On Grieving.

Tags: HeroStories


And I was having to bear the unbearable.  If I must bear it, I would bear it -- find the whole meaning of it, taste the whole of it....  I would not run away from grief; I would not try to hold on to it when -- if, unbelievably -- it passed. - Sheldon Vanauken

I would like to share below the experience of the greatest loss of my life, in the hopes that it may, in some way, help others with their suffering.  While I truly understand that divorce is a different kind of loss than death, and I also know that the loss of a child is the most difficult loss to bear (and one I personally lived in constant fear of for many years), nevertheless I believe my story may be instructive to many and so I offer it here:

(Expanded from my book, Heartwork: How To Get What You Really, REALLY Want)

When my marriage of twenty years ended, I was heartbroken—absolutely unbearably heartbroken. Ellen had been my best friend for twenty-one years, my life partner and co-creator/co-facilitator of Heartwork. In one fell swoop, I lost all of this and my family, my home and my future.

I allowed myself to experience the loss fully. I created a room in my house that was womb-like. It was the smallest bedroom in the house.  I painted it the color of a southwest desert cave.  I put our queen-size bed in the room and bought the softest foam mattress available, and covered that with a feather mattress, so that, when I lay down on the bed, it hugged me!

For six months, I cried myself to sleep every night, I woke up crying every morning, and I cried whenever I had a break in the day.  One night I cried all night. In the morning, as the sun rose, a little bird chirped, and there was joy in my heart again.

People who know me well tell me I grew more in those six months than I had in all the work I had done on myself in the previous 30 years.

Only by allowing ourselves to fully experience our grief can it transform…

I would like to recommend a few books that I have found most useful for the people I have worked with over the last 40 years who are dealing with loss and grief:

Meetings at the Edge, by Stephen Levine (Gill & MacMillan, 2002), is a book specifically about dealing with death and dying.  For many years, Stephen and his wife, Ondrea, started and ran the Dying Project in Taos, New Mexico, where they counseled many hundreds of people dealing with death – their own or that of a loved one.  Each chapter in the book is a different person’s story and a beautiful description of how they skillfully counseled that person through their grief.

Tear Soup, by Pat Schweibert, is a modern fable, accompanied with full color illustrations, about a woman who has suffered a terrible (unnamed) loss, and cooks up a special batch of "tear soup," blending the unique ingredients of her life into the grief process. Along the way she dispenses a recipe of sound advice for those who are in mourning or know someone who has suffered a loss. Tear Soup is one of the most popular grief resources available for children and adults.

The Shack, by William P. Young, is a moving story of deep emotional healing by a man who seems to know something about pain, despair, the power of love, and the process of personal transformation.  Its gift to Christians - and limitation for those who aren't - is that he draws on a lot of Christian theology (while breathing a lot of new life and insights into it).   It teaches one to open in trust to the power of love in each moment, and let go of all that stands in the way.

The Courage to Grieve, by Judy Tatelbaum, is an excellent book on all the aspects of grief and grief resolution, including important ideas about self-help and avenues to finish unfinished business and teach people how to let go. It is a well-done book written with wisdom and love, and makes people aware that every ending is also a new beginning.

A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis, the book that inspired the film Shadowlands, is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.

When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chödrön (Shambhala Publications, 2000), is one of two books I recommend to everyone who is going through a difficult life transition.  It is filled with both compassionate understanding and practical tools for dealing with loss and change,

Lament for a Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorff, are the spiritually enriching reflections by a well-known Christian philosopher, who lost his 25-year-old son to a mountain climbing accident, which bring him to a new understanding of a suffering God.

Safe Passage: Words to Help the Grieving by Molly Fumiais is a collection of quotes and thoughtful insights related to grief and loss. You can pick it up and put it down easily and the book moves through different emotions from the beginning to the end.

Theo Munson’s Finding Your Way Through Grief, is an inexpensive booklet that focuses on common grief reactions, coping techniques and gentle suggestions.  It can be purchased through Lifetime Care, www.lifetimecare.org.

I would also recommend an excellent audiotape entitled Permission to Grieve, in which psychotherapist Claudia Helade reveals the stages of grief and teaches one how to use the grieving experience as a doorway to healing and wisdom.

No Answers

Last night

she came to me

in tears and anger.

"Why did He have to die,

to leave me here alone?"

"Why do Others have a happy life,

a house, a family, a Home?"

"Why not me, why has all of it

gone wrong?"

I could not answer her.

I tried.

I talked the way I always do.

I said the things I thought I knew:

of love and loss

and finding ones' true self;

of how we all are spirit,

at root are one, together,

whole, united,


And yet it was so much,

just ashes in my mouth.

So here I sit,

still trying to find those words:

to make flowers blossom from a stone,

turn water into wine,

bring the dead to life.

Trying to do anything

but be right here,

unable to do anything,

at all.

—Richard Wehrman

Dale Goldstein. LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and workshop facilitator who has actively explored the uses of meditative and psychotherapeutic tools in the process of helping individuals, groups and organizations to heal since 1966. He is the author of the multi-award winning book, Heartwork: How To Get What You Really, REALLY Want.

As a result of his own inner work, Dale saw a need to combine psychological and spiritual work in one comprehensive system. In 1981, he created Heartwork, a gentle yet powerful path for personal/spiritual transformation. Since that time, Dale has been the director of the Heartwork Institute, Inc., in Rochester, N.Y., home to his private counseling practice and a variety of seminars and workshops that he facilitates internationally.

Dale has written monthly columns for DAKA, the World Times, the international "good news newspaper," and New Health Digest.

You can learn more about Heartwork at http://www.awakentheheart.org/griefsupport. <