Grief is not just the mourning of a loved one who has passed. It is a regular part of life, sometimes even a daily occurrence. For a birth to occur, the pregnancy must end. For a new day to begin, the sun must set. Grief naturally follows loss; if is part of the process of living but if left unattended, can play havoc with one’s life. There are nine losses identified on the Circle of Loss, nine ways in which grief can arise. In the center of the circle lies the death of a loved one. Death is the most devastating of all losses.
THE CIRCLE OF LOSS
In the South sits the loss of emotional identity, security, and acceptance. This is the first loss we experience when as a child we deny our true self in order to fit in with the expectations of our caregivers. We usually gain in maturity when we experience and reflect upon these types of losses.
The Southwest is where we defeat the enemy within to open our eyes to how life could be interpreted in new ways. In so doing, our old belief systems perish and we grieve for that loss. We have gained insight and clarity. As a result, we will have better judgment and acquired skills to help us make better assessments in the future. Nonetheless, in so doing, our old belief systems perish and we grieve for that loss.
It is in the West that we experience a loss of health. Sickness, disease, accidents and aging are western losses. Remember, the west is the place of the physical body. When we experience a western loss we gain a better understanding of the physical body. Addictions are held in the west and are said to be caused by doubt. This could be a doubt in one’s own abilities or the love of another. There are many ways for doubt to manifest.
When we experience a change in job, career, social status or economic class we have experienced a loss in the Northwest. Even if the change is positive, there will be grief. This is a loss of a consistent behavior or pattern in our life. When we have mastered this loss we will have created a pattern of correcting our own course in life. This is the direction of overcoming addictions.
A loss in the North is seen as the death of the core belief system in order to evolve to a new one. It is a change in one’s perception of reality and can bring about great excitement and energy but there will also be a sense of loss and grief. When the grief is dealt with successfully one discovers a strengthening of character and a gaining of a better understanding of one’s meaning and purpose in life.
It is in the Northeast that we mourn the loss of the carefree fun time we had to shed when we necessarily assumed the role of a leader. It is also where we delegate and change our plans with others which will result in a loss of our original design and we mourn the loss of the original plan. It is here that we face the fact that some people will not like us for the authoritarian roles we must assume. Better agreements and partnerships can be gained from these losses.
The East is where we experience the loss of a lover and romantic partner. This is a common loss to be experienced again and again as we move through life. Even when one has made a life-long commitment there will be a loss insofar as one person will usually die before the other. When we have conquered this loss we will have gained freedom.
When we change our mind we must abandon our old way of thinking. This is the gift of the Southeast. When we let go of what no longer “grows corn” for us, we change the way we view things outside ourselves but more importantly we change the way we view ourselves. When we gain authority over ourselves we will experience grief over the fact others cannot do everything for us anymore. We may have enjoyed having others do things for us, but now we must assume responsibility. In exchange for letting others fix our problems for us, we gain strength, independence, and maturity.
One of the biggest disservices we do to ourselves is to not allow ourselves to feel emotions and properly process them in our mind. If we don’t give ourselves permission to be sad over losses it can become very difficult to move forward. To deny a loss is to stop our evolution. When we do not take time to acknowledge our disappointments they can build, like the fictional bank account to which we keep adding. One day our sadness may overcome us and all of the grief we have been ignoring may flood throughout. This can be overwhelming and make us feel like we are stuck in our emotions. In fact, we are stuck. So many people prefer to not allow themselves fully to feel the depth of their emotions but this is setting them up for the very thing they fear most.
One of the most effective ways to stay in touch with our emotions is to write a personal journal. When we force ourselves to reflect upon our own lives a little bit each day, these emotions are less likely to sneak up on us. Sometimes just writing down what happened and how we feel about it can be unbelievably cathartic. If affords us insights we would not have seen otherwise. It is all about slowing life down enough to look at it instead of just forging through until we get to the end. If we don’t stop to take photos and enjoy the scenery on our road trip of life and focus only on the destination, we will have missed the entire journey. Evelyn Underhill’s first chapter in Practical Mysticism illustrates this profoundly if somewhat quaintly. It is along the journey that we learn and grow. If we do not take the time to experience it, we will have reached our destination without learning the many lessons our life has shown us.
Grief is a process and it takes time. The amount of time spent grieving is not directly related to how much pain one feels over the loss. If we are grieving the loss of a loved one, the length and depth of our grief does not directly correspond to how much we loved the deceased. Our grief should not be a display that indicates to others how much pain we are in as we each have unique ways of feeling and expressing grief. It is possible to function in life relatively soon after a traumatic loss and still love the deceased immensely. Our love is not defined by our pain. Do not fall in to the trap of telling yourself that if you are having a brief moment of happiness you are being untrue to the memory of your loved one. The deceased is not watching your small smile thinking it is a sign you do not miss them any more. Those on the other side are much wiser as they can see so much we cannot. They know any joy we may feel has no bearing on the depths of our love for them and they want us to go on living and enjoying our life. The fact is, we really have no choice but to continue living, we might as well try to enjoy it.
In the Native American tradition, we know our loved ones are still with us just as they were when they were alive. We put out spirit plates of food for them, offer them tobacco and corn meal to honor them, and talk to them as if they were sitting right next to us. We know there is a fine line between death and life and that energy does not die, it just changes form.
Our loved one’s personality is kept alive in our memory of them. We know what they would say or do in any given situation. We can “hear” what they would say about what is going on in their absence. In our minds we keep them alive, imagining them in their favorite chair, making their favorite drink and inviting us to sit with them for a while. Ask them how they feel about our grief and suffering. Ask them what they wish for us in the remainder of our life. It is important for us to write these things down if we think it will help us to remember and bring us peace in the future. This is especially useful when the practice is a new one.
When grieving the loss of our hopes and dreams, it is as if our cherished garden plant has died. The garden may not be ready for a new planting immediately. We must first let our field lie fallow to replenish, to heal. While in this state, it can be very useful to reach out to others. By socializing we can not only share our gifts, shine our light and thereby recognize our own value, but we are also exposed to new ideas. These new ideas that may be the seeds that lead us to our new goals.
10 STEPS OF LOSS – This can be useful for breaking negative patterns
The first step of loss occurs when we notice an uncomfortable, frustrated feeling that something is not right. We may feel sad or depressed.
The second step happens when we notice patterns are different and things are not like they normally are. Old behaviors are no longer tolerable. Our character has outgrown the existing condition.
There is a change in behavior prompted by letting go. If the change in behavior is negative, one further denies the true inner personality to conform. If the behavior is positive, it allows the true inner personality to take responsibility. To have responsibility literally means that one has the ability to respond.
An acceptance of the need to change an outdated behavior takes place as opposed to remaining in denial.
5. There is an increase in energy which results in added health and happiness.
6. New patterns of behavior are adapted as a result of the growth.
7. As persons take responsibility their individual autonomy increases and they are not distracted or tempted to go back to the old behaviors.
8. As the new pattern has been adapted one’s inner personas have been strengthened. Responsibility for one’s own health and happiness is strengthened.
9. With a pattern of self-responsibility well established, one is capable of assuming a leadership role.
- Completion of the circle of loss has been integrated and now one can move on to attain success.