I recently went on a retreat to try and cure a moderate physical condition that I’ve been grappling with. The healer’s gift lies mostly in connecting the dots of underlying and unresolved emotional dynamics that manifest in physical symptoms. The results after telling my story was somewhat astounding to me. The reason why my body is out of balance, so the healer, is unresolved grief.
Grief is something that accompanies us all our lives. We lose people that were dear to us. We lose certain aspects of our physical prowess as we age. We lose friends and communities, money and opportunities. Sometimes we lose hope that a certain life path we had set out to follow, isn’t really attainable. Loss is a part of the way. For every gain there is a loss. For every new relationship we forge, every new home we move into, another one is lost, or at least somewhat diminished.
In our culture, we focus all our attention on the gains we are working towards and forget to acknowledge the shadow side of it. Who ever really cries after a failed job interview? Who feels the pain of a rejected attempt at making a new friend? Of entering a new community and not exactly feeling welcomed with open arms?
Instead, we suppress the sadness of a lost opportunity. We go shopping, or drown our sadness in alcohol or sweets. Our society values that we “move on” from any kind of misfortune quickly. Women who frequently cry openly are called “emotional”, and men who cry at all are judged as weak.
Frequently our suppressed grief comes out when we watch a movie that touches a nerve, and we don’t even know why. A romance full of obstacles that was finally fulfilled. A sad movie about a dying pet. A sports hero who after many hurdles is finally celebrated by his peers.
Some losses go way back, and we’ve never really looked at them. The early death of a parent. The lack of never having had a warm and welcoming childhood home. Many depressive episodes in our lives have to do with unresolved grief. That’s what much of the work in psychotherapy is about. To have the space where these losses can be mourned without being judged or shamed.
We’ve all had them.