One Way to Truly Make the Holiday Season Joyful

Liberation Through Feeling Your FeelingsThe marketing messages would have you think this holiday season is all about joy. For most of my life that message has landed like a massive gaslight.

I know I’m far from the only one for whom this season evokes a lot of grief.

And even though we don’t like talking so much about things that don’t feel good or run counter to the narrative that many want, I think it good to talk about.

Yes, of course there’s grief.

In our personal lives, the holidays can be a reminder of those who’ve passed and whose physical presence is no longer with us.

Collectively, of course we feel grief at all that is happening in the world. If you are not feeling some grief, you are not paying attention to what’s going on.

We don’t typically allow much space for grief amongst all the joy we’re supposed to feel. Grief just brings things down for everyone, I suppose.

Well, I encourage us all to honour and feel our grief.

Not to suppress it as we’ve been taught to do or to put some arbitrary time limit around it.

And importantly, not to fear our grief.

I think why grief is so challenging for us is because it forces us to confront our helplessness. Grief is a loss over which we have no control nor any recourse. There is absolutely nothing we can do to change what’s happened.

In our dominance-based, mind over matter, control-loving society this is incredibly hard to accept.

So instead we seek to exert control over how much this hurts us. We try to control feeling it.

We may think this strategy will work but ultimately it never can. This energy to control, dominate and