Tao Te Ching #35

She who is centered in the Tao
Can go where she wishes, without danger,
She percieves the universal harmony
Even amidst great pain,
Because she has found peace in her heart.*

*Translator's note: She is centered in the peace; thus she can give herself fully to the pain.
(translated by Stephan Mitchell)

The Courage to Grieve

If you cry, I might cry.
If you cry, I might know that I too am in pain.
If you cry, I might feel self-conscious about my own difficulty in crying.
If you cry, I might have to face the unpleasantness in my life.
If you cry, I might not be able to maintain my pose of strength (or dignity, or control).
If you cry, I might cry for all the pain in my own life and never stop crying.
Therefore, if you cry, I will have to run away or shut you up to save myself.

Emotional pain is not constant, even though we sometimes think it is. Emotional pain feels constant only when all our energy is going into supressing those feelings which are so hard to supress. Allowing ourselves to move naturally in and out of pain, instead of forcing artifical controls on our feelings, enables us to go though and complete the grief process more quickly. In other words, confronting grief rather than avoiding it shortens the duration of the experience. For some this degree of openness will be a new experience, perhaps an awkward one, and even an extremely difficult undertaking.

Many of us fear that, if allowed in, grief would bowl us over indefinitely. The truth is that grief experienced does dissolve. The only grief that does not end is grief that has not been fully faced. Grief unexpressed is a powder keg waiting to be ignited. We misundertand courage in our society. Courage is often seen as a capacity to be silent when in pain, to function regardless of the depths of turmoil inside us, and handle our wounds and sorrows privately and independently. We also misunderstand tears. We act as if weeping is wrong or akin to illness, while tears actually afford us a necessary release of our intense feelings.

Grief is a wound that needs attention in order to heal. To work through and complete grief means to face our feelings openly and honestly, to express and release our feelings fully, and to tolerate and accept our feelings for however long it takes for the wound to heal. For most of us, that is a big order. Therefore, it takes courage to grieve. It take enormous courage to face pain directly and honestly, to sit in the midst of such uncomfortable feelings and reactions until we have expressed them and finished with them. It also takes courage to grieve in a society that mistakenly values restraint, where we risk the rejection of others by being open or different.

- Judy Tatlebaum

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