Updated: Jun 27, 2022
to Hold grief,
a palmful at a time.
to Release grief,
a tear at a time.
to Allow grief,
to Live a moment at a time.
How do we hold grief? How do we hold the oceanic vastness that is our grief? Individually and Collectively. It often feels as though Atlas has resigned and left the world to our own shoulders.
On the anniversary of the day I was born, 21 souls were taken from this earth in a mass shooting.
19 were children.
Two were teachers protecting their children.
Irma Marcia was one of those teachers.
Her husband, Joe Garcia, died of a heart attack yesterday.
Irma and Joe are leaving behind four children.
I live in an Irish village that has taken in Ukrainian refugees.
They are here in a brand-new country, with their homes and families stripped from them because of war.
Grief. Immeasurable, insurmountable, and insuperable grief.
So how do we hold it?
I am sure like me; you may have struggled recently to pick up your phone.
Whether it be in social media, the news, or a tweet; every time we pick up our phones, we are met with another heaving wave of grief to process.
Eventually the grief becomes too much.
We numb it.
We bury it.
We purge it.
I have learned much on my own personal healing journey.
But I believe the single most important thing I have learned is this:
In order to release emotions, we must first allow ourselves to feel them.
I, like you, look at the vastness of my individual and our collective grief and wonder how one human body is meant to feel this much grief.
It is here that I want to remind myself and you dear friend that WE ARE NOT ALONE.
Grief is not meant to be shouldered and held within yourself until the weight flattens you.
We will and we can hold this together.
Here is how I have started to learn…
My friend Sean is an incredible tattoo artist. He has been working for the past decade and his creations are like air and art dancing. His Instagram account is @pokeapolis; please by all means, follow him and let his art speak to you as it speaks to me.
Five years ago, Sean penned these words,
“Hold grief and joy in the palm of your hand…call it alive”.
I bought a print of this beautiful poem, and hung it in my bathroom as a daily reminder.
Processing grief is one of the hardest feats we are asked to do as humans.
Which is why we tend to try to do anything BUT process that grief.
We numb it.
We make our lives so busy it cannot be felt.
We find ways to cloud our brains so it cannot be thought of.
We do anything within our power to hold back the crashing tides.
We repress it.
This is felt in our bodies.
Aches, pains, anxiety, sleeplessness, digestive issues, headaches, and fatigue.
This is our body accumulating our grief and trauma for us.
The grief, when not felt, must go somewhere.
So, our body shelters it and feels the pain while we try not to.
We run away from it.
Sometimes grief must be run away from.
I am not knocking that, (I write this from Ireland for goodness sakes).
But I, and the countless others who have spent their life as runners can tell you; no matter how far you run, the grief will accompany you.
We must feel grief.
And that is scary.
Trust me, I know.
Which is why Sean’s words have helped change my life.
Because through therapy, through meditation, through PTSD, and through being a survivor of abuse…
I have learned to feel my grief.
I am learning how to let it flow.
And I am realizing it is releasing.
When I woke up, 11 months ago to the grief that my body and mind patiently stored for me; I was overwhelmed.
It gripped at my soul.
It ravaged my personal life.
It decimated me.
And then Anne (#therapist) taught me how to slowly feel my grief.
I started by setting a five-minute timer every day.
I set the timer with the intention; “I will hold this grief for five minutes. Then I will let it go”.
And that was how I started.
Grief: Despair, wailing, weeping, and crying.
Anger: Throwing, punching, screaming, and pounding.
Grief again: Body pulsing, body twitching, and body shaking.
When my timer finishes, I’ve learned that after those moments of feeling the anguish, my soul needs to be nourished.
Sometimes it is the inner child wanting an ice cream cone with sprinkles.
I eat the ice cream.
Sometimes, it is my body wanting to lie on the floor and do nothing.
I do nothing.
Sometimes, it is my mind racing and asking me to help slow it down.
I help slow it down, whether with meditating, sprinting, or forcing it to do a crossword.
I help her find balance again.
I hold the grief suspended within a timeframe…within the palm of my hand.
But then I hold JOY within the mate of a holy palmers kiss.
This world is so heavy. It hurts to live in it.
You are not alone in your grief. We are here with you.
I pray as you look at your vast oceans of grief, you let yourself know that you may sip from her dark waters a palmful at a time.
Pain demands to be felt.
But we can feel it in our own time.
When we are able to feel it.
When we are able to release it.
My heart is aching today. The pain around me is so tangible I taste it in the air.
So, this morning, I set a 30-minute timer.
I sat down, and I wrote this.
Now, I am rolling a smoke and going to sit by the river.
For I have held my palmful of grief.
And now, I will sip from the waters of joy.
If your grief is an ocean,
know that we can feel it together…five minutes at a time.
If your joy is a teaspoon,
know that you are loved, you are alive,
and palm by palm… we will heal.