Home > Lessons for the Modern Man, Men and Spirituality > Men and Emotional Health – Grief

Men and Emotional Health – Grief

In recent posts I’ve been writing about emotional health and balance. And just yesterday I included some thoughts about balancing yin and yang energies as we go inside to seek guidance, to switch on our internal GPS and determine if any course corrections are needed. In these turbulent times, the waning days of 2012, I’m finding the need to go inside frequently to establish balance and take a close look at my route forward!

And part of what is going on for me, what I’m working on is processing grief. Sometimes I look back on my life and sense that I’ve done a lot of grieving, and of working through the grief that so many men seem to feel. This goes back to the 80s and Robert Bly’s Mytho-Poetic Movement. He was all about the grief process and how little western society allows any real space for this emotion. Another of my teachers, I met him through Robert, addresses grief as one side of a coin; the other side is praise! This comes from Martín Prechtel (see my review of his most recent book).

What Martín offers is very much in keeping with the Taoist approach to transforming emotions to virtues which I addressed here a few days ago. For Taoists Grief is transformed to Inspiration.

Grief is a good way to end this series on the transformation of emotions. We in the west pay much too little attention to this deep emotion. It is our unexpressed, unprocessed, unmetabolized grief, even more than anger, which leads us into wars. Grief leaves us empty if we don’t deal with it. And we then fill that emptiness with aggression. A milder but still potent manifestation of this emotion is Disappointment. Here again we have no good way to process this. We need to learn to transform grief and disappointment to Awe, Inspiration and Praise. Again there is deep Inner Work needed to work through this emotion. Our stories help with understanding. Meditation helps with moving from Grief to Praise, from Disappointment to Inspiration.

Grief is often associated with death, of course. Death is the ultimate loss. When we lose something, especially a loved one, an emptiness opens up that is difficult to fill. When we go inside and touch that emptiness we too often shrink away from it. It is a cold and bitter sensation that we would rather avoid, cover up, fill in, and ignore. None of us likes that hollowness; it is painful!

So, how do we get to Inspiration and Praise from that lonely, empty place? How can we even suggest that there is Praise on the other side of Grief? When we lose someone truly close to us through death, we turn to celebrating a life lived well. We remember shared stories, inspiring moments together, important milestones on our shared journey. We find many ways to praise that life. And from the specific, from that loved one’s life, we can expand to celebrate Life, the larger cycle of Life and Death in the great context of Becoming.

Here we find connection. And through this connection to the Greater we can begin to fill in the empty hole in our middle. This is a lengthy process. It takes time and work, inner work, to reach for the connection; to move into the context of Life. This is where we find Inspiration and reason enough for Praise.

Grief to Praise. It is not an easy route; it takes time (more than the three days offered by businesses to employees for the death of loved ones!). It requires an expansion; the hole in the heart is not filled in but the heart expands to somehow accommodate the hole! Take the time for this expansion process. If you find yourself grieving, whether it’s for the loss of a loved one or some other great loss (job, home, youth, energy, health…) sit with it; touch it gently; move into the emptiness; begin to see the possibility for expansion. Do the inner work, a bit at a time as you can.

And remember to bless yourself in this great work!

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