Everyone has experienced it. If you’re like me, you’re great at attempting to avoid it, numb it, pretend that it’s not as big as it is.
There is the obvious grief when someone dies or something catastrophic happens.
But the grief I’m talking about today is the grief of what could be, what “should have been,” and grief of a dream that didn’t happen.
There is collective grief in the US and in my experience, t’s been really loud for the last 3.5 years.
Another layer of grief when Warren, one of the female presidential candidates, just announced that she was leaving the race.
A client shared with me that it feels like Warren was erased, which triggers her own erasure as a woman.
(This article is NOT about who you vote for or which candidate is the best and any such comments will be deleted.)
This is about collective grief when a possibility dies – when something that we believe in is over.
Another example of this is when a relationship is complete and even though it’s a good move to create a better future, there is grief of what could have been or what you had visioned it would be.
Grief and Our Body
I’ve been working with a mentor about untangling my inherent value from diet culture, which has many layers including the obvious of thinness = better, but also how diet culture also perpetuates white supremacy.
If you’re immediately thinking, “Oh here we go again,” or, “What? That’s ridiculous,” then I ask you to simply pause and be open to any thread of truth in here for you.
The reason I mention this is last week, I hit a wall with my own journey of body inclusivity – about being inclusive of MY body.
I was conflicted about my desire to release weight and questioning where that was coming from. Was it diet culture conditioning or is my body asking for something different? How do I be in this inquiry without judgment?
Can I have both the desire to release weight and still be a supporter and voice in the body positivity movement?
Then a colleague talked to me about body grief.
“Have you grieved,” she asked?
What is there to grieve? And then I got it.
Have I grieved the decade that I abused my body with bulimia and binge eating? The decades I’ve spent judging my body? Judging food? Decades of time and energy sacrificed for diet culture?
Have I grieved that I will never have a body that I’ve seen as the standard of beauty since I was a child: tall, very thin, prominent cheekbones, a hollow jaw, long, silky smooth hair, flawless skin…
(If you’re wondering where white supremacy comes into the picture of diet culture, the images we are shown of beautiful and good bodies are predominantly white. If you are totally triggered by what I’m saying, take a breath and be open to educating yourself about this.)
As I sat with all of this, I saw how this lack of acknowledgment of grief kept me in a cycle of pushing my body to do things and this dilutes my productivity, creativity, and ultimately leads to burnout on some level.
This impacts my business.
Grief in Our Business
Within 24 hours of my own discovery of my body grief, a few clients expressed grief about their business.
What it could have been. What it should be. The money they “lost” on programs and ideas that flopped.
They were in a grief cycle of their own about a dream they had and it hasn’t actualized. Grief at how long it has taken to get where they are and that they are finally seeing progress. The grief of, “Shouldn’t it have happened sooner?”
We have to ask ourselves why we have these expectations of where we should be.
Just like the diet culture, we have the slick Facebook ads and people boasting about how they made a million dollars from their last event, the branded lifestyle shoots, which is all saying, “This is what success looks like and see, look how fast I did it!”
We have to look beyond this illusion at what’s real:
- This takes time.
- Putting our work into the world confronts everything we thought we know about ourselves, our abilities, and what we think is possible. This can be intense work.
- We never know the whole picture of someone’s success.
Yet… we hold ourselves to these impossible and unrealistic standards.
We don’t allow ourselves the space to feel the grief when this shit gets hard. Or when our personal lives need healing. When our kids get hurt. When our hearts hurt. When we are advocating for social justice in addition to working our business to create the future our desire and how sometimes it’s just exhausting. The grief of “are we really doing enough?”
While it’s wonderful to be positive and to focus on what you DO want and not what you don’t want, this grief will bubble up in unsuspecting ways:
Right when we are ready to launch something, that voice that says, “I can’t handle another disappointment,” or “What if this never works?”
Or, “What if I really just don’t have what it takes?”
Or it shows up in messaging that is focused on proving our value and that proving energy is a repellant to ideal clients.
Or it erodes at our ability to trust ourselves because if we can’t trust ourselves to not fall into the abyss of grief, then how can we trust ourselves with our marketing, or who to hire, or our pricing?
This is usually unconscious. Sometimes we are aware of the depth this plays out in our life and business, but that’s hindsight for you, right?
