It's been two years since we began to deal with what would become a world wide pandemic with far reaching and life threatening repercussions. We're still in it, spiraling in its wake that shapes and molds our ability to understand and react to the forces that structure our daily life.
I've begun to see the way that we deal with this as similar to the way in which we deal with other trauma, or to challenging events outside our control that force us to accept, hold, manage and integrate it's meaning and function. At the core, there is grief, lots of grief; deep, profound grief that can be potentially transformed to tenderly temper and shield the loneliness with wisdom and kindness. This process, however universal, does not follow a linear progression and it is as unique as our own life. This grief becomes known to us at our own pace, our own tempo. It may become visible to us in a great big boom kinda way, or it may be felt subtly but persistently until our attention is grasped. Either way, grief can sometimes feel like a current, a deep stream/river running underneath the ground, at times it can inundate our functioning with a torrential flood, but most of the time we can feel its movement running underneath it all, its sound perceived only by us.
Before the grief, however, there's the freezing, (and i'm grouping all actions, the fleeing, the fighting under this description) the part of the experience that was involved in the defense, that was poised to absorb the shock of the situation, that had to figure things out. The freezing comes first, it gathers and holds, it shuts out the dispensable parts that could distract from the survival action, that could weaken (or so it believes) our response to the perceived danger, so it is shut down, frozen shut in fact. It is such an important part in our survival, there's a dissociation of sorts that stops the leaks into and from the feeling parts, because it fears the feeling parts would interfere with what's needed, with the action needed to move through difficult and challenging situations intact. Such brilliance in this action, can you see it? such deep intelligence coded into our survival mechanisms. The survival action, which at this moment I'm calling freezing can have many forms, it can seem cold, or hot, empty or full, it can leave or takes charge, it can speak or stay quite in order to process and take the action that feels necessary. Can you see the value of this? I invite you to notice this mechanism in you and to notice it with tenderness, no matter which it's manner of expression.
Once the perceived danger has passed, the freezing begins to thaw. Imagine the freezing as a firm response to life's challenges, frozen in space and time, holding the patterns our systems felt necessary for survival that can now retreat and relax. The thawing, however, allows the feeling parts to come online, to begin to assess the changes, the loss, the opportunities not taken as well as the choices made. With this thawing the grief begins. The feeling parts begin to notice the emotional material that was held in the freezing and that now as it melts begin to take shape, can be seen, heard, felt. In my opinion, this is when the real work begins, when the realization of what's happened and our own placement within it begins to be understood and integrated. Experiencing this grief is of most importance. I feel that it is through our connection, understanding and compassion with this grief, that the events, however disruptive and the action taken finds its meaning, that whatever happened can find a place amongst the pantheon of our learning and strengthening experiences.
Learning to find and implement gratitude for this grief (that comes with the thawing, and puts us in touch with our feelings, with the loss and the new landscapes of our lives) can be seen as an opportunity to grow stronger and to gain confidence in our ability to move through life. Gratitude can be implemented in many ways, as simply as telling yourself and the parts of you that found the courage to take action and the parts of you that are dealing with the grief how grateful you are for them all, how it is all welcomed, anchored and loved. Life will continue to provide us with destabilizing experiences, but our response can grow kinder, softer, stronger when we respond to grief with gratitude.