Practicing Presence in the Shadow of Grief and Struggle

When I think about all of the things happening around the world today, I’m somewhat overwhelmed by the tsunami of grief, strive, and pain that we find ourselves swimming in. From my standpoint and perhaps also from a broader cultural and conversational standpoint it appears as though death, dying and grief has remained largely unexamined in the United States. Confronting the messiness and emotionalism that is death isn’t a value that Americans seem to embrace, despite the fact that each one of us is absolutely going to die someday. Unfortunately for us, we are not a culture willing to look death in the face, it’s far too messy and we would rather just not feel those “feelings”.

Medical professionals all over the world right now are staring death in the face each day, and are also carrying that concern home with them as they try to navigate their own home life and the new dynamics at play. Others still working or who have been deemed “essential”, whether by themselves, a state mandate or at the behest of their employer are worried for their safety and that of their family and friends, but continue to work in an effort to create financial stability (my husband is one such person, thank you!). The rest of us are stuck at home 24/7, doing a mix of work and “——————-” (fill in the blank for yourself, maybe you’re new to homeschooling or hosting a Zoom meeting, and it’s all just A LOT!).

As we step into our new lives and schedules both now (and in the future), we must take moments to acknowledge ourselves and be with the experience instead of just hoping or pretending it will go away. This includes acknowledging our mortality, as well as the mortality of all living things. It’s hard to look at death and just be with the fact that it’s a foregone conclusion, and then pair that with all of the other new concerns of daily living and it’s a recipe for overwhelm. I don’t know about you, but for me, #pandemic is shining a magnifying glass on all the things that were very much already present for me before COVID19, but now those stresses are just glaringly more obvious. Maybe you’ve always been scared of death and this experience is shining a light on that, or maybe you’ve been scared to acknowledge other truths in your life related to your spirituality, relationship, career, wellness, or mental health. The challenges you had pre pandemic have not likely receded in the face of all the unknowns. More likely, that area that you may have been struggling with or trying to avoid has now just been further illuminated. Mental health specifically was at epidemic levels before the current crisis we find ourselves in, and mental health can have a ripple effect on all other facets of your well-being. Take solace in knowing you are NOT ALONE. Many of us, including myself, are also experiencing struggles.

When experiencing struggle such as grief, mental health challenges, or doubts about our lives path humans can sometimes have a tendency to label the feelings and the experience as negative or bad or assume there is something wrong (probably because it can and does actually feel physically uncomfortable sometimes). When we jump to the conclusion that what we are feeling is “bad”, we might be missing out on an opportunity. This is not to say you need to label it as “good”, either.

What if instead you consciously created an approach to meet potentially uncomfortable feeling(s) with a quality of presence, openness or allowing? What if you suspended judgement and just avoided using a certain label for your feelings? What if you regarded your feelings as messages from your inner self? I invite you to think about your feelings in this new way. IF we can BE WITH our feelings in a space of presence (not judging or analyzing) it can potentially prompt insights on what actions to take in the future to better support our clearest dreams and visions. When we invite our feelings into a a space of presence, we can become more clear on the messages those feelings might have for us.

Next time you’re feeling something you might consider as a “bad” emotion (mad, frustration, anxiety, resentment), etc , take a moment to notice where and how that feeling is making itself known. Where in your body do you notice it? Is it hot or cold? Does it have a color or sensation associated with it? These are simple ways of pausing to embrace our experience that can be done at any moment. (If you’re ever overwhelmed to the point of feeling or considering suicidal or self harm thoughts, you should call 911 or reach out for emergency assistance immediately!)

Have you ever stood on a beach? If you have, you know it’s not wise to turn your back on the waves as the tide could turn and the waves might take you out! The contrast to this would be the person trying to control the waves, fighting them, trying to remain standing upright in the sand, gutting it out, etc. So aside from turning our back on the waves and being obliterated or fighting for futile control over circumstances beyond our control might there be a middle path through the water? Are you able and willing to jump in, allowing your body to “be” with the water while you float or swim on the top? Can you become more lovingly aware of the present moment and of the immense power of the waves as they carry you. In this metaphor the ocean waves are all of the experiences you are likely grappling with right now, and it’s relentless, the waves never seem to stop or quiet these days. Again, it’s also important to note that you’re never alone in this storm, you can trust that the many people who love and support you and whom you love and support are very near by, perhaps you can even see one another as you navigate, accept and even surrender to the waves of change.

Will allowing space for and accepting the feelings change the circumstances that may have prompted us to feel that way to begin with? Not likely, but what it will do is support you in taking next steps and creating solutions based on a mindful and creative response, instead of getting caught up in cyclical trance of reactivity or avoidance. This is the first step toward living a life with more meaning and more authenticity. If you would like to learn more about these practices or how coaching can support you through personal growth and change, schedule a free 30 minute consult. I’m here to support you!

Would you like to take a moment right now to practice presence? There’s no time quite like the PRESENT! Try this complimentary guided mindfulness visualization/presence pause from Evolve Coaching:

Evolve Coaching Presence Pause
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