29 Feb

Grief and the wisdom of our bodies

Grief is not usually an emotion that gets much of our attention, even when it’s begging for it. Grief isn’t one to be invited to the party, but rather stuffed, even choked down with a strong drink, glass of wine or the pop of a pill.  It has very few friends who will call it by name, most begrudgingly permit a hook up only when we are sure no one has seen it enter, that no one knows we are on familiar terms.  

It is a paradox emotion really, being both scorned and vital in both equal measure, but having very few opportunities to show its true power and capacity to those it meets. It has a dangerous reputation one to be avoided at all costs, and yet it bears gifts that so often remain unopened. 

Grief holds a very scared duty, one that is becoming harder and harder to deliver, because as a species we have lost the capacity to feel, to grasp, to hold and appreciate the value and virtue of emotions in general and grief specially.

We are a species that loves, that bonds and attaches to other beings, we are mammals that live, play and survive together, who exchange grooming and reciprocal feeding who have suffered and endured to see another day together.

We are a species of connection, of contact of relationships, and kinship. We thrive in social communities, friendships, camaraderie and alliances.  We are structurally created to forge intimate physical unions, to love, hold and appreciate one another. These networks create touch, caresses, hugs and kisses; they create body memories, as our arms, chest and heart can physically ache to hold a loved one once more. Our bodies have carried out the active movements, actions, and behaviours of loving, holding and embracing our loved ones and those memories are still there long after the moments are over.  

Our bodies hold the capacity to see, to hear, to taste to smell and touch, so when a loved one dies, or we experience a huge life loss, those imprints remain with us. Their memory can immediately conjure up the weight of their embrace, their laughter, their smell and their voice.  Our bodies remember and they hold the residue that grief is trying to mourn, and to honour.

Our bodies are built to rhythmically move, sway and bend, they are built to feel and it’s important for them to express grief just like we allow our bodies to express dance, sports, games, joy and sex.  Our bodies know what to do if we just get our rational logical thinking brain to quiet down.  

Over thinking is paralysing our natural release valve of grief. Our overthinking, rationalizing thoughts of “why are am I crying” “ I don’t need to cry,”  admonishing ourselves for despair, lethargy and loss of appetite just un-ground us from the wisdom of our bodies to do their jobs. It untethers us from our rooted stable place with a living breathing earth and dissociates us from the reality of death.

Our brains have evolved to both think and to feel, and while emotions and feelings are older parts of the brain verses our newer frontal lobe that holds executive functioning, we place a higher value and importance to the thinking, logical capabilities of our brains then our emotional feeling ones and it is stunting our growth.

It is stunting our ability to emote, and we all need to feel the feels, however uncomfortable they are, but that there is the problem, we are so uncomfortable being uncomfortable! We are so intolerant of our own feels, and repulsed by others, that a normal and natural response of our bodies is decreed as being unhinged, out of control, and the real social judge…. Weak.

Grief is the ultimate emotion which levels the playing field for everyone, but it’s a playing field that we have socially constructed, created our own asinine rules for and promptly started to believe our game as truth. 

Grief shouldn’t be relegated to the margins of admissions, cloaked in secrecy and shame, and maybe just maybe when we start to allow, welcome and release our grief, we just maybe will be able to reduce the amount of libations we consume and distractions we permit all in the pursuit of not feeling.

By Gail Carruthers