#divorce, #hope, Addiction, Ambiguous Grief, betrayal, compassion, Divorce, Grief, Grief Support, hope, loss, Uncategorized, wellness

The Sacred Act of Holding Space

Last summer, deep in grief,  I was exchanging texts with my dear and wise friend, Robin. We were supporting one another through difficult life transitions, and connected often. During one particular exchange, she signed off with a sentiment unfamiliar to me.

It was a simple salutation, but I didn’t understand it.

I’m holding space for you…”, she wrote.

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Not entirely sure what that meant, and not yet inquisitive enough to ask, I shelved the comment.

Until a few days later, when she wrote it again.

 

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As I understood it, she was telling me in her own way, that she was thinking of me.  

Awww.  So nice, right?

Wrong. Way wrong.

I finally did ask her what she meant by it, and as it often happens, I started to hear and read about other people using the same term as well.  

Now, months later, having space held for me, and holding space in return, I get it.

I truly get it.

I understand that holding space is one of the most important gifts we can give those we love and care about.

It’s far more than just “thinking about you”.  It’s seeing a friend in distress and making a commitment to stand grounded in empathy and compassion.  

Holding space is quiet and strong, and it doesn’t rush in to try to “fix” anything.  

Holding space doesn’t offer advice or make suggestions.  It certainly doesn’t compare their pain to yours.

Rather, it acknowledges that a person is experiencing deep, even complicated, feelings.  It recognizes that such emotion must be felt and endured, not numbed and buried.

Holding space invites conversation, it listens and affirms.  It honors the human experience through the most difficult and trying times.   In doing so, it acknowledges our shared humanity.  Which feels so “right”, yet is so counterintuitive in today’s fast-paced, multitasking, solution-oriented society.  

Here, we want to ease the suffering of our brethren, so we are often quick to offer advice, make suggestions, and even relay stories of others in similar situations, hoping the connection will provide comfort.  

It’s hard to see those we care about in pain, so for some, it’s natural to want to help.  

For others, seeing loved ones ache is a scary mirror to our own struggle, so we offer nothing and simply go away.  

But holding space gives the gift of understanding to our grief and struggle without any pressure to “get over it”, or “move on”.  Holding space doesn’t abide by a timeline.

In having this done for me, I have been able to do so for others.  In this practice, I have come to learn that holding space is indeed, a sacred act.  I am so honored to hold space for others.  

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Still not sure what this looks like?

Here’s a handy dandy reference guide to get you started:
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So, who could you hold space for today?  Or perhaps you are someone who would benefit from the love of space being held for you?  Reach out and share space, and watch it come back to you.

Lastly, I wonder what our world would be like if we showered one another with this seemingly benign salutation, and really meant it.

I have to believe we would feel as seen as supported as I have.  (Thanks, Robin)

Holding space,

Stephanie

#divorce, #hope, Addiction, Ambiguous Grief, betrayal, Grief, loss

5 Signs You Might Be In Ambiguous Grief (and what you can do about it)

ambiguous grief face

Grief is a universal emotional experience.  It is felt by humans, and even some animals, when a loved one dies.  The Stages of Grief Model by psychiatrist and researcher, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is widely accepted as universal as well.  Grief, we have learned, is predictable: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

But what if the common denominator isn’t death? What if instead it was something far-more nefarious that first takes our loved one away?  Monsters like Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury or Addiction. These life-altering diagnoses changes our loved one, and often resigned, we watch helpless as they slip further away from the person they once were to us.  As the relationship dynamic changes, the grieving process begins. But often, the bereft are unaware. Since their beloved did not die a physical death, their grief doesn’t neatly fit the 5 stages, though they may get lumped in anyway.  Instead, their grief goes unnamed and untreated.  

So, are you or someone you know currently living with ambiguous grief?

Here are five key indicators that point to “YES”.

1) You have experienced a significant relationship loss, and the person lost is still living.  

