

‘Is that what I’ve actually been feeling, at the root of all of this? Not depression, but grief?’

I felt sad mad again. Angry that my attempt to be Zen and calm and loving would lead to a moment like this. That the feelings I wanted to avoid and had been fighting and pushing against would be called out in the open for me to face.

The next day, this quote showed up in my email inbox.

“Grief is the praise of those we have lost. Our own Souls who have
loved and are now heartbroken would turn to stone and hate us if
we did not show such praise when we lose whom we love… To NOT
grieve is a violence to the Divine and our own hearts… If we do not
grieve what we miss, we are not praising what we love… If we do not
praise whom we miss, we are ourselves in some way dead.
So grief and praise make us alive.”
-Martin Pretchel

‘F*ck this shit,’ I thought. Like really? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is what I’m being asked to do right now? This is the experience I have to live through?


What I’ve been learning through this messy and unwanted process is that there’s no way around feeling the loss. There’s no shortcut through grief. There’s no detour. No amount of sad mad outbursts, or shame, or blame will provide an escape.

I wish there was.

“I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.”
-Mary Oliver

What I’ve also been learning is that we don’t have to grieve alone. Those women I mentioned earlier? They’re part of my love circle. When I’ve run out of my own tenderness and self-compassion, they gracefully hold space for me to just be.

When I am my own worst critic, the judge and the victim of my own choices and decisions, my sister gently reminds me that I am still loved. That it’s okay to fall apart. That it’s okay to be angry. That it’s okay and also, I’m here to bear witness to your pain. I’m here to give witness to your loss. What you are feeling is real, and it hurts, and I see you. 

The experience of grief has taken me by surprise. It’s been months since experiencing my loss and I thought I was handling it pretty well. At first I even felt relief. A creative burst of energy and focus held me captive for weeks while I worked on Love Circles and rode the wave of inspiration.

I honestly thought I was over the hardest part until….BAM.

I realized how very wrong I was.

“You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” -Rumi

I’m beginning to believe grace and grief work together.

It is grace that I’m home, surrounded by my family in a nurturing environment. It is grace that I’m no longer in survival mode, sleeping on friends’ couches unsure of where my next paycheck is going to come from. It is grace that I’m surrounded by beauty and nature. It is grace that I have the time and stability to turn inward as deeper and deeper layers of healing present themselves to me.

Without this grace, I don’t think I could grieve. I don’t think I’d be able to let my heart break open even further, to mourn and be angry and be held up anyway.

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
-Pema Chödrön

my desk
This healing space was my grandmother’s and now the place where I write and watch the birds and listen to the crickets at night as moonlight pours through these open windows.

I’m still in it. I’m still grieving, still discovering layers of loss and letting go. As much as I want to, I’m trying not to rush the process.

Because along with the pain, there are deeper layers of grace and gratitude, too.

Gratitude that I get to be here, now. Gratitude for the going in, for the breaking open. Gratitude for the love that is worth the grief. Gratitude for the song of praise my soul sings with its very aliveness.

*There are many losses in life to grieve. Whether its the loss of a job, a home, a relationship, a pet, a dream, or a loved one. If you are grieving, know you are not alone. Here are some resources that have been helpful to me:

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön

The smell of rain on dust by Martín Prechtel

This episode of Wild Soul Medicine

Wherever you are in your journey, may you be surrounded with grace, tenderness, compassion, and love.

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