Loss can be a seismic shock that cleaves us open to release a torrent of pain or anger. There’s an art to grieving, I believe. An art to embracing the conflicted feelings: shock, denial, bargaining, anger, and the bleak finality of acceptance. To grieve well requires patience and enormous courage, in a culture which has few rituals to swaddle the weeping heart, to embalm the wound till we grow scar tissue to venture into our lives once again. We are not taught how to grieve. We are taught how to name, categorise, label, mostly, not how to deeply feel in our fast-food culture of “closure” and “moving on” as if Love and Loss were malls, or drive-thrus. Many of us don’t do “closure” easily. We find it excruciatingly difficult to cauterise, tie a torque around seeping lamentation. We lack the will to dam up the tears that flood the excruciating emptiness. We stand naked in the winter of our discontent. We sit, immobilised, in the ashes of our grief. The salt of our tears lubricates the keening of our aching heart.
A young woman client arrived today, bowed with grief. She raged with Tiger-fierce anger, then imploded, numb with disbelief, as she told her story of betrayal and humiliation after a unilateral break-up. Her lover’s masochistic behaviour made her realise that she was still loyally clinging to old stories she had told herself about love. Still playing the powerless Victim, still meekly turning the other cheek, afraid to ask, afraid to want. For some of us, part of the soothing balm of healing is the realisation that we can be angry when our former lover slithers up to us at a party, arms outstretched in a pseudo hale-and-hearty-greeting, hapless trophy-girlfriend firmly in tow. It is permissible to recognise that the plume of white hot indignation that rises means we are still triggered, and that our pain does not have a short sell-by date. We do not need to be the compliant “good girl / boy”, and force a friendship with someone who has behaved despicably, or go through the motions of “learning lessons” when our inner brat wants to scream obscenities from the abyss of our pain. We might need to knead and roll out the resistance patiently and creatively. Self-soothe, rather than push down further the bloodied blade of “whys” and “what ifs”.
New Age psychobabble has a lot to answer for sometimes, I feel. And, as for the much extolled virtue of “turning the other cheek,” or the misguided belief that our feelings are infallible truths, or we must think only “good and positive thoughts” lest we do ourselves harm, energetically, I have found that we often muddy the healing waters and prolong our wretched agony. Seeing things from your partner’s perspective can be useful – up to a point. But all we can really change is our own perspective – with a no-nonsense, “is this true?” as we question the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the one who did not, could not, want to love us. Even this takes some doing, and can be just another form of self abuse if we have not allowed the anger to rush up and release.
Anthropologists guess that humans first developed language and a bulging cerebral cortex about 1.6 million years ago, taking us down a very different evolutionary path to our close cousins, the chimpanzees. We developed, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, a sense of self, and importantly, a reflected sense of self, which shapes our choice of partner, as it is reliant on feedback from others. So, being humiliated, abandoned, or betrayed by the one we love has a devastating effect on our neurochemistry. Emotions like anger and deep grief can hijack our positive self-talk and blaze through the libraries of books we have read on self-growth and spirituality, leaving us charred and utterly bereft if we do not have a solid sense of Self; and very few of us do. “Forgiving before you are ready is an act of violence against yourself. And, you may never be ready” says Nicole Urdang. Yet, once we are aware that all our long-term relationships and brief encounters are mirrors of our inner beliefs about ourselves, mere shadowy reflections of our shaky sense of Self, we can “love our neighbour – and ourselves.” No more pathological childhood trauma – wallowing in how your parents disappointed or abandoned you. The gift of grief and anger is another step in growing up. And if you honour the process, take your time to self-reflect, not self-flagellate, your tears will turn to pearls.
Astrologically, the transits to your own birth chart may suggest that this drama of grief and pain is happening through you, not to you. You have constellated the actors on the stage of your life, and you can access the power to change old patterns, even short-circuit family fate that has been mired in your ancestry for eons. If you can see your own collusion – not trusting your own instincts, perhaps “settling for” a lover who does not desire you enough to move from gridlock, who does not value you enough to commit to working through the power struggle. To observe your own stonewalling, withholding, fear, criticism that has polluted the space between you, to have compassion for yourself as you revert to old default buttons, replay threadbare scripts. Only then can you begin to allow the cool tears and the hot anger to cleanse your heart, and make ready to Love again. Astrological Mars, representing anger, libido, fear, the Masculine Principle and our ability to fight off disease stationed early on Monday morning, then moves into retrograde motion on January 25th, reversing through Virgo for the next three months. This suggests that globally and personally, this is a time of turning points, of critical tipping points. A time that it might be helpful to examine how we betray ourselves, deny our intuition, stuff our anger and indignation down, tyrannize ourselves through negative self talk. A time to accept that the soul contract you had with your Lover-Betrayer was one of forgiveness and compassion.
Last word goes to Abba in that tremulously poignant song, When All is Said and Done:
“Thanks for all your generous love and thanks for all the fun
Neither you nor I’m to blame when all is said and done…”