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The Uninvited Guest: Conversations with Grief

A solitary, cobweb-laden chair in a dimly lit, dusty room, symbolizing the unattended grief mentioned in the blog post.
An unoccupied seat, filled with memories and dust - a symbol of grief that waits to be acknowledged.

I hate the hard days. The days where grief comes in and sits at the table with you and starts taking up space. It’s so disorienting. It feels like you enter this desolate unknown territory of your soul and there it sits…. what is usually just an empty chair filled with fuzzy cobwebs is now holding court with this confusing loneliness just staring you down.

There is not much to do on these days. There is only the invitation to acknowledge that you are in the solitude of a flowing river that is going to take you somewhere you’d rather not go. It is usually anchored pretty steadily to the moor but on these days- it wants to set sail. It wants to leave the harbor and move through the murky waters of despair.

It doesn’t necessarily ask your permission. It just starts pushing you from within. It leans into you- pressuring you to recognize its force. There is a wave of resistance that begins to mount- trying to push back against the darkness. You begin to look for distractions, for activities, for any kind of motion that will take you away from the pain.

Yet the pain quietly sits there and begins to taunt you… " Trying to run away from me again- eh? We’ve played this game before. You know how this goes…..I always win.”

I wonder out loud- “what do you want from me? Why can’t you just leave me the freak alone? I don’t want you around here- you ruin everything. I’ve worked really hard to avoid and numb you- to silence you into submission but you always show up unannounced, uninvited and barge right in. I hate you.”

Pain responds with a callous dismissal- “I don't care what you want. I’m in charge here and I call the shots. You can fight me all you want but I’ll just keep hanging around and filling your headspace with that same monotonous reel of regurgitating thoughts. You know the routine- that stinking thinking of abandonment, rejection, loneliness, and the familiar waif of emptiness added in.

I sit at the table with it and just decide to let myself feel its presence. I get really really tired. I feel this weird heavy aching in my bones. I notice I have this kind of unsettled yucky sensation in my stomach that is a mix of nausea and hollowness. Part of me wants to run yet I am so tired that I can't move. I want to cry and let the door open to get the grief out but I don’t have tears. It is just a quiet dismal grey fog that wraps itself around me in an obtrusive way.

So I sit and don't move. I lay on the couch. I fall asleep. I wake up. I feel like I have lead weights in my body. It's very hard to move.

As I stare into space, I begin to notice that I am not drowning in the sea of the torrents of despair but am able to notice it without letting it take the lead. I am still feeling it viscerally in my body but my heart space is beginning to shift every so slightly. I am actually not consumed by it- but using my will to let it be present with me.

I decide to tell it- “you can sit here in that chair across from me- but you cant talk. And another thing- I will decide when its time for you to go.”

As we sit there in silence together- I start to hear my neighbor out back playing with his dog. He claps his hands. The dog barks. I hear him laughing and the dog running through the yard with him. I hear my other neighbors' children the next yard over laughing and squealing as children do- playing tag and chasing each other. I hear their excitement and frivolity as they enjoy the freedom of being a child.

I decide to get up and go water the flowers in my garden. I tell grief- “I’ll be right back- You can stay or come with me- but you’re not allowed to talk.”

It decides to accompany me outside. I turn on the hose and feel the rush of water as I place my thumb on the nozzle to spray and direct the water. It's cool, fluid, and moving and I actually enjoy standing there giving my plants, flowers, and trees a drink of water. It is a very simple act- just watering the plants in my garden but it is grounding me in some very real and tangible way.

I notice that the pain is starting to get lighter, more loose, and malleable. I don't know how these things happen. I just know that something is shifting inside of me and I have participated with that shift.

I am reminded of the words of Viktor Frankl in Mans Search for Meaning….

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

“There were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you become the plaything to circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity.”

I have offered myself the gift of my own autonomy. I am sad, I am hurting, I am off balanced. Yet, I am claiming my ability to navigate this grief on my terms. I am speaking truth to the darkness and taking back my reins. I will call the shots- not grief. I will direct the sails- not pain. I will stand in my own suffering- and not allow it to be overwhelmed by despair.

About the author:

Bev Gorman
Bev Gorman, RN, Life Coach, Enneagram Teacher

Bev is a Registered Nurse, Health Coach, and Riso-Hudson Certified Enneagram Teacher through the Enneagram Institute. She's also a professional member of the International Enneagram Association.

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