"Grief is the sound of being alive."
- Martin Prechtel
Before the pandemic, many of my clients were encountering thresholds in their life and were responding with curiosity to develop new ways of being within their current contexts. We’d examine the dynamics of their current situation, uncover where they were and where they most wanted to be. This ‘gap’ would reveal possibilities to us, we’d lean into developing new capacities and skills. Our coaching process would unfold a journey of becoming with an aim to create lasting change and enact more mature capacities for leading and having skillful impacts in these times.
I am beginning to see my coaching service in a different light. During this pandemic time, coaching sessions are often centered around working directly with change, loss and life transitions. These heart-centered thresholds raise a different set of questions: how do we grieve well, how can we be with the incalculable losses of this time? Being with loss, being with uncertainty, being with change in service of meeting our lives fully is our opportunity. We are focusing on being rather than on becoming.
During the pandemic, we have encountered unprecedented change and we’ve had to stretch to cope with the upheavals and uncertainties of the last year. We are encountering change and losses of all kinds. For some clients, their loss has been the change of reliable and well-formed daily routines and rituals, for others it has been the loss of a job and a professional identity, for others it has been encountering the devastation of losing a family member, or several, to the virus. Some clients are experiencing the heartbreak of attending a loved one’s funeral through a computer screen. Others are metabolizing the loss of a home or entire property due to climate related disasters, others mourning the lives of those taken too soon, and unjustly. My clients are colliding into moments that require their grace, grit, and heart. To meet our lives, and meet the upheaval and disruptions of this time, something more is required of us.
We have to learn how to grieve well. I believe that we have a natural instinct for grief and grieving, but it hasn’t been cultivated in our culture or family systems. In our society, we have been taught how to acquire, whether it is material possessions, a promotion, or followers on social media, but we are not taught how to let go of what we love. We also cannot do this work of grieving alone.
To support my clients' encounter with loss and change, we almost always pose some central questions: can we deepen our hearts from our losses in order to become even more capable of meeting our lives fully? What are life-sustaining ways to navigate through crisis, change and loss? How do we grieve well and continue on through these unrelenting, ever-changing times?
Entering the ocean of our pain is the starting place, we begin here, close in, with whatever is present in our hearts. Grief work is always heart work. And, acknowledging that our hearts are broken requires courage. Grieving well requires that we open our numb, disconnected or overwhelmed hearts to the gravity of grief, and eventually surrender to the tidal force that will take us under into the watery depths.
As we wade into our grief, we can be supported by learning both active strategies and practices of surrender. In grief work, we develop strategies to work with the body, the breath and the mind because grief is so heavy and visceral. It is understandable to avoid our deep pain by collapsing, becoming numb, or distracting ourselves in the face of intense emotions, so we move slowly.
We learn how to surrender to the fierce, unrelenting, and unexplainable aspects of experiencing loss. This courage to surrender is especially important, because grief can be completely immune to our best efforts; grief won’t allow itself to be fixed, forced away, muscled through or solved. We begin to gain intimacy with the wisdom of our whole hearts: we can be open hearted, closed hearted, full hearted, cold hearted, broken hearted, hopeful hearted - sometimes all at once as we grieve. Some clients begin to see that their hearts can be present to deep pain in a way that our minds cannot.
As we invite change and loss to become our teachers, somehow we arrive in our lives, or at least in this moment, more fully. We see that even in the wake of darkness, as poet laureate Amanda Gorman says, “There is always light, if only we're brave enough to see, if only we're brave enough to be it.” When we discover that loss is a constant in our lives, we see that we will lose everything we love. Grieving can initiate us into a wholehearted relationship to our lives and show us the dignity and humanity in each of us. We learn how to experience our broken hearts and emerge as someone who is more whole, more courageous, and more vulnerable in the face of our ever-changing and precious lives.
If you are ready to join me in a coaching process or to learn more about how this work can support you, please reach out here. We will work together to deepen capacities to relate with your experience of change, loss or transition and we will uncover a wholehearted you.
I’m sharing a reflection practice to support your reflection around loss and love. I’d recommend taking some time with this (no scrolling or clicking away to another distraction)!
Download your free practice here.