The Vanishing Point of Grief

Learning to grieve in a post-modern age

Posted Oct 17, 2014

Grieving is not a linear process. It’s more of a spiral that leads us from our immediate broken heart, to a place of release and then, just when we think we have found some peace, sweeps us even more deeply into the tender heart of sorrow. That tender heart is the ground for compassion and acceptance, lifting us out of our sadness and into grace.

Grief does not have a beginning, middle and an end. It’s a cycle that has a top and bottom moving forward in an ever tightening circle. Eventually, that circle reaches a vanishing point, but the only thing that really vanishes is the pain of loss. The deep feelings and abiding thoughts remain, opening our hearts, if we allow it, rather than closing them.

Probably more important than painting a picture of grief is recognizing that, in a post-modern age, we need to learn to grieve. Given that we are constantly surrounded by change and its attendant impermanence this may seem somewhat obvious, but, in a culture that generally places little value on taking time and turning inward, it is a notion not so self-evident.

It’s difficult for us to embrace impermanence. We hold fast to the idea that things will stay just as they are, despite all evidence to the contrary. This is true of not only the monumental losses in our lives, like people, pets and relationships, but the smaller ones, as well. This unwillingness is, in part, driven by a healthy fear of our own death, but it also comes out of the sense of powerlessness we associate with the inevitable. That’s where we’ve got things a bit backward.

At the center of grieving is surrender; simply being with our pain. Again, seemingly obvious, but most of us resist that surrender, putting on a brave face and turning away from our sorrow. Surrender implies the very powerlessness we are attempting to avoid, but, in fact, it is in that surrender that our power resides.

Our turning away robs us of our connection to the love that is the source of our grief. Allowing our hearts to break opens us to that love, and the realization that it never really left, nor will it ever leave. It is only the object of our love that is no longer present. Being present in our sorrow allows us to be present in the love that remains.

We can cultivate that presence by approaching our grief with a tender heart, simply sitting with it; allowing it—and us—to just be. The notion of the tender heart comes out the wisdom teachings suggesting we face our fear and embrace impermanence, developing the compassion and acceptance that grounds us in our humanity. In doing so, we will find the love that is the source of our grief outpaces the grief itself, diminishing our sorrow until we reach that vanishing point. This is our permanence.

© 2014 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

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