This episode is part of a new series, "On Journaling." Every so often, I will write about the practice of journaling—how we can keep up with it, what it can do for us, and the role it plays in our lives. I hope these will be helpful to you in the ongoing development of your practice.
Your journal prompts this week:
Looking back at times when I was dealing with grief, how did I manage it? Was journaling a part of it, and if not, how could it have helped in retrospect?
Where do I feel any resistance toward using my journaling practice to help me grieve, and what can help me release this resistance?
Where am I hanging on to unprocessed grief, and how can my journaling practice help me move through this?
How can I create more space for processing grief in my regular journaling practice?
When we think of grief and grieving, we traditionally think of the difficulty and pain of losing a loved one. Until I lost my dad, I thought I had avoided the grips of grief. But grief extends beyond just our immediate circle, beyond the people in our lives. We can also grieve relationships that have ended, lost jobs, and even past versions of ourselves. And we can also feel weighed down by grief about what's happening in the world around us, about the many lives lost due to circumstances beyond their control and for which we may feel helpless.
Grief can be tricky. It doesn't come all at once from one triggering event and then it's over. I've learned that grief stays with you. It might seem to be a little less potent over time, but then at other times, it can feel as fresh as the moment it was ignited within you. As with many things in life, navigating grief becomes less about eradicating the feelings and more about learning how to respond to them when they show up.
It's around this time of year, October/November, that I have a little visit with my grief. I am half Mexican, and in recent years, I have taken more of an interest in my lineage and its cultural practices, which have mostly been lost in my family. I've learned more about the Day of the Dead and have built an altar to my dad, which I spend some time with on November 1 & 2. It is a reminder to me of the significance and importance of honoring our loved ones in Spirit.
I have noticed within myself though a focus more on the honoring part, which feels friendlier and easier. I tend to downplay the grieving part and the messiness that comes with it. I don't like to dwell there long.
When it comes to processing anything I'm holding deep within and am perhaps afraid to confront fully, the first thing I turn to is journaling. I remember picking up a journal specifically for loss and grief the year my dad died, and I found it at a local used bookstore. Used bookstores often don't have copies of guided journals available for resale, so I took this as a sign. And it was working through a few prompts in this that felt like real medicine for me. I still have this journal, but admittedly fell off of using it after a year or so. Now I am feeling called to return to it because, as I said, grief doesn't just suddenly end or self-heal. It is always with us and needs to be regularly tended to.
Our journaling practice can be a tool to help process grief in a healthy way, in a way that puts us in a position to take aligned, heart-led steps forward.
But even as I write that, I'm hesitant to say grief needs to turn into some type of action. That's not always true either. It can also be us just showing up in the world, in our day-to-day lives from a healed and softened place, with a greater ability to hold space for ourselves and for others.
Learning to grieve also gives us greater respect for the natural cycles of life, giving equal attention to the excitement of new beginnings and the recognition and processing of endings. One of the things that really stands out for me from my dad's passing was that he ultimately decided when it was time for him to go. He was in the hospital and when presented with the options ahead of him, he said it was time for hospice. He made the choice, and he called us all to be there. He passed away less than 24 hours after entering hospice care.
A couple months after he passed, I went to see a medium, which some may or may not agree with, but it was a healing and validating experience for me. But it isn't the session that I want to talk about but what happened on the car ride there.
My husband was driving, and a song on one of his Spotify lists started playing, called "Dead and Gone" by DRAMA. I had heard it a couple days before, playing in the background. I had mentioned that I liked it, but I hadn't listened closely to the lyrics. But on that car ride, when it played, the lyrics finally cut through to me loud and clear:
"Love is for lovers and old men who know when to fold and go home."
Side note before I get into the significance of this: lyrics have a funny way of delivering messages. Your interpretation might not even be what the song is actually about, but when a phrase or line means something to you, when it strikes you, listen. It was meant to land with you a certain way.
My dad liked to gamble (he had good luck with it), and he went to Vegas often. One of his favorites was poker, so the phrasing of this lyric really hit. He also jokingly called himself the old man or old guy. So this sounded like him. It sounded like something we would say. When it came to his journey on this earth in this lifetime, he was an old man who ultimately knew "when to fold and go home." And I think my family’s love for him and his love for us gave him the strength to do that and to feel safe letting go.
Really, this is one of the greatest challenges we have in life: understanding when it is time for something to end and loosening our grip on it so we can let the natural cycle complete itself as it is meant to.
And as the outsider, watching these endings, our challenge is to allow the space for grief. We want to ignore it and rush through it, and the world outside of us forces us to rush through it too. This leads to a lot of people walking around in the world, carrying grief and the resentment that comes with bottling it up. I'm sure we can all imagine how this impacts the way we show up in our day-to-day lives.
When it comes to grieving something on a larger scale, such as world events, I was reminded recently that being able to grieve these is a privilege. Thank you to Cassie Uhl for putting words to this, and you can learn more on her Instagram page. When all forces outside of you push you to keep going as usual, it can also feel like a rebellious act to allow yourself space and time to grieve. But it is necessary not just for yourself, but for the greater good.
If you would like for journaling to be a part of your grieving process, explore how you can begin this practice with the journal prompts above.
As always, if you want me to pull an Oracle or Tarot card for you this week for some guidance, particularly around grieving, you can let me know in the comments below.
With much love and gratitude,