For those of us who are in the personal development world, doing things to shift our mindset is a natural reaction to when things are hard. The tendency is to not acknowledge the grief but override it with:
- Working harder
- Hiring another coach
- Getting yet another certification
- Being more visible because we should be
- Pushing through it
Just like in mainstream media that tells us:
- This pill will fix everything
- I have the answer – just pay me $$ and I’ll tell you how to fix your brokenness.
So now that we’re aware this is happening, what now?
How to We Be With Our Grief While Consciously Creating What We Desire
I don’t have all of the answers and here are some things that have worked for me. Borrow these tools, adjust them, create your own.
1. Acknowledge the grief.
Acknowledging grief doesn’t lead to spiraling into the dark abyss of depression.
I see that those of us who are in this world of personal development think we’re not enlightened if we have moments of feeling crappy, grief, anxiety, depression, etc.
I know that when I feel grief, I fear that it will take over and so I am tempted to run the other direction.
But. It. always. Shows. Up. Somewhere.
Or it morphs into something else that we’ll have to deal with at some point.
Acknowledging it can be as simple as saying to yourself or someone else, “Wow, I’m feeling grief right now. I’m feeling sad because…” and simply letting yourself feel it.
Allow yourself to be seen and heard in your experience.
Talk therapy may be a great fit. Talking with a counselor or a coach may also help. Talking with friends in a safe environment may also be beneficial.
2. Take up space
Be with it. Cancel plans if you need to instead of putting on the happy face. Allow yourself to feel it. And you’re not too much or too sensitive or too anything.
3. Acknowledge Your Progress
If you’ve had experiences with dark times in your life, the advice to take up space with our grief can be terrifying.
“I don’t want to feel that again,” is what goes through my head when I think about those hard times.
And then I breathe.
And then I recognize that I got through it. I have more tools now. I know how to ask for support now. I know I’m a powerful creator of my reality.
I look for evidence of what I’ve overcome and accomplished. It gives me something to be grateful for.
It’s like an anchor in the sea of grief. I know I’m not going to get lost in the grief. But I am willing to let it flow through me and I’m willing to feel it.
4. You Are Not Your Emotions
What you feel is not who you are. You can feel grief and still be a strong, powerful creator of your reality.
5. You’re Probably an Empath
Hello, dear Empath, I’m Angella and we’re kindred spirits.
If you don’t relate with this one, perhaps this acknowledgment is for someone you know so it’s still helpful to read.
An empath is someone who senses, perceives and feels everything around them.
Why is this important?
We have to acknowledge that everything we are feeling is not ours, even if it feels like it is. We are sponges that have picked up things from everything and everyone around us.
The typical tool for empaths is to imagine yourself in a coconut shell where nothing gets in. Or block people’s energy to protect yourself.
If that strategy works for you, cool! But it never worked for me.
What I do instead is expand my energy farther outside my body – wayyyyyyy farther.
Don’t try to contain your soul within your body. Your soul/spirit/aura (call it what you want to call it) is much bigger than just your body.
When I take up more energetic space this way, I have more of me available. I’m not trying to shrink or block energy, which is exhausting and in my experience a very ineffective way to cope.
Take up more space with your energy. This helps things flow through your space and not flow INTO you and get stuck in your body.
6. Take Care of Your Body
The other tool I use here is I pat my body and say, “Hey sweet body, you don’t have to have the world’s energy flow through you anymore as a way to heal it. That’s not your job. Thank you for being so aware. I love you. Let it all go now, please.”
And knowing that my body holds a lot of energy, which isn’t always mine, movement is important. And I’ve really been enjoying acupuncture lately, too.
If funds are an issue and things like acupuncture or getting a massage are out of your reach, do what you can with the time and resources you have. Take a quick walk on your lunch break. Feel the sun on your face for a few minutes.
Sometimes I’ll lay on my office floor and breathe for five minutes. Putting my feet up on my chair while I’m laying down also helps when I’m experiencing anxiousness.
There is so much more I can share and maybe this will be part of my book. For now, notice where you’re triggered with anything I’ve shared. And just be with it.
You don’t have to agree with or relate to any of it.
Notice where you may have some unacknowledged grief and just be with it.
Talk to a friend who has your back – someone who listens well and sees your wholeness through these experiences.
And together, we keep doing our inner work. We keep shining. We rest. We rise. We grieve. We show up when we’re able to.
And please wash your hands. (Just a little Coronavirus acknowledgment here.)