“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” ―Jamie Anderson
By Julie Daley
LOVE, LOSS, AND POSITIVE LEGACY
My father died last Halloween at 93. I grieved a lot in the first weeks. Then, about one month in, I began to feel more peace and acceptance.
Now, a few months later, my family and I are going through his personal belongings. I’m feeling a whole new wave of grief roll in. Grief is like that – it comes in waves, but often there’s a lull between them that can make you feel as if another wave might never come. And then, when least expected, another one comes in and you wonder, where’d that come from?
When I began to feel this grief about my dad, I wasn’t really sure what it was about. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I was feeling sorrow about. It felt like just a big ball of sorrow.
Without going into details about my father’s life, which aren’t mine to share, what I can share is how I felt about him and how his life turned out. After all, that’s what is really going on for me – how I feel about it all.
There was always a kind of sorrow to his life, a way in which things didn’t quite work out. When I was young, I remember looking at my dad and feeling such sadness. He was often happy, appearing to be full of life as he played the piano or guitar and sang really loud. He loved math and programming computers – an early adopter, he was a programmer in the ’50s. But he also had a sadness about him – a sorrow that seemed to walk with him like a twin, always there, often silent but still unmistakable.
CHANGE BEGINS WITH AWARENESS
As I felt this grief and sorrow return again, I went for a long walk so I could feel and sense what was going on inside of me. I stayed with it, not pushing it away but welcoming it in. I truly wanted to hear what this sorrow had to say.
As I thought about going through his things and what I might discover, memories flooded back. Things felt cloudy. I began to feel so sad about his difficult life; and then, I began to see I was headed ‘downhill’ into some kind of black hole of sorrow.
This was when I reached out and called a friend. She listened and offered a few insights, but it was in hearing myself talk, connected to another person, that I came back to ‘now,’ to the present moment. Now present again, I was able to see what was going on.
I realized that this was an old, old pattern that kept me connected to my father. What started out as a wave of grief had shifted into a pattern of longing for connection through sorrow, sadness, and suffering. I was ‘being like him’ so I would feel close to him, even though he has passed on. Even death doesn’t stop our patterns from finding a way to revive themselves.
I was grieving, yes; but my Dark Side pattern of love=sorrow had entered into the picture.
POSITIVE LEGACY AS A TOOL FOR TRANSFORMATION
While it was necessary to recycle this pattern again, at that moment the Hoffman tool I used was a new one for me; not new as in I hadn’t learned it, but new as in using it spontaneously to move away from the Dark Side and back to my Spiritual Self. I employed the power of our ‘Positive Legacy.’
I stood in the sorrow, feeling the icky-sicky way that pattern feels, and said, “No.” “No, this is not who I am! This is NOT who I am!”
Then, it hit me. This is not who my father was, either. He wasn’t sorrow. He felt many things but he was and is Spirit. How did I want to move forward in my life? From a Dark Side connection or a connection as Spirit?
I choose to move forward in my life with the memories of my father that come out of his positive legacy. I can carry my father in my heart as Spirit connected to Spirit.
I want to move forward in my life remembering how I felt when I was with him and he was embodying this positive legacy. I choose to no longer connect to him, or to others who’ve passed on, through painful patterns of the past. Instead, the joy and gratitude I have for having been a part of their lives can be the beacon that leads me forward.
WHO WAS HE REALLY?
Who was my father, really? When did I see his Spirit shine?
He loved to make music, playing the piano and guitar, and singing loud and proud. He loved math and adventure. There was a childlike innocence about him all the way until the end. I am so much like him. I, too, love to sing and make music. I, too, love math, having once cried in a calculus class at the sheer beauty of its revelation. (My teacher cried, too, when he saw me, promptly pulling out a book of poetry to read a poem in that moment of obvious love. The other students thought we were a bit daft, I think.) I, too, love adventure. We shared so many traits of our Irish heritage.
Just recounting these things for those of you who are reading this lights up my heart. I feel my Spirit shining brightly as I feel him shining, too.
GRIEF IS INTELLIGENT
Grief is an amazing, intelligent process that will bring us all the way through the experience of a loved one’s death out to the ‘other side,’ deeply changed by having been loved by the one who is now gone. It’s important not to bypass the grief process. Grief will bring us what we need to heal – in this case, my attachment to my father through sorrow. If our patterns show up, we can use our tools and awareness of our Dark Side patterns and how they try to reconnect us to those who’ve passed on so that we don’t stay stuck in them.
The truth is, even though our relationship was difficult, I loved my father dearly. I choose to grieve his loss fully and consciously so that the love in my heart is free to love on in the world, finding new places to be shared.
Julie Daley works on special projects in the marketing department at the Hoffman Institute. She’s also worked with many people through the grief process, including family members who lost loved ones in 9/11 and members of the community affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Most communities have a grief center with services for residents who have lost loved ones. Check your local listings to find a grief support network near you.
You’ll find good information here about the grief process in general and the many different types of loss that can bring grief.
Here, you will find grief guidance for those over sixty.
A number of online sites with helpful information on grief are listed here.