Grief is one of the most humbling and challenging experiences we go through as human beings. It is also one of the most transformative. Grief changes us; we are no longer the people we were before that loss. We see through new eyes. Since grief works so deeply and slowly within our psyches, we often need inspiration to stay with the process of healing.
When we stay with this process for as long as it takes to heal, we tap deep resources from within that enable us to emerge from that dark night of grief with more expansion, courage, connection, and empowerment than we ever could have imagined.
In healing my own grief and working with grieving clients, I’ve observed four important qualities that grief activates in us, qualities that are actually the gifts of grief. Whenever you need a boost of inspiration to keep you going on your healing journey, you may want to refer back to these qualities—they might be showing up very subtly at first. Gradually you’ll start to see them take root in your life. That’s when you realize you’ve been transformed through grief.
Here are four gifts that grief often provides:
Grief expands us. In early stages it opens us inward to new depths and later opens us outward to new vistas. We may start the grieving process by contracting, pulling our energy deep inside (like the trees in winter), but as we heal we start to realize how much more there is to life, that we have been living a limited portion of all the possibilities inherent in this magnificent and mysterious universe.
It takes tremendous courage to face our grief, to turn toward it and embrace the full experience of devastating loss. Grief brings us to our knees. Most of my clients are at first intimidated by the power of grief but find that they can grieve without feeling overwhelmed. This takes courage and it builds confidence– confidence in our capacity to embrace the exquisite beauty and sorrow of being fully alive.
Grief can be a profoundly lonely time. It is a common experience for friends and colleagues not to show up and give us the support we need. Indeed grief rewrites our address books. However our grief can open the way for new connections—deeper, richer relationships with people who understand what we are going through and who support us by being fully present, without trying to fix us.
As grief shakes up our lives, it forces us to reevaluate what’s really important in life. Grief then calls on us to recreate our lives in a way that incorporates these new perspectives and values. From this new foundation, energy begins to return and we feel empowered to act.
As you tap into deep inner resources in your journey through grief, you gain access to the strength, vision and purpose to make a difference with your life. That empowers you. A few years after the devastating death of her young son, one of my clients shared with me that she now knew her purpose in life. With her face aglow, she announced: “My purpose is to experience compassion, no matter where I am.”
When she walks down a street, she looks at everyone with compassion—she recognizes that all these people have experienced loss and grief in their own ways. Her grief has empowered her to move through life with compassion in her heart.