Notions of Grief
Notions is a word that reminds me of creative arts. Sewing, paper arts, crocheting/knitting and so on. Tools that you use to make something beautiful and wonderful.
The dictionary says notion is also: “a conception of or belief about something,” and/or “an impulse or desire, especially one of a whimsical kind.”
In the case of this quote a notion is a belief about what grief is all about. It isn’t something that is just outside of you – or inside of you. It’s both about how you are inside of yourself and how you impact the world outside of yourself.
It’s about vision, both internal and external. And like looking through a kaleidoscope, what you see outside of you changes each time you turn the mechanism inside. For you, each of those moving pieces inside the kaleidoscope are made up of your personal stories.
- the stories you tell yourself about who you are – your definition of who you see yourself as being, your self-worth.
- the stories you tell yourself about your experiences in life – did they happen to you or for you?
- the stories you tell yourself about the roles you have in your life – do they reflect the true you are or they an act?
- the stories you tell yourself about what your potential is – are you living up to it or running away from it?
In a recent article in the Washington Post, they were discussing political views around Russia in a recent poll.
“It goes to show you that in terms of public opinion, people remain in their silos” Vera Zaken, an expert on the intersection between information and foreign policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told me. “They’re going to believe whatever truth or disinformation fits their views.”
I thought this was so interesting in how we all live our lives. We live them filtering out anything that doesn’t support our beliefs. It’s as though we don’t hear or see anything that contradicts our worldview. Like we have this force field bubble around ourselves that bounces out any contrary beliefs, thoughts and only lets in what will confirm our beliefs.
This is what change, loss, and grief is about. It’s an opportunity to examine your beliefs. To peek out of the filters that keep you confined in your comfort zone. To see the possibilities of something else. To see the potential that is waiting right across that line of the comfort zone. To admit in new truths and let go of whatever no longer serves you.
Like shedding an old skin, the process of grieving requires you to transform your life. To alter in some way, from who you used to be into a new person, a new self-definition.
These beliefs you protect are really all about who you have been told all of your life that you are.
- Smart – or not smart.
- Pretty – or not pretty.
- You let others in – or you keep them from getting close.
- What you draw your meaning in life from – a job, a spouse, a parent, etc…,
Watch any good detective mystery show. The main character is always a flawed hero in some way. Yes, they catch the bad guy, but their motivation to do so comes from a brokenness. Going back to the main quote, whatever happened to you, became an altered part of you.
One of my favorite stories, is about how you throw a rock out into the water. It creates ripples that expand out to every part of the shore, until slowly the ripples fade back into the still calm water of the lake. It looks like nothing happened. The lake has the same water line, as the rock wasn’t large enough to create an impact to the water levels. Yet the lake has forever been changed, as at the bottom lies a rock that wasn’t there before.
The stories you tell yourself about your life are like that rock. Each story is created by the impact of that rock as it breached the surface of you, the lake. As time passes, the ripples of grief you experienced die down and everyone around you thinks you are fine. You even think that you are fine. But you are changed forever by the rock that impacted you.
You experience a form a grief for every rock. Some rocks are very small – someone hurt your feelings. Others are larger, like losing a job, or not getting the promotion you worked so hard to get. Then you have a huge boulders of grief from the death of a loved one or a divorce.
Some rocks are just part of life, like the kids going off to college or moving out to get married. Retirement. Things that are part of “normal” life experiences, that aren’t viewed as life altering but really are. Because what they do, is alter or change how you view yourself.
The empty nester wonders who am I, if I no longer have kids to mother on a daily moment by moment basis? The retired person wonders who am I if I am not “this job title”? They both wonder what do I do with the rest of my life? What is my purpose if I am no longer …, (what I have identified myself as)?
These rocks are not problems to be solved. There is no mystery to them. They are just the reality of your life. These rocks are experiences that shape who you are. It is what you do with the rocks that matter.
So, enter into the world of unfiltered “what if’s” – take out a piece of paper and write down 4 things that have happened to you recently. And start writing out possibilities of what you can paint on your rock.
- What if…,
- What if…,
- What if…,
- What if…,
The easiest way to do this is through imagination and curiosity. Take any experience that happened to you from conception through the age of 18 that you believe has impacted your life in some way.
If you are really honest with yourself, you will be able to find some silver lining to any experience. I read years ago something that has profoundly changed how I view all such experiences and it was around forgiveness. It took me a long while to incorporate this into my belief systems, because for many years it was just too big of a leap.
It is around the concept of how you come to earth to experience things. And you travel in this soul group, there are members that volunteer to be the catalyst for some of your life experiences. How that person loved you so much, they volunteered to provide either the negative or positive experience required as part of living your purpose here on earth. The author stated that if you can find yourself in this space, then you can honestly say “thank you” for what happened. It incorporates the saying, “life happens for you, not to you.”
What this belief allowed me to see was a different way of looking at what I have experienced in my life. From there I could see how each thing in my life has built upon what was already there. If some of those “steps” had been missing, then I wouldn’t have made it through some of the harder things. It was like I was being trained for an Iron Man – each thing strengthened some part of me. I didn’t see the patterns of strength training being connected, but when I look backwards, I can see how everything is connected.
When you see how everything is connected, what you realize is that removing any piece would cause the whole construct to fall apart. Each piece however painful at the time, was necessary.
When you first start training for an Iron Man, you probably experience sore muscles. You probably received blisters. You experienced the moment when you thought you couldn’t take one more step, and then broke through a barrier and found you could go another mile.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trail and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved – Helen Keller
What if…, every time I experienced a breakdown, I smiled and started celebrating the breakthrough?