The Gifts In Grief

And Other Painful Feelings

By Jon Terrell, M.A.

We don't usually think of painful emotions as bearing gifts, but..well read on.

Participants at our Grief and Other Difficult Emotions Retreat usually begin arrive consumed by anxieties and emotional pain. It's hard for them to be present and see through the fog of all their discomfort. They’ve come because of deep emotional loss, and on top of that they are worried about what we will do.

Emotional pain clogs everything up.

And then the ending of the retreat arrives, and participants are filled with gratitude, love and joy.  They still have more work to do, and yet there is so much relief.

Everyone can see more clearly and is much more present...with new eyes and open hearts.

We leave feeling lighter, more open, with renewed hope. We know there is more work to do, and we have new skills to accomplish that work.

That is the miracle of our retreats. 

How is it possibly in just a few days time to make such a dramatic shift?

It's hard for me to write about this experience because so much that happens seems beyond words, beyond mental understanding. But we do see it with our eyes, and feel it with our hearts...that's the real proof, our experience. 

Growth Occurs Below The Level Of Our Thinking

This is probably the most important discovery we make at a retreat. We all try to solve our problems by thinking them through, by trying to understand, by planning, by analysis. That works for a lot of things, but not for emotional healing.

For that we need to go underground, below our brain thinking, into our body. That's where our old, stuck feelings live: The hurt in our heart-ache, the anxiety in our nerves, the anger in our guts that feels like it is going to explode, etc. 

Many of us suppress so much of our life force in trying to be nice and to fit in that we can end up anxious and depressed. I've seen some people come to our retreats who need to "blow their top" to break free of the trap they find themselves caught in. Other people need to break free by expressing their sadness or fears.

Amazingly, when we go deep and feel our feelings stored there, we unwind the knots we've been caught in. And we feel better....usually a lot better.

What We Find When We Go Underground

It's underground where we discover our gifts. And it is here that we get our life back. We do our soul work by going down into our bodies, into our feelings, not up, and it's here where we discover how to be human.

To be human is to respond to life around us and inside of us. To respond rather than react. To be human is to be alive, alert, present. Otherwise we are asleep, reacting to life and easily manipulated by others. To be human we not only come alive, we begin to express our uniqueness.

The Gift Of Anger

It is hard to see anger as a gift because we see what damage unawake anger can do...we can hurt others, even kill them, in anger. And many of us are carrying around emotional wounds from being the target of other people's anger.

But when we work through our suppressed anger, something new appears. We feel free, alive, passionate, energized. These are just some of the treasures that anger can give us as we claim our power. It's a big "YES" to life. Inside our suppressed anger is hidden our power.

The Gift of Grief

Many of us avoid grief too...we suppress it and deny it. Others are teary all the time, trapped in sadness but never going deep enough to release it fully. Some of it may be pain from long ago.

When we fully feel our grief, and cry all the way down, the world changes, and the sun comes up. We can let go of our sorrow and gloom because a new feeling emerges from our depths. That feeling is joy and it is often accompanied by peace, acceptance and a huge sense of relief.

The Gift of Fear

We've been running from fear too. Fear, flight, freeze, anxiety and panic...some of the many faces of this emotion. At retreats, participants sometimes go underground into fear. It can chill us to the bone, freeze us into rigidity. It can make us shiver and shake.

And sometimes that's just the way we release it. And when we feel it and let it go we start to feel bigger, stronger, more excited. The life force we've suppressed comes back and gifts us. We feel stronger, more connected to others, more enthusiastic and excited...alive to each other and even...i've seen it at many retreats...alive to a divine holiness that is within and throughout all life.

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