I recently learned that Omega Institute, a magical retreat and education center where I’ve volunteered the past two seasons, is not opening this year. Like so many around the world, friends from Omega have lost jobs, six-month homes many were counting on moving into this week, a conscious community that for some provided their greatest sense of family and so much more. But due to grief comparison, a few friends are not feeling their losses.
So this one goes out to my Omegan Omies, and anyone else who has recently lost a way of life and/or has been thrown into an unwelcome unknown and doesn’t know how, or where, to land.
How quickly we open to our next chapters is largely contingent upon how fully we can be present in the space between them, a period which involves being compassionate with ourselves and fully experiencing our feelings. The more we can let go of what was, with trust that something that matches who we have become will emerge, the easier the new can find us.
There are many things that can prevent this natural process, especially during times of collective crises. I’ll share more in future posts, but to start:
Grief Comparison and Minimization
There is a natural grieving process associated with losing jobs, homes, ways of life, and sometimes even our identities, which can become quite entwined with these externals. Especially when we experience several of these simultaneously, it can feel like a death, and in a sense, it is. It’s the death of the part of ourselves that is based in attachments, and needs the roles that we play to know who we are. It’s the part that needs external circumstances to look a certain way in order to feel safe, peaceful and content.
In normal times, or as close as any of us come to them, it’s a bit easier to be present with these “lesser” losses, because we are not judging our feelings against what other people are going through. During times like this, that can be a lot harder.
My heart goes out deeply to all who are experiencing the loss of loved ones or are going through traumatic experiences. And it also goes out to those who are not allowing themselves to experience the depths of your feelings, due to the fact that your abrupt losses are of a different variety. If you fall into the latter category, there might be a tendency to minimize your losses and turn the volume down on emotions that are begging to express, and release, through you.
Grief comparison is a waste of suppressed feelings. You’re not going to relieve someone else’s grief by refusing to feel your own.
I remember struggling with this in the days and months after 9/11. My brother, a New York City firefighter, walked out of one of the lesser known towers minutes before it collapsed, but close friends lost family members that day. I had lost people I cared about, but no one I was extremely close with. As I watched my friends and brother buckle under the overwhelm of trauma and painful emotions, I wondered, “Who am I to feel so sad?”
Two decades ago, I lacked the understanding that the feelings that kick up are exactly the ones that are meant to, and they are relative to us, not what anyone else is or isn’t going through. Having a pulse was all I needed to qualify me for feeling sadness at that time.
Not only was I tapping into the collective pain of those around me, and even strangers around the world, but I also had unprocessed grief to contend. My cherished dad had passed suddenly a few years prior, an event which set me on course to help others but not myself. My pain much higher than my capacity to handle it so I did what so many of us do in situations like that: everything in my power to escape it.
Grief doesn’t magically disappear when we push it down. It stays lodged in our bodies and energy systems until it’s met with our acknowledgement, love and compassion.
Even if your greatest losses of this era have been things like not being able to meet friends for dinner at a favorite restaurant, it’s okay to feel whatever kicks up. If you’ve hit the same pause button on your feelings that these times have on our world, it’s time to find the play button again. Remember to belly breathe into any emotions that are painful. I’ve shared that post again below in case you missed it.
I will be posting more practices this month, some of which I’ve been recently blessed to learn from my extraordinarily brilliant and amazing teacher, Dr. Sue Morter. More on them, and her, soon!
With free flowing love,