All the fine art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.
~ Havelock Ellis ~
Last week, a much-loved friend of mine who was a major influence on my writing died.
While I was still integrating that, the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Bob’s hometown, occurred.
And, as if in harmony with those two events, it’s been raining and gray and cold.
Autumn teaches the art of letting go. Letting go of all those things planned for in the spring to achieve before winter’s first snow, the gardens that didn’t get weeded and mulched, the house painting that didn’t get as far as it should have, and the other myriad things on the list.
Like the trees with their leaves, we have to let go and let go and let go.
It often feels that, like the sap running through the trees, this time of year brings life to a halt.
Then, one of the big challenges of modern culture is to allow the time and the space to grieve loss and disappointment and rejection. Who has time to grieve in the face of constant demands for time and attention from work and family and friends? Who wants to make others uncomfortable with our tears, lethargy, and moodiness?
Grief is painful. Grieving is uncomfortable. The unspoken message is don’t cry loudly and long and messily. Grieve for a day, maybe two and then “get over it.”
But ignoring the grief, stuffing it down, pretending it isn’t affecting you, affects your creative motivation and your Muse. Like a fog that surrounds you preventing the rays of the sun from getting through, grief becomes a barrier to your creativity when it’s unacknowledged and unexpressed.
What to do?
1. Have a good cry. And I don’t mean a few ladylike sniffles. Sob to your heart’s content. Have a box of tissues at hand and let yourself get as messy as necessary to release your grief. No holding back.
2. Share with a friend. Sharing loss with someone who is experiencing the same or similar loss is comforting and consoling and healthy. (Make sure the box of tissues is extra-large.)
3. Write it out. Write down everything you think and feel about the loss or hurt or disappointment. Get it all out. Then decide if you want to save it, burn it, or throw it away.
4. Do a ritual. Something simple like lighting a candle. Then, say a prayer or read a poem or play a song, or dance. Do something that signifies a letting go. Perhaps breathe your sorrow into a small bowl of water and then pour out the water onto the earth. Blow out the candle.
Grief is an important part of being human. It reminds us that we valued something or someone that we’ve lost. Acknowledge it, express it. Hold onto the memories and the stories.
Don’t let anyone tell you how much to grieve or how long to grieve. And seek professional help if you are having a hard time recovering. But remember that grief is a personal journey with its own inner clock. Be gentle with yourself. Nurture yourself as you grieve.
Then return to your creative work with the tissues close to hand, because grief is also a process and it sneaks up on you just when you thought you were “over it.”
Your Muse grieves with you.