Today, I grieve

by | Jan 8, 2021 | Brain Health | 0 comments

Today, I grieve


I grieve for my adopted homeland and its painful progress.

I grieve for democracy and how threatened it feels.

I grieve for my family, who is experiencing the slow decline of a loved one.

I grieve for a relationship that once was, and now is different.


Change and Loss

Loss is hard. Loss is grief.

Anytime we experience a change that feels like a loss, there is grief involved.

The loss of a relationship. The loss of a loved one. The loss of a person in the way we used to know them. The loss of a home. The loss of a limb. The loss of functioning in some way that used to feel important. The loss of one’s rights. The loss of a system that used to work for us. The loss of our freedom to travel and move about and meet and mingle and connect in person.

Waves of Grief

Grief is hard. Grief is complex. Grief is non-linear.

The waves of grief crash down on us, often unbidden, sometimes invited by our own mind, sometimes triggered by the words or actions of others, sometimes prompted by world events, sometimes incited by media of the mass and social kinds.

Allowing grief to wash over us without resistance is the beginning of healing.

Allowing ourselves to feel. To fathom the depths of pain and move through the deep end of the pool. Letting it move us, and letting it move through us. To feel the impossible reality of facing a world in which what once was, no longer is.

Social Pain

Pain is hard. Pain is just… painful.

Some kinds of pain is to be avoided at all cost, our brains will have it. Our subconscious mind will do anything to resist, to avoid feeling certain types of pain, often of the psychological kind.

The irony is, to the brain, all pain registers in the same way: the physical pain of a wound or a broken bone shows up on brain scans in the same way as the pain of rejection or of loss and grief. The brain cannot differentiate between physical and psychological pain and there is evidence that a painkiller such as Tylenol will reduce even the social pain of rejection.

The lesson here is that we must treat social pain with the same level of attention and care as we treat physical pain. Not simply with bandaids and overmedicating but by treating the source of the pain, by healing the system that is producing the pain, and by allowing ourselves to feel the emotion of the moment.

“Just get over it” simply won’t do.

Energy in Motion

Emotion is information. Emotion tells us there is something to pay attention to. Emotion is a signpost, a marker. Pain is a signal that some part of a system is broken and needs healing. Just like physical pain is a flag to the body to mobilize all its resources to heal the injured or dysfunctional area, our emotions of grief and pain play a similar role.

“Emotion is energy in motion.” – Robert Kiyosaki

When we allow the energy of emotion to move us and move through us without resistance, we ourselves are set in motion toward healing, progress, renewed personal power and purpose. We transform and evolve into new, improved, better and more whole versions of ourselves.

Resistance prolongs and creates more suffering. When we rigidly resist what is, when we block ourselves from truly feeling what we feel, when we rage against the new reality that emerges before us – we are constantly catapulted back into the spiraling vortexes of the grief cycle. We are held hostage there, in that vortex, trapped in cycling suffering.

“When we let ourselves feel, our inner self transforms.” – Glennon Doyle

High on Life

Letting ourselves feel every emotion that comes with grief, letting ourselves feel also the joy and euphoria that comes from pushing past pain when we allow forward movement – allows the pain to abate, and it unlocks our mind and body to mobilize its intricately fine-tuned mechanisms for self-healing.

An example of this is the beauty of the “runner’s high.” A phenomenon only recently beginning to be understood, Kelly McGonigal in her book “The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage” describes the science behind it. It is what happens in endurance running and other forms of exercise requiring strenuous, physical endurance.

After continuing on through the point when we feel we can’t keep going, after a big and challenging physical push, the endocannabinoid system (a part of our nervous system) is activated and our brains and bodies may feel a flood of euphoric feelings. Anxiety and pain abate, and we get the sense we could keep going forever.

Endocannabinoids are biochemical substances similar to cannabis but naturally produced by the body” and their effect is the equivalent of a very mild cannabis high. Their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier make them quite literally a bridge between the body and the mind. This is one of the human body’s amazing natural mechanisms for keeping us alive, as it enables us to keep going until we find food, shelter, or social connection (arguably an even more fundamental function of human existence than physical needs, according to Neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman). It is natural medicine for the body and the mind. The trick is, you have to move through pain in order to experience these effects.

Moving Forward

Watching grief come in like a big wave on the ocean, letting it wash over us with sometimes unexpected force and then subside, letting it all go, allowing ourselves to move with it and then letting it move past us without holding onto it, and without getting carried off into the ocean – lets us stay fluid, less rigid, and lets us move through the stages of grief with more grace and less suffering.

Rigid structures break more easily than those that bend. Allowing ourselves to bend and move with the waves or wind of emotion will actually not break us. When we allow emotion to move through the leaves and branches of our lives without getting carried away in the storm, we get stronger, we become more antifragile.

Today, I grieve. Tomorrow, I may find that I have moved a little further forward.

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