Unconscious grieving means leaving the processing of our sadness to moments outside of our control, that is, releasing sadness only when we get triggered, and relying on that triggering happening in a place where we can release. Getting both on cue can happen if we’re home alone a lot, processing the grief of a loved one who has passed, as can be the case with the newly bereaved.
But what of unprocessed grief from long ago? Long after we were expected to ‘pick ourselves up again’ and get on with life, what of those losses and changes and griefs we never fully dealt with that linger? The unspoken sadness in our systems that yearns to be healed can lend the bereaved to ‘crying at the drop of a hat’, and to a sense of low grade depression, where a dull pall overshadows everything, making the world seem a grey place, lifeless.
Conscious grieving means acknowledging that we have grieving to do and setting time aside to do it. So, presuming we acknowledge we need to grieve and are willing to do it, how best to process that change within us in a speedy and good way?
First, we need to pick a time in our schedule where we can set aside one or two hours each time to do the work. Everyone is different. Some people will need to schedule one session a week, some people will need to set aside one session a day for five days a week to do the work.
Once we have set aside a time that we will form into a routine, we need to be alone and to remove all other distractions. Put the phone away, turn the television off, close the computer. Have this time to be alone with your grief. Take out mementos, photographs, reminders of the way things were before the grief began. Enjoy the experience of life as it was then. Sometimes this is all we can do for now, and that is enough. When we revisit our grieving sessions, take up where we left off and see can we read into our memories and mementoes the most painful aspects of the change that has happened. Seep the senses deep into the depths of what those changes were and all they meant to everyone involved and nearby. Allow the full chasm of your grief to fully embrace and encase you. Dive deep into your grief, as if this is the only reality you can know for now.
Allowing yourself to fully be immersed in your grief allows you to fully know it and to become it. Spend time there. You need to own your grief in this slow and moment-by-moment way to fully engage it and to be part of it’s natural process. Standing in the sidelines as your grief unfolds is not processing your grief; it is merely witnessing it. Standing in the full wash of your grief, without reservation, is to allow the full natural process of grieving to take it’s hold of you and to change you as it must. Allow grief to do it’s work. As you spin in the dark under-waters of change and in the unknown, surrender. Give in to the drowning, the sense of no control and no respite. Grief itself is a death of sorts, the death of what was, and this is your insight into what your own death will be like, where you let everything go and become adrift before your recovery into what will be.
Ultimately your being adrift brings you ashore to a new place and the old begets the new. But what is that process that brings the old to the new, that brings us out of our haggardness into our calmness again?