A Divorce is a common entry-point when the ending of the marriage is unwanted by one partner, or the marriage as it was believed to have been is proven to be false.  For those who have lost loved one to intimate betrayal, the perspective changes as the person appears different than previously believed. When reality is fissured by revelations, ambiguous grief can begin.  The loved one is still living, but they are no longer who they “used” to be.

(Other examples:  A parent’s Alzheimer’s Disease has altered your previous relationship dynamic, Your child is an addict and living on the streets without contact, A family member has rejected you based on the disclosure that you are gay.)

2) You have hope that your lost loved one will return to you as they once were.  

Without a physical death, the possibility of a restored relationship can become consuming for those in ambiguous grief.  With a warm body there is often hope that life can resume with the relationship as it was once.

(Examples of external hope include: A hope for a medical breakthrough, a loved one entering a recovery/treatment program, a change of heart.)

3) You have a sense of shame or embarrassment over your loss.   

Since ambiguous grief is most commonly born from an activating event, such as divorce or diagnosis (Caudle & Sarazin, 2018), the loss can often feel like a personal failure, or could carry a perceived stigma, preventing the grieving party from feeling comfortable disclosing to others.  

(Examples include: a parent feeling embarrassed that their child is a drug addict, a wife feeling shame for her husband’s double life, a husband’s embarrassment over his wife’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and his inability to care for her.)

4) You haven’t acknowledged the pain of your loss publicly.

When a loved one is lost to death, there is a cultural understanding that a physical death has occurred, and we know what to do.   (Cue the lasagnas in freezers!) Ambiguous grievers are most often unable to articulate their grief, much less hold a ceremony eulogizing their beloved, and therefore receive little to no support.  Without sharing your loss with others and mourning in community, your pain can fester and grow.  

Some family dynamics believe that “family matters are private”, so we may grow up being told not to share what happens inside the family home.  This can show up as shame and embarassmA loved one still aliveent when we suffer heartbreak or loss later in life.  Attempting to manage your grief privately prevents others from helping, supporting, and encouraging your healing.

5) You thought you were just really, really sad.

Watching loved ones change, or losing a meaningful relationship will often evoke sadness.  The difference is that ambiguous grievers aren’t only experiencing a loss, but a death. While not a physical death, a death nonetheless.  The trouble is that many of us associate GRIEF with death and dying in physical form.  This excludes other important deaths we endure in life: the death of a dream, a relationship, a job.  All of which can cause grief, but is most often not recognized as such. 

Naturally, sadness is a part of loss, but it’s important to understand when we are sad, and when we are grieving.  Grief is a dull aching pain that often shows up uninvited and hijacks your emotional being.  It is said that it’s the last act of love we have to give to those we loved and that tears say what cannot be said 

What You Can Do About It

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If you are grieving a loss of a loved one still alive, and these five indicators are familiar, you may be experiencing ambiguous grief.  

Being able to identify and name this grief is the first step in healing.  

Hopefully, as more and more people acknowledge this grief, we will be able to offer important resources of support to those struggling and often suffering their loss alone.  

Find support for yourself.  A therapist, friends, and/or faith-based groups are often first stops.  Additionally, there are many online forums dedicated to supporting grievers through all forms of loss. Find them with a simple google search.

For proactive practices to healing, check out the ReRooting Tool Kit at www.riseuprooted.net/rerooting-tools/

 

Addiction, Ambiguous Grief, Grief

Healing

Not all ambiguous grief is born out of intention.  In some cases like adultery and addiction, one person makes an initial choice in behavior, and that choice can  and often does, impact and hurt their loved ones.  In other situations, ambiguous grief is born without choice.

No one chooses to be rejected, have dementia, Alzheimer’s, or mental illness.  The onset of the aforementioned forces a space where loved ones must cope, adapt and adjust.  Whether ambiguous grief is born through the painful decisions made by a loved one, or a life-changing medical circumstance, healing is necessary.  The new normal can be incredibly difficult and those in this space are left to cope, often alone.

Whatever non destructive activity that soothes your soul, helps you heal, and steadies yourself: do that.

Get quiet, remember what soothed you as a child.  Give thought to what brings you peace as an adult.  You are your heart’s own alchemist and the remedy for healing is yours to create.

God, prayer, meditation, art, nature, exercise, friendship, community, baking, cooking, dance, creating, writing, laughing, crying.

Do what works for you.

And if you were hurt by the chosen actions of others, remember that a person who hurts you doesn’t get to tell you how to heal.

You do.

 

 

 

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Addiction, Ambiguous Grief, Divorce, Grief, Grief Support, loss

Hi, I’m Grieving

griefWe all know about Grief and what it is, but maybe we haven’t MET Grief yet.  Not in a proper introduction kind of way.   At the very least, most people know Grief like we know our distant, out-of-town cousins.  Peripherally aware of their being, slightly curious maybe, mostly irrelevant, and showing up once in awhile during family gatherings.  Not until that distant cousin comes to visit, and outstay his welcome, do we then really know him.  By then, we are intimate companions feeding on the familiarity.  It’s annoying, to wake day after day, to find the horrible house guest squatting on my heart yet again, suffocating my happiness.  I long for the day, when I wake and find Grief has gone.  I imagine a kind of “Dear John” letter left on my kitchen counter announcing defeat and exiting just as unexpectedly as he arrived.  Grief comes in all forms. It came to me, without invitation, last Fall when I lost my dear husband and the life I loved.  Nearly one year later, despite my many invitations, Grief has yet to leave. Instead, he’s unpacked, strewn himself carelessly all over the house, seemingly propped his feet up on the couch and defiantly says,  “Yea, that’s right, and what are you gonna do about it?”  

Thankfully, in our society, there’s at least a cultural roadmap for managing this mangy houseguest.  When we lose someone we love, whether it’s unexpected or not, there are certain things we can depend on.  Funerals are planned, eulogies are read, stories are shared, memories preserved, and love and support envelope those left behind.  But I didn’t lose my husband to death. Like many woman today, I lost my husband to the realization of his double life.  A life so carefully curated on-line,  with legal pick-your-partner pages available for a small, quarterly membership fee.  The uncovering of this broke me in two. Two lives: his AND mine. My life BEFORE DISCOVERY” (which was pretty much all I could have ever hoped for) and the one “POST-DISCOVERY” (which was pretty much a complete living nightmare). I often hear what I think the sound the Titanic must have made as it broke into two halves that night it hit the iceberg and sank.  I know that sound.  It came up from the depths of my belly and out every orifice, violently, slowly, the night I found my husband’s double life, a life with many, many, many betrayals with many, many, many women.  The night my marriage hit the iceberg, sank my marriage, rerouted my life’s course and Grief came to visit.

As a form of my own therapy, I am writing about my trauma, and the subsequent  tidal wave of grief that has been my last year.  Since my Beloved did not die, I didn’t have the luxury of an immediate and structured grieving period. Our marriage of 20 years died and I was left to grieve not only my present, but my future, and a now unknown past as well.  Without the societal milestones we use to heal our grief through death of a loved one, I was left to chart my own course. I read and I read and I read. I watched every.single.SuperSoulSunday every made.  I wrote to authors. I devoured TedTalks. I prayed and meditated daily – and still do.  All of this to help my mind process, and maybe someday understand how and why this all happened.  In this quest for information, looking for “my people”, or someone, ANYone with a roadmap for Ambiguous Grieving, I learned so much.  Most importantly, that I CAN DO THIS.

There is a way back to joy.  I feel it. I don’t have the map, and I know it won’t be easy. What I DO know is who I am. I know I am strong but flexible, humble and generous. I am deeply rooted with branches of blessings surrounding me.  Grief has overstayed his visit. I am done living in the dirt.  I feel it coming. I feel I’m changing.

I feel it’s my time to Rise Up. Rooted Like Trees.

Thanks for walking with me as I do.

Rilke

How Surely Gravity’s Law

How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing-
each stone, blossom, child –
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things teach us:
to fall,
patiently trusting our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

-Rainer Maria Rilke