Sometimes you have to sit with your feelings- like a child who fell in a mud puddle and just can’t get up because of shock or discomfort, or maybe because their boots are just plain stuck.
Some days falling into grief is just like that, like tripping and falling into a mud puddle that you just didn’t see in the path. Everything can be fine and dandy, strolling down the path, gazing at the clouds, feeling the breeze, breathing in the day. And then there it is, grief settles over your heart, uninvited and unexpected, yet so much a part of who you are that you have no choice but to greet it. You pull up a chair and sit.
Today I had to sit in it. I’m still sitting in it.
This far along the journey, I’ve learned the difference between wallowing, sitting in it, and repressing. I’m trying to make healthy choices for my heart regarding grief and learning these difference has been very important.
Wallowing would be like that same child who fell in the puddle getting so worked up that they dig deep into the mud and bury themselves in it, refusing to look up and out. Wallowing actually sends you digging through the mess looking for anything but the simplicity of sadness. Sadness is just too hard, so we dig down into the mess and try to pull up anger, self-pity, hatred, or a number of other messy feelings. We dig in and point the finger at anything and everything, except that one feeling that has asked us to sit still and feel it- sadness. Wallowing is pinning the blame somewhere else, it prevents us from connecting to our true feelings.
Repressing is like the puddle-stained child jumping up and walking on as if nothing has happened, coming in the front door, dripping with filth and leaving muddy foot prints on the carpet. When asked, “What on earth happened?” The Repressed One will say, “Oh nothing. I’m fine.” Repression is like stuffing the muddy jeans in the laundry hamper, hoping no one will find them; yet when the laundry is done, they have caused a grey, dingy film to settle over the whole load of wash. Repression makes us think we can just push through, ignore, or save it for another day without any effect. Repression is self-destructive avoidance, the opposite of healing.
Sitting in It. I’m learning the power of sitting. Feeling the feelings. Greeting them, “Hello Sadness, I see you, I feel you, I know you. You’re here because of love and so I’m going to sit with you for awhile.” Sitting in that puddle, the feelings touch you, cover you, become part of you for that moment. Here’s what can eventually happen in the powerful place of sitting. You find yourself with an unexpected smile because in spite of the dirty mess, there is something beautiful about this mud puddle. Sadness offers true connection to love. And that is why if you allow yourself to sit, you will rise up out of the puddle, rinse off, and each time carry out of it a little piece of healing. Sitting in it is connection, and connection is what heals.
Slow forward steps to healing and walking into that place of coming alive, only come as was allow ourselves to sit and feel from time to time. Choosing to sit requires coming to the place of releasing fear and embracing the healing work that comes from simply living it. In choosing to sit, we releasing that self-protective desire to repress, and bravely step into that vulnerable place of being. It means releasing our inward and outward pointing finger of judgement, and being willing to meet the true nature of our hearts with grace and love.
In sitting, you might just be on the verge of something. In sitting in the tender place of grief, and truly touching it, there is connection. And through connection to our heart of hearts, there is healing.
Let me leave you with this beautiful text sent to me today by a dear friend:
“This is where tenderness comes in. When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality. There is something tender and throbbing about groundlessness.
It’s a kind of testing, the kind of testing that spiritual warriors need in order to awaken their hearts. Sometimes it’s because of illness or death that we find ourselves in this place……
Things falling apart is kind of a testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen.: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.(9)”
― Pema Chödrön,
So my friends, may you find grace to sit in it. To truly sit still in the midst of grief and allow yourself to venture into the brave and vulnerable place called healing.
If you’ve been in that place of wallowing in it or repressing grief, it’s ok. You need to know what that feels like so that you don’t ever get stuck there for long. You need to realize that there is no reward in staying there. Recognize it, and move forward to that place of restful sitting.
And tonight just know, you are not alone, I am sitting with you.