The Healing Cycle: From Grief to Relief Part 2

Grief

Carrying Karma Forward

“Besides,” I continued, “while you might feel out of sorts as you clear the heavy energies of grief from your system, just imagine having to carry that weight forward in your life. When you experienced your grief in its raw and elemental state last week, you felt exactly what you had been carrying around with you for years. It wasn’t hidden anymore or hanging over your life like a cloud of low-level depression and unhappiness, poisoning your existence and sapping your spirit of its vitality. Instead, you felt the entire weight of what had been buried in your heart and you embraced it. In choosing to face and clear  your grief, you chose expansion over confinement, happiness over depression, and a better future for yourself. So don’t worry about what you may feel in today’s session and in the days that follow. Focus instead on where you’re going and hope that even more toxic emotion comes out of you today than it did last week. If that should happen, it will only free you more.”

A Toxic Childhood

That week, more grief did pour out of her, but it was not all related to the death of her husband. Behind the grief of her husband’s passing was the sullen grief of her childhood. She had grown up in a cold house with a critical mother and an emotionally absent father. She had never felt safe in expressing her feelings in her family environment. To say what she felt or to stand up for what she wanted was to invite a withering attack from her mother. Her mother regularly shamed and humiliated her, making her feel small, inadequate, unwanted, and unloved. Given her background, it was not surprising that her whole strategy as a child was simply to survive. Her strategy for survival was anchored in pleasing her mother in order to reduce her exposure to more shame and verbal degradation.

A Self-defeating Strategy

When she became an adult, Barbara’s childhood strategy of pleasing others did not disappear. It had become too ingrained in her behavior. Although she had a new cast of people to relate to as an adult, the childhood pattern of how she related to them endured. It had become her unconscious governing belief. Her experience of being shamed by her mother had led her to conclude that she was unlovable. If I’m not loveable, her subconscious reasoned, then I have to work extra hard to get people to like me. Instead of trying to please her mother, she now tried to please her husband and sons.

As a result of Barbara’s childhood conditioning, she was unable to say how she really felt as a grown woman. She lacked the courage to stand up for herself and express her real needs. Her childhood survival theme of “hide your real feelings and don’t rock the boat under any circumstances” had become a constant form of unconscious oppression dominating her adult life. One of the problems in trying to please her own family was that she wasn’t getting love and respect from her husband and sons in return. All the giving went one way from her to them. There was nothing coming back to her, except more demands for her to do more things for them. She wasn’t being seen or respected for who she was. Underneath it all, she burned with unexpressed resentment, a resentment she could not even admit to herself. She was too focused on being a “lady.” In her case, being a lady was a cover for not facing her hidden rage, as well as a way to avoid facing her real feelings.

Release and Relief

As her second session progressed, Barbara’s tears of grief at her husband’s death turned to screams of rage at her mother for her coldness, her lack of love, and her failure to nurture and approve of her daughter. After a time, her rage turned to sobs, as she felt the grief of her childhood shame and humiliation. With her grief came the searing realization that she felt lost in life and had no idea of who she really was. As that insight hit her, Barbara’s sobs deepened and a plaintive scream arose from that deep, lost place inside her. The scream started out loud and fierce and long, running slowly out of steam until it became a whisper, then a sound no more. She took a moment, gathered the breath back into her body, and resumed her screaming. As her screams dwindled and died, her sobbing resumed. This time the sobs were soft, low, and rapid, one following after the other in a steady, constant rhythm. When her sobs ended, her body became ice cold and began to vibrate.

The session was now nearly concluded. Barbara was absolutely exhausted. However, I became quite excited for her when she told me that her body was vibrating all over and she was feeling ice cold. These symptoms were important markers in her healing just as they had been for Sean. The coldness that she was feeling represented the melting of the shame and loss of identity that had been frozen inside her as a young child and had plagued her ever since. As long as that frozen energy remained in her core she was powerless to move beyond it. The pattern of trying to please others to get their love would remain intact. Now that frozen energy was melting. It was a moment of great significance for Barbara. It meant that she was no longer trapped in the emotional context of her childhood. (To be continued.)

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