Throughout our lives we continuously hold the potential for growth, for physical expression and unseen expansion. There are distinct milestones we all find ourselves crossing which leave us feeling forever changed, awash in the reality that we can never go back. New knowledge, life being birthed upon, within, or from us; a death close to heart or materializing internal. Let us pause to consider them as the same experience by a different name or emotional impact. For any event marked by change, there is the death of our former version of experience, and, in the same, a birth of new life in it’s wake. We may get even more nuanced and include the changing of the seasons, turning of the months, the passing of weeks, or every single day we manage to wake up alive. Change will always present us with choices, offering an oppurtunity made manifest to accept growth, allow expression and enact expansion.
To zoom out a moment, we see this cycle of death and birth in every thing, experience and process imaginable, in all of existence. Consider it, literally the expansive ALL of it, mimicking this same rhythm. Scaling to size, we as humans are far from excluded here. In fact, we are finely tuned to this rhythm to our very core. Further, as emotional creatures, grief will always mark the central turning point for any sorrowful, or blissful, or necissary change. For what was, can no longer be. True to the old addage “the only way forward is through,” we must mourn what has been lost to establish our way forward or have forward thrust upon us. From our just mourning we may journey over time, to meet our selves again. There we learn to apply our experience, all that we have gained and lost, to feed this new reality. Deeper, to build trust in our relationship with this new self, and allow our imaginations to dream of the future with acceptance.
Let’s zoom in: I did not want to, but I knew I could not carry my smoking habit through my 30’s. Now, let me tell you, I loved cigarettes. I won’t romanticize here, but it was my favorite addiction. A form of meditative behavior; reliable, predictable, relatable even, a kind of intimacy I shared with my self. With such a long love affair with the nicotine sticks, it was important to me that I did not quit by replacing it with another unhealthy habit. I desired to allow my body the time to detach, through a long, slow letting go, and intentional changes. I eventually chose to replace them with healthier, lung-related habits I enjoy, like deep breathing and nature walks. For about a year it worked as planned, but there was still this lingering urge whenever I saw one. So, I took the time to grieve this as a great loss, and honor by ritual the relationship with this habit I adored since I was just 17. Ultimately, I had to acknowledge that I could be MAD about quitting for the rest of my life if I desired to, and that didn’t change the reality that I had to let it go. Feeling the emotions move in my body, acknowledging them as anger, deeper as sorrow, in having to choose between my own health and something that I loved; and being really proud of myself for making such a change. By physically feeling all of these emotions in my body, I could understand them as truths existing in my reality, and give my self grace as I processed their contradictions. There was never one big, momentous turning point. By intentional action and soft, loving reminders, slowly over time the new memory formed. One day, I don’t know when, the emotional attachment to the old reality was gone, beyond the physical change, and the new reality was stable. Here, I could then meet my self, simply, as someone who does not smoke cigarettes.
I chose this anecdote because it is a non-traumatic experience. It serves us to describe how elaborately grief permiates our lives. So much of the time we are deep in the middle of traumatic grief processing while actively learning how to process, even recognize, our grief. Most of us are not equiped to sort through how deeply nuanced the grief experience really is, let alone from the middle of a new emotional pit; it’s fucking dark in there. For the subtle reality, like my cigarettes, so much of our grief goes unrecoginzed. In our unknowing, this usually means we remain isolated from community, likely even, not realizing we are healing through a form of grief at all. By recoginzing grief in our lived, even daily experience, we begin to practice acceptance and awareness of its natural participation in our life. We may then learn to accept contradictory truths, provide ourselves the kind of support we really need, and express all of our emotions fully.
Expression is a necessary key to expansion. For it is by internal expansion we are able to carry the weight of our grief through the next phases of our life. You see, our grief does not ‘go away’ with time, no matter how powerfully we wish and will. The love for who, what or when we are grieving will forever remain a part of us, and this is a beautiful thing, or could be, with time. It does not mean the weight of change is not heavy, we simply establish new muscles to carry it. Like a tree keeps growing after a limb has fallen, we too will always grow. The reality is, sometimes we grow into someone we don’t yet recognize. To witness the unknown as part of ourself, and further to remember what caused such transformation can be terrifying. Many of us will avoid expansion entirely in fear of meeting ourselves in the unknown. The challenge truly is, to not turn away from our self in such states. To meet who we are through any change with love, to make choices for our life becoming, and decide, for ourselves, how we wish to carry our grief. By practice, we may recognize our unique emotional expression in real time, and be equipped with the sustainable strength to keep going, growing, and beyond.