Grief, Gifts, and Gratitude
At this time of year, I have a practice of taking time to reflect on what’s occurred over this last year in my life, work, family, relationships and the world at large. As I sense in to 2020, I notice am glad that this particularly long and arduous year is finally coming to end. It’s been a doozy!
We all have been facing, dealing with, and hunkering down around so much. Here’s a tiny bit of summarizing: the global pandemic, racial injustice, a presidential election, economic uncertainty, climate change. With all these large scale and impactful events, I’ve been realizing that for me, this year boils down to a few simple words. Grief, Gifts, and Gratitude.
One of the most prominent experiences for many of us, and this may be the least talked about, is grief. Many of my clients, colleagues and family members are dealing with some sort of grief. It could be around the potential loss of health, or actual loss of loved ones to COVID. The blurring of home and work boundaries due to working from home and online, and the demands that 24/7 technology places on our attention. The stress of caring for young children or at-risk relatives at home, while being expected to work as if nothing has changed. Grief about the polarization in this country, grief as the truth of long-standing racial injustice has been revealed. Grief and fear about economic uncertainty, job or wage loss. Grief over the loss of some sort of normalcy and certainty — not knowing what the future will look like.
Grief for me feels like mourning the loss of regular routines I can count on to settle my nervous system. I had an additional (and admit, self-induced) disruption of recently moving physical locations to another state. Even though this was a household move I had been wanting to initiate at some point, in actuality it happened unexpectedly quickly. The rapidness and the scale of the change was very challenging for me to navigate. It’s been tough to get my bearings in this new setting, and to establish a sense of reliability and ground of the familiar. And I’ve been feeling the loss of not being with my new grand baby as she is growing so quickly and discovering her world on a daily basis. I am missing in-person contact with my aging mother (who’s 92!) who’s in a closed down retirement community in another state. I’ve missed in-person teaching as well (while at the same time, being very grateful for the PBC team and for Zoom).
Facing into Grief
So, what is true for you? What are you noticing about any feelings of loss or grief in your own life that may be bubbling up as you read this? What I find helpful is to notice and acknowledge whatever experience is arising, especially the less pleasant ones. Naming what I am aware of in the moment helps move it outside of me, so I can get a bit of distance from it, and perhaps notice another perspective that is also possible. There’s always more than one perspective to any point of view! Letting go of something held onto long past its usefulness, or accepting what is, usually feels cleansing and liberating, after the tears.
Gifts in the Present
There have been many unexpected gifts this last year as well. I am talking to my mother by phone almost every day. We FaceTime more often with my daughter and grand baby. I have experienced the gift, after spending many hours in collaboration to reorganize our in-person classes to deliver virtually, to witness our students experience that spark of motivation and inspiration to learn coaching with great success. The gift of the resilience and adaptability of this Presence-Based work, and that the work continues despite the pandemic (thank you, Doug!).
I’ve experienced the gift of hearing other’s stories about experiencing racism or prejudice, and how they have persevered despite it all. I’ve had to shift my priorities to what’s most important – connection with those I love, taking care of my own health, living in the mountains and close to nature. I have had to find a certain nimbleness within to access pockets of quiet and peace, amid all of the outside demands. I’ve finally felt motivated to clean out and clean up lots of old and neglected “stuff” that can be shared with others who might need it. There is the gift of expanding our community as we welcome people into our retreats and trainings who appreciate the self-development embedded in this work. I feel the gift of the service to others through coaching and leadership. I appreciate the gift of the dedication of our PBC admin and teaching team, Advisory Board, and PBC Alumni who continue to move this work out into the world.
Opening to Receiving
What might be opening in your awareness right now as a gift in your life? Especially an unexpected gift or two of this year? Will you capture these out loud or on paper? What happens when you open to receiving these gifts internally?
Reflecting on these gifts brings me to gratitude. I find myself, on a daily basis, feeling grateful for my commitment to presence, to my own inner work, for my life partner, for family, and for friends who feel like family, for this meaningful work as it moves out in the world, and for those who care to continue its legacy beyond all of us. I am grateful for this earth that holds us all, for the flow of life, and for the mysterious underlying stream that nurtures the call of growth and self-development in us as humans, for the sake of being of service.
I find that noticing what I am grateful for often shifts my inner state, no matter what reactivity or habit I’m caught in. I have a friend who writes in a gratitude journal every night. Another friend keeps a gratitude jar on her kitchen counter and adds slips of paper with written gratitudes throughout the year. She reviews them whenever she needs something to remind her of another, more resilient perspective.
What is your practice around gratitude? How has that uplifted you or supported you in your journey? Or what practice around gratitude might you want to experiment with, or help your client’s implement?
We are coming to the close of this frightening, tender, challenging, and growthy year. A year that has had some definite down-sides, as well as grief, gifts, and gratitude. What have we learned, individually and as a collective? What will we leave behind, what’s calling us, and what can we organize around that is truly meaningful in our lives?
As they say, the one thing that is certain is change. Among all of the disruptions of this year, that perspective feels somewhat comforting. I’m learning a lesson from the mountains outside my window. These mountains have been here long before I was, or 2020 occurred, and they will still be here after this year has faded away in my memory. The sun will continue to rise and set, thankfully with a predictable rhythm we can all settle into, as we watch what unfolds next…