Grief after losing a loved one can be both heartbreaking and heart-opening. When my husband, David Beynon Pena, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 until he died in September 2016, we learned to live fearlessly. Somehow, my self-doubt and fear of embarrassment about fulfilling my bucket list items, like speaking on stage and singing in cabaret shows, faded away as we faced his death and the end of our time together.
Expand On The Joy
Life gets busy and becomes about logistics – who is taking out the trash and how to pay the bills. It’s easy in all the hustle to forget about stillness and love, to forget to check in with ourselves and listen to our heart’s desires. David and I recommitted to loving each other those 11 months. Our marriage would have been very different if we were that present to our love the previous 24 years. We cut out obligations to people and activities and expanded on everything which brought us joy.
Grieving can damage our trust in ourselves, including our bodies, experiencing an inability to focus, memory loss and flagging energy. Grief breaks relationships as the bereaved become ‘too much’ and the grief journey goes on for ‘too long’. Uncontrollable tears or anger can drive people away, poking holes in their support networks. Grief causes us to lose faith in our networks and future possibilities. That’s the devastating part, when the future you imagined disappears like dust.
Grief Is Also Heart-Opening
Being mortal with bodies that break down is not new news but it is a truth we spend a lot of time and energy trying to ignore. That stark reality shakes up what ‘seems’ to be important for what really matters to us, as violently as a child with a snow globe. The world looks different because we are not the same. How can we be?
In addition, time flows differently for someone who is grieving than for the rest of the world. For example, a person like me who loses a spouse of 25 years, gets to grieve that loss for a year before people are ready for them to be moving on. The problem is that every grief journey is unique and often takes more than the socially acceptable time allotted. Sometimes it goes fast, other times slow. The person grieving was swimming in the same stream as everyone else, caring about similar goals, the loss happened and they are elsewhere, not always sure how to get back.
What this means is that, after a loss, when we re-engage in the world, reinvent ourselves and rebuild our networks, everything is completely fresh. We have a choice: 1) to try and get back on the old track or 2) to begin to chart a new path. The old track may no longer fit us and our priorities. Who we are and what we care about has probably changed. I recommend play to connect deeply without getting invested in the outcome, tasting different options freely.
Learning A New Skill Set
Tuning in to connect is a skill set which expands with self-care. Self-care is anything we say it is. It doesn’t have to be expensive or take a long time, the arguments we make to avoid including self-care practices as a regular priority in our schedules. Some of mine include journaling, including with my Soul Teams, walking in nature, travel, writing poetry, and playing with crystals. What are yours? I invite you to be cracked open by your grief and let the light shine in.
The gift comes when we allow the heart-opening characteristics of grief to reset direction and design a life more true to ourselves. Are you ready to connect deeply to yourself after your loss and step into the life of your deepest desires?
Alison Pena aka Bad Widow supports clients to tap into their innate resilience and take back their lives after loss with stories, insights, and strategies. After losing her husband to pancreatic cancer in 2016, Alison designed new ways to re-engage, reinvent, and rebuild back to life, work, and even love.
You can learn more about her at: https://badwidow.com/
Feature image by David Beynon Pena oil painting of the Guggenheim Museum in NYC.