I didn’t know until recently that I had an ongoing relationship with grief that went way beyond the people I was aware of who had passed away. I was born to a very loving Mom who lost her first born child after experiencing several miscarriages. Grief and loss, fear and worry were woven into the fabric of my every day life, long before I could wrap words around it. I knew at age nine when my parents’ divorce hit, and I was mandated to see many counselors that I wanted to become a therapist who understood and loved people through their darkness in a way that made sense to ME, instead of from a very removed state of mind. These deep wounds as a child, being surrounded by raw grief daily and taking it all in without a filter allowed me to become a heart-centered person who loves working with people in the thick of it. I don’t shy away from the hard stuff, and this has changed my life. Learn more about Julie and her therapy practice by visiting her website.
Coming home from a weeklong retreat is always an emotional challenge for me.
“Re-entry” is what it’s referred to.
It starts the moment when I cross over Mt. Tamalpais, and the phone lights up with all of the messages I’ve missed while cut off from civilization.
It’s being asked what’s for dinner and being told of the dysfunction that occurred while I was away, the moment I set foot in the house.
It’s walking into a house that hasn’t been deep cleaned while I was gone, and my body physically retracting from the mess.
It’s dragging my bags upstairs, forcing myself into workout clothes and making my body — which is definitely a little heavier from being fed so well — go immediately to the gym because I know that’s a huge part of my coming back process.
It’s feeling disconnected from the loved ones around me because I have changed, and they have not, and we are not on the same playing field.
And all of that is manageable and to be expected … but the part that really gets me is when the hurt comes back. When the circumstances I got to physically escape while away all come violently rushing back in to my heart and awareness.
I got an extra dose of that on my return this go round. And don’t hear me wrong, please — these are first world problems. I’m lucky I got to go on a retreat, that I can afford to, that I have the support to, and I’m not complaining. I know I’m lucky to have my life, my problems, my people, my home, etc. I’m thankful for all of these things, but it doesn’t take away that it still effing hurts when one of the issues I went to the grief retreat to work on and felt so bolstered about when coming home raked its hurtful claws over a very tender heart.
I was so hopeful while at the beach, really feeling like things were turning around with this certain painful issue. I was tapped into solutions there and patience and 21 other humans full of vulnerability. We all held space for each other, cried hard together, listened to and saw inside one another, and I felt invincible, like everything was going to go my way and work itself out sooner than later.
When I was tired, I would sleep. When I was hungry, I was fed. When I was sad, I cried. When I needed comfort, someone was there. When I wanted coffee, it was hot and fresh. When I needed to be alone, I went to the beach. When I needed to process and be inspired, I went to class.
But as we were reminded before going home, life is not a retreat. Which is why I need retreats.
So I can yell “Retreat!!!”, and call my troops, my resources of heart/mind/body back to a place that is free from the war and gunfire of everyday life that can lie dormant or rageful inside of each human being.
Last night, when the emotional gunfire came through on my phone, I had no armor on like I usually do, and those words pierced right through the thin lining of my heart wall and smack into the most tender place where my hope center is located, and it obliterated it. I cried like I haven’t cried in a while. My honey comforted me. And then I went to take my contacts out, and I ended up in a ball on the bathroom floor, wrapping my arms around myself and rocking while repeating, “This is just a moment, and it will pass. You are strong, and you are okay,” just as I’d advised a client to do earlier in the day.
They taught us a word at the retreat. Endure. That you can’t take the grief away or make it better for yourself or anyone else.
What can you do when there is nothing to be done?
We can endure.
I went back into my room last night, and the dog was there. I laid down beside her, and she placed her nose against mine. This is how we do kisses because she knows I don’t like to be licked on my mouth. She kept moving in closer and smelling me, smelling my eyes. She loves salt. Then she very gently licked the tears off my cheeks. And I didn’t stop her. She placed her paw directly on my heart and laid across from me with her eyes wide open staring deep down into me. Jenay knows how to help my family endure all of the pain that is locked inside each of us due to severe loss.
When I felt better, I got up and went to bed.
As always, things seem slightly improved when the sun shows up the next day. It’s harder to hold on during the long, dark night that can seem endless when you are in pain and alone.
It is a new day. The burden is still heavy. but I will earn to endure it.
Jenay was there this morning when I came downstairs to have my coffee, and she did all of her things to love me, comfort me and make me laugh.
The house is quiet now, and everyone is gone. It’s been cleaned and not by me. Fresh flowers adorn the table. The sun is up and shining, and I am right here, right now, enduring the best way I know how.
Please be kind to yourself and one another. The last thing any of us needs is emotional warfare. We are all capable of enduring and enduring with grace — even if we don’t think the other person deserves it. Consider doing it simply because it’s the right thing to do.
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