The Dawning of a New Day & the Cyclical Nature of Grief

By Mayana Geathers

There is a moment before the sun rises, when you can feel and see the in-between of night and day. It is a sliver of time when the darkness still hangs in the sky, the moon waves goodbye and the brightness moves upward from the edge of the earth. Before the rays unfurl their long legs, illuminating the earth with their orange glow, there is a feeling of stillness. It is in this stillness that hope and grief live together, nestled in the shadows between the speckling of light scattered across plants and in the silhouettes of trees. The shift causes you to catch your breath in anticipation of what may come and what you left behind. There is agony and beauty in the transitions that lay before us as we witness the dawning of a new day. Within these transitions, we become acutely aware of the vastness of this universe and the ways that our control falters in the face of its immenseness. Our grief can feel similar.

Like days and seasons, grief is cyclical, and it moves in a nonlinear fashion, defying orders to stay in place, preferring to emerge in moments of inconvenience or yearning. It is a process that at times lacks the clarity we often seek in our lives. It can feel confusing and essential, uncomfortable and comfortable, all at the same time. Grief’s ability to weave a tapestry of emotions, shifting from acceptance to numbness sometimes in the blink of an eye, can leave us feeling raw and vulnerable. Irritation and anger can rise as we struggle to make sense of the loss we have endured, leaving us curious as to how long we will be submerged beneath its heaviness.  

Our most prevalent association with grief is in death. Yet, our grief comes from a variety of losses: break-ups, life transitions, unfulfilled yearnings of love from a parent, traumas, and disempowerments. There is grief in making difficult choices, experiencing changing friendships, and realizing that trauma robbed us of opportunities. These are all losses, and all evoke our grieving response. Our rage, anger, avoidance, numbness, sadness, denial, despair, and acceptance can move quickly like the dawning of a new day. Or, an emotion can settle in for a season, insisting that we sink into that feeling and truly understand its nuances as the days stretch on.

When we normalize this nonlinear process and common experience, we do ourselves a favor as a society and as a community; we establish acceptance of the natural and authentic process of loss. In nature, we are familiar with the cycle of loss, the seasons, the days, the plants and trees. As fall moves into winter, we witness the dusting of orange and red leaves on the ground as the trees transition into their wintery skeletons. It is an exquisite transformation full of elegance and sadness. Yet, we have become unaccustomed to exploring the very real reactions to loss. It’s where idioms like “time will heal all wounds,” and false expectations to be “over it” quickly, burrow their way deep into our psyche, encouraging us to often avoid and deny this natural process. Avoiding the process allows grief to slip out at even more inconvenient times or in unconstructive ways. The grieving process can be lengthy as we constantly rearrange our world to adjust to everything we do without the thing we lost. It is important that we name this process due to its slippery nature, because without holding space for the particular healing work that goes into grieving, we can find ourselves confused by our experiences and reactions. 

Just like the transitions of our day, we cannot escape the losses that evoke grief in its many forms. We can, however, bear witness to them, and hold them in a special place where we can honor our process. We can breathe through these moments and acknowledge our journey.  

What do you do with your grief? What would you like to do with your grief? What would it mean to hold your grief in a sacred space of healing, acknowledge it, tend to it, and accept it?

Allow me to hold space for you in the emotion that accompanies your transitions.  

Imagine yourself with eyes closed, while the sun illuminates you on its grand rising, shifting the dark behind your eyelids into a burst of light. Acknowledge that this glowing orange shining beneath your eyelids can feel comfortable in one moment and overly bright and distressing in the next, as does grief. You shield your eyes in hopes of peeking through the blinding light in an effort to grasp on to clarity. Your grief can feel like a betrayal of your senses. Now, sit in this brightness and relax your eyes, no longer fighting to squint them open in an effort to see. Allow them to remain at rest, while you hold space for your understanding that the sun is moving, and it will not remain the same. Although the cycle may repeat tomorrow, there are moments of shift, of clarity, of recognition, and opportunity for care and tenderness towards self. Check in with yourself. What do you need? Settle into a space where asking yourself what you need is an allowable action. Find a space where you ride the wave of grief as it surges and recedes, reminding yourself that there are moments when you can surface to breathe. 

Now, tell yourself messages that fuel empowerment and support tenderness. 

“I can acknowledge and tend to my grief.

My healing with grief will take the time it needs and that is reasonable. 

I am worthy of all my feelings, the ups and downs, the lefts and rights, and the diagonals.” 

As the sun rises on a new day, I hold space for the grief and the hope nestled in the shadows. I hope that I can access generosity in creating space for my grief. 

We hold hope for our collective experience in recognizing that riding the wave of grief is necessary. These transitions come upon us and take our breath away, while offering us stillness and reflection. We remind ourselves that we are worthy of taking up space in the ebb and flow of our world. 

Our grief can be a shapeshifter that emerges from a variety of losses.  This audio essay holds space for this process, weaving a discussion of grief with imagery, guiding an opportunity for the listener to reflect on their own losses, emotions and experiences. In this reflection there is room for self-validation, empathy and patience for the journey. 

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