Getting Back to Normal…Or what now?

The last few weeks I have heard about the untimely deaths of some really good people who were respected, dearly loved and tragically lost.  I also know of several friends and family members who are suffering from cancer, life-changing injuries, illnesses and relationship loss.  This topic has been on my mind as it seems lately that I am hungry for truth. I want to know more and I want to be a better human, mother, sister, daughter and friend.  I also am learning myself the importance of the process and necessity of grieving.

Trying to make sense of the suffering is futile.  There are no answers.  There is no explanation for why.  And so, we grieve quietly and privately and watch those around us grieve without knowing how or what to say to fill the space.  And that is what I think is missing, the disconnect with grieving where we somehow think that it is inconvenient and that we don’t have time to grieve or have to fill the space with empty words, endless activities and an attempt to hurry up the process.  But the truth is we have to just be there in the space.  We have to recognize that we must create the space, and that it can be a space for healing.  As I talked about previously, we were created to lament, to grieve, to feel and be seen in our grief.  Without the acknowledgement and actuality of grief, then we are not able to heal and move forward, forward into the world, without who or what we lost.  And there is no better way for us to grieve than to connect to ourselves and others in the process.

So many thoughts flying through my head…how do we handle grief with friends and family, how do leaders handle grief themselves, and grief within the office with team members?   Simple answer in America – unfortunately, we don’t.  We don’t know how to support those who have suffered loss.  And so stupid things come out of our mouths in an attempt to fix it and make it go away so we can “get back to normal”.  Awkward silences and isolation surround us when in actuality what we need is acknowledgement, recognition of our pain, non-judgmental words of support, authentic presence and time.  That precious word, time.  How are you at just “being with” someone who is grieving?

If we don’t acknowledge the pain and the loss then days, months and years pass and there we are, still trying to pretend we are okay, surrounding ourselves with a big wall meant to protect us.  Our souls ache with unfinished business and we fill up our time and our space with after school activities, jobs and responsibilities to appear “normal” and acceptable to the world around us. And then one day we can’t keep all of the pressure in the pressure cooker and something gives and then we retreat once again into robot world. That wall that we built to stay safe has become a prison and our soul longs to escape. Instead of keeping us safe, it has kept us from living, from thriving, from connecting.

And so, it is necessary to grieve the loss of what was and allow the grief to change us and empower us to move forward.   Healing is possible and joy can be felt again.  The seemingly insurmountable sadness and worry can be defeated with a recognition of what is.  We are all connected in this world and we can bravely move forward toward a new normal.  We can experience meaningful and deep relationships, we can allow ourselves time to be alone, time with our God and time to be with others.

I am not advocating that we have to permanently set up camp in sadness by any means.  Only that we should recognize that it is there, give it our attention instead of ignoring it, and make strides towards processing and healing.  In healing and shining light on loss, we get unstuck and the feeling of lightness is like no other!

And the core of that is connecting to yourself.  And that is where mindfulness comes in.  In the moments where our minds are clear and we are focused on the physical sensations within our body, we can safely and confidently begin to explore our soul’s calling.  Everything we need we already have.  There is not another soul like ours in the Universe.  We were uniquely created to be in this world.  Now, the goal is to recognize the longings of our soul to heal, to shine light on the darkness and replace the pain with strength.

Following my separation and eventual divorce from the father of my two children in 2007, I started a new job, created a new normal for the kids and I and looked around the ranch that I lived on to figure out how in the world I was going to do all of this alone.  I was so confused because I was sad and I just didn’t want to be.  I was finally free of the marriage that had caused me so much pain, but I felt this deep sense of loss.  Now I realize that I was mourning the loss of the relationship.  The loss of the dream of celebrating a 50th anniversary surrounded by grandchildren.  I missed having a husband but I did not miss my husband.

Now, years later, I realize this ranch is what kept me sane.  It’s lovely trees, the quiet breeze, the song of the frogs in the pond and the birds in the trees, the wind chimes and the horses all reminded me to be present.  I was so blessed to be able to come home after a long day at work and be able to go on a walk, recognize the wildflowers blooming, trade snuffles with a horse and realize that I was okay.

Every day, the point that all we have is right here and right now sinks deeper into my mind. Wow, what a freeing moment to let go of the fears of the future, the disappointments of the past and breathe in the fact that right here and right now I am safe and that I am loved.   I spoke to a friend last week and she realized that her relationship with her husband was better when she was herself.  When she was overwhelmed and experiencing hurt feelings, she would pretend everything was okay and her husband would become difficult to get along with.  But when she was authentic in her vulnerability and pain, his nervous system would sense that she was being authentic and his defenses would go down and he would soften in his demeanor and they would once again enjoy time together.

It is vitally important that we discover our true self, because when we are in that moment, when we are not perfect and we are vulnerable and longing to be seen, those around us who love us and to whom we belong, experience the same joy we do because we are feeling an authentic connection with each other. And so, that is where mindfulness, and work within nature and with horses comes into play.  Practicing true connection with self allows for true connection with others. Have you felt connected lately?

For the new mindfulness gurus, set your clock for 5 minutes of contemplative mindfulness three times this week in a place where you will not be disturbed.  Preferably a place with a window to see trees outside, but a closet will do!  Practice emptying your mind, drawing in deep breaths and listening for the beat of your heart.  Each time a thought flies through your mind, gently push it aside and go back to breathing.  This is a great exercise to do after prayer or meditation, because it allows for processing and answers to questions.

Mindfulness gurus, have you been able have a mindful walk lately?  With the weather bringing sunshine, take at short walk feeling the ground beneath your feet, imagine what is underneath the surface of the ground, how the roots of the grass and trees are woven together with the soil and the rock.  Imagine how many others have walked there before you and what their eyes saw and ears heard…