Real Life: Grief as an Adaptive Pause

3 Minute Read: Grief, loss, aging, dying, Chinese Medicine, mindfulness.

There's a thing for me, when a loved one dies. I can’t talk or write about it right away – at least not directly with anyone other than a very few people closest to me. Instead, I keep doing the work with my full heart. I keep showing up.

This isn't about being inauthentic or repressing. It’s because talking and writing lessen the pain. They also lessen the rawness of loss. And they make the division between me and the one who has passed seem larger – at once more real and more abstract. The line between “us” and those who've reentered the current of the wider stream feels very…decided.


In Chinese Medicine, grief is an adaptive pause.

In that pause, feeling pain is healthy – and healing. I’d rather go into it than rush through or lessen it too soon. Without fully feeling.

In Chinese Medicine too, expression is important, good medicine. It does make pain and loss feel better. Doing the opposite – refusing to feel or express – results in disease.

But for me, before expressing, before feeling better, I want to sit with the hard parts a while. Sit with the raw immediacy of loss. Feel on the “same side” before inviting in separation, reality and abstraction. Before moving through the adaptive pause and into acceptance.


As a side note and request: With me, please do not say, “Sorry for your loss.” I get the urge. It’s something to say when you don’t know what to say. It feels appropriate.

Like checking something off a list. Filling the uncomfortable space. Imagining we are somehow different from those who’ve reentered the stream.

As I said, I get it. But please do not say it to me. I prefer something sourced from your feeling heart. Or meeting me in the pause. In the silence.

Photo by Chris Ensey, Unsplash

Photo by Chris Ensey, Unsplash


Again, in Chinese Medicine, grief is an adaptive pause. It’s not only normal but healthy – and part of what makes us impossibly, beautifully human. So is, as we’re ready, moving through that pause and towards acceptance.

Autumn is associated with the Lung in our practice. And the Lung's emotion is sadness. So here, in today’s Real Life post, I want to honour our shared humanness. Our shared grief. Our need for pausing and fully feeling.

Sometimes things are hard and sad. Please treasure each precious day and life – all of it, even those parts. Please recognize the beautiful souls all around us. Everyone. Everywhere. Those who’ve reentered the stream and those still waiting.

Don’t be sorry. Just love more, always. xo.


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