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The Power of Feeling and Expressing Our Grief

I had two heart rending cries, complete with sobs, about the immigrant

children and their parents this past week.

My unexpected sorrow

shocked me with its intensity. Whenever I try to

feel and express my

grief, as I did a few days ago, it invariably

manifests as a clearing

bout of tears.

It wasn't always that way for me.

Sometimes I've been torn by grief that is very personal. The death of my father when I was only 13 years old was a real heart breaker.

Then there was my mother who suffered with emphysema and died

when she was only 69.

One other example is when, at 40 years old, I had to watch a man I loved

suffer miserably, as did I, after I told him I couldn't

spend the rest of my life with him.

(Man, am I sounding morbid or what? And how about resembing

Debbie Downer here? Give me a chance and I'll explain why!)

When my father died at 47 years old, despite his suffering through a long illness, my sister and I were devastated and held each other, howling in unison when my mother told us he had passed. I felt like one of my arms had been ripped out. I adored him. But I also cried that day for myself and my family. I knew how many of our dreams for the future had been shattered.

I knew how difficult the coming years were going to be.

In addition to a sister who was five years older than me, I had two much younger brothers at the time - five years old and one in age. Compounding the grief of my father's death, my mother was agoraphobic and often depressed. This handicapped her tremendously.

I knew, even on that first painful day, that my brothers would suffer from never knowing a father and that I would have to assume

responsibilities way beyond my years.

In time, there were lessons to be learned from this devastating loss.

I learned that you can't hold in your grief, which we all did in a stoical fashion - believing that grieving was weak and we

"just had to get on with it." The assumption was that after one major cry,

we could bury our feelings and move on. Bad mistake!

Fifteen years later I learned through therapy that stuffing one's grief can be very emotionally destructive and can even manifest as physical ailments. Luckily, I was finally able to cry frequently in my therapist's office and

felt so much better releasing the pain and grief that u

I had avoided many years before.

In my early 50s, I also realized (I'm a slow learner...what can I say?!)

that a great number of my gifts, interests and pleasures came

from my father - intelligence, the love of writing and books,

reading, opera, classical music and gardening. He did not have to be

in my physical presence for me to benefit from his influence.

With my mother's death I learned other things. From my therapy work,

I had become aware of the importance of feeling grief fully.

This time around, I allowed myself a good cry for 15 minutes

every morning for weeks after she passed. Crazy as it may sound,

I knew I was mourning her properly.

Also, I realized through her passing that there are things worse than death. She suffered so much with emphysema, her death was actually

a relief and the release from her suffering was a merciful

ending to her life. I have missed her terribly and

still do after all these years.

But I

thought, even immediately after her death, that she was

relieved of her pain by dying and I felt good about that.

When I tell people this, they are often horrified. But, I believe

that death can be a blessing for many. Amidst the grief, there

can be a poignant sense of relief and release for everybody involved.

Again, I realized the many gifts I received from my mother.

A sense of humor, compassion, the ability to network,

the power

of love and the

importance of family

and friends to help

each other

get through the tough times.

As for my third example: despite the pain of breaking up with

my boyfriend those many years ago, I realized that hurt can

be the gateway to positive change. Tough as the emotions

were for both of us the time,


and have a son

who he is

crazy about.

It was a better situation

than he would ever

have had with me,

since we were't totally compatible

for marriage.

I realized that

there was ultimately a gift in our grief.

His life eventually went


in a very positive way

as did mine.

Now, fast forward to earlier this week. One day I followed

non-stop the crisis of the immigrant children and the cruelty

and horror of the separation they were enduring from their parents.

I sat on my couch and was immersed with grief and pain. Tears were

pouring down my face for these suffering people. I was also crying

for my country and suddenly realized how much I have always loved

living here. For me, the current political situation and what

I perceive as grave damage to our country is also worthy of grief.

It crossed my mind briefly that I'd have to move to another country

or hide away in a cave until this administration was no longer in power.

The situation was making me ill and in a terrible state of grief.

Then came the gift...I read in the paper that a couple in the

San Francisco area had started an Internet fundraising campaign,

hoping to raise $1,500 to pay for legal costs for one immigrant

parent. The plea went viral and within a matter of days,

$15 million dollars was raised.

Wow! I was reassured and reminded again that miracles can occur in the middle of pain. The American people are generous, loving and caring

about this mess in Texas. Here comes another cry,

but this one was in relief and happiness. I felt reassured

of the fundamental goodness of our citizens.

I was struck with the thought that God's loving hands and the grace of miracles exist in every painful situation. This is my belief.

I relate to our culture with the problem most of us have around grief.

So often we don't give ourselves the time to grieve properly. We want

to get back to "normal" and stuff our feelings in order to "carry on."

With our natural aversion to death, few of us want to get stuck in

grief. We don't give ourselves permission to feel our pain.

But opening up to grief is part of the healing process. Allowing ourselves

to fully experience feelings of sadness, anger, loss, frustration or

devastation is critical. Facing painful feelings and grieving

loss takes courage and vulnerability.

It is part of our healing journey.

Now go and have a good cry for those kids!

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Who is Kathleen Pasley?

Kathleen has a life that encompasses numerous

areas of endeavor: writing, fundraising, marketing

and spirituality.

Two things help define her: she has been on

a serious spiritual path for 35 years and has

known serious depressive episodes.

She is committed to speaking from the heart

on spiritual issues and sharing honestly

and openly about mental illness.

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