Don’t Resist Grief, She Has Much To Teach You
Mar 13 2022
Trigger Warning: Public Shedding, grief, vulnerability, miscarriage, heartbreak, suicidal references.
Dear Me From July 2021,
It’s Me From March 2022! I’ve come to sit with you in this den made of sticks, in these snowdrop carpeted woods on the undulating Sharpham estate in Devon. Spring hope is bursting through the decaying remnants of your summer’s leaves. There are perfect new buds on the trees, quivering with the potential for another vibrant summer.
I come baring two huge hot-pink flowers that I found on the ground. One of them is for you.
I remember you, sitting here on your Solo Day. You had a moment of total delight, munching your rustic cheese and chutney sandwich that the Woodland retreat leaders had sent you off with, in a brown paper bag. It was a windy summer’s day and you were taking a sheltered pause from your mission to learn everything you could from nature about Surrender.
You’d roamed around the site all morning asking the trees and the birds and the reeds and the river and the cows and the butterflies to tell you all they knew about letting go. You’ll continue on your adventure after this pause and in the afternoon, you’ll sit at the foot of a ghostly white tree and you’ll write about everything you learned. These lessons will become a map to help you navigate your way through the grief for your lost chances at motherhood and help you prepare for the end of your relationship.
In a few days, you’ll return back to Bristol and spend the next month talking with your love, reminiscing and savouring your shared story. You’ll do all your favourite things one last time. You’ll have tea and toast in bed and dance in the kitchen to jaggeredy pop on radio six and you’ll have the Saddest Holiday Ever. You’ll walk along windy welsh cliff tops and force him to swim in the freezing cold sea before breakfast. He’ll grumble about it, but of course he’ll love it, like he loved all the crazy things you made him do, like you loved all the practical things he made you do. You’ll dance on the beach at sunset and he’ll take your photograph for the very last time (one of those photos is at the top of this letter).
Back in the home you created together, he’ll pack up his carpentry tools and his work-worn clothes and his framed photos of all the awesome landscapes you discovered together. He’ll make sure you’ve got everything you need to keep the house functioning, he’ll make you a little DIY kit and he’ll get your clarinet fixed. He’ll say, “I’m sorry” so many times and you’ll believe him, but it won’t lessen the pain.
He’ll help you move the bed into the tiny room and he’ll leave you with a thick layer of dust where all his things used to be.
He WILL leave you and you won’t fully understand why. When he leaves, you’ll crawl into a tiny cave, just like this den and you’ll fall apart for two months.
Follow Grief’s flow, she’ll let you know what to do. She’ll say, “Keep it simple.” She’ll say, “Eat, move, walk outside, look at the sky, phone a friend, sleep, write, watch telly, have a cry.”
There will be days when you’ll fantasise about being buried alive, longing to lie in the cold dark earth forever. Hold onto whatever you can grab onto, my love and let those storms pass.
Friends will magically appear holding chocolate, eggs, wine, houseplants, flowers, medicinal herbs, smudge sticks or just their arms outstretched. It will be as if they’ve collectively arranged a schedule so that you have a constant supply of dry shoulders to cry on. Let them in, love, let them support you.
At the end of summer, you’ll go to the magical land of Embercombe and you’ll be led through a deep, shamanic, transformational process called The Journey. You’ll start the week with a plan to work out what the hell you’re going to do with your life, now that the dream of having a family with Joe is over. Grief will say, “Great plan, but how about this - maybe just be with me for a week, see me, hear me, get to know me.”
Don’t resist Grief, she has much to teach you. You won’t drown, you’ll be held within the structure of The Journey, your tears will be witnessed with utter compassion by the facilitators, the participants, the support team and the trees. You’ll be softened by their gaze, Surrender.
In September, you’ll go back to work, changed by Grief’s meat-hammering on your heart. You won’t want to return to your old frenetic pace, you’ll want to prioritise tenderness and care and above all, space. Space for your workshop participants’ learning, space for yourself and space for all the feelings that need to be felt and expressed. Follow your intuition, even if it feels nuts to say no to popular demand for the old you. Let her go, she will no longer serve you.
Your gut instinct will guide you towards work where you can fully be yourself as you are now. You’ll be drawn into the intimacy of working one-to-one with artists, facilitators and therapists and you’ll take on the delicious creative challenge of designing a new three-month facilitator training course. You’ll find support for this new direction by starting to train as a Clinical Supervisor, where you’ll be immersed in a gang of phenomenal creative arts therapists for 9 months. They’ll become the monthly metronome that charts the passing of time and the stages of Grief.
You’ll be nourished by your choices at first, but you’ll get carried away by the momentum (and the holiday from your Grief) and you’ll say yes to too many projects and by Christmas you’ll burn out. That’s OK, old habits die hard, my sweet. You’ll crawl back into your cave and your old friend Burn Out will lead you back to Grief.
Face down on the living room floor, your body will still be coursing with the adrenaline you built up from months of overwork, as you notice the faintest shadow of an enormous tidal wave of Grief heading your way. You’ll scream “HELLLLLLP!” and no-one will come. You’ll panic and obsessively visualise digging a Holly-sized hole in the garden and wonder how long it will take to die.
Grief will know what to do. She’ll book you onto an online meditation retreat for New Year. Martin Aylward’s clear, kind guidance, will help you embody the soft power of Letting Go Through Letting Be. As you sit with your Grief, your heart will soften and something will shift. You’ll find a new level of acceptance for the end of your relationship and you’ll begin to let go of Joe.
Spring 2022 will bring new energy, focus and determination. You’ll start the year with an artists’ retreat Hawkwood, where you’ll explore spaciousness and softening as a score for creative process. You’ll apply what you learned to your daily schedule, cultivating pockets of space all throughout your days.
Three individual artists will approach you to explore their voices and authentic connection with audiences and a new thread will emerge in your work. You’ll be more boundaried with your work and you’ll make more time for your friends and for your Motherhood Grief.
Accepting that this Grieving Mother will live inside you for as long as she needs to, you will begin to manifest a new life where you can tend to her, sustainably. Through ritual, writing, visualisation and conversation, you’ll call in a life centred around nature, community and simplicity. This will activate a sequence of serendipitous events that will lead you to this very moment when you’ll be sitting here in this den, writing this letter to you.
You see, I’m not only here to see you, my dear, I’m here to find out whether this is where I want to live for a year. Not in this den made of twigs! That would be daft! I’m here on a reckie to discover whether I might want to live and work in a retreat centre on this land. I’m done with the solo cave dwelling that started right here on your solo day. My cave has cocooned me, acted as protection whilst I melted down and reconfigured. I’ve appreciated my secret safe space, but I’m ready to spread my wings and fly into my next chapter.
Your next 8 months are going to be tough, my friend, but you’re going to discover incredible resouces you never knew you had. There will be a kind inner voice that accompanies you through the worst of times, she’ll cover you with blankets and fetch you little bowls of snacks and say, “There there, Sweetie.” At the time I thought it was the voice of compassion, but perhaps that voice was me?
It might not seem like it right now, darling, but you’re going to be OK.
This flower is for you and the other one is for me.
All my love,
Me in March 2022
If you've been affected by any of the issues in this blog and need support, here's a list of useful bereavement resources from MIND.
Here's what nature taught me about Surrender on my solo day in July 2021.
Here's some snapshots of heartbreak in poems and images from the first few months of going it alone.
Here's some moments of delight from November 2021.
Here's what I learned about letting go through letting be on Martin Aylward's online retreat, New Year 2022.
Here's what I learned about Surrender as a score for creative process at Hawkwood in January 2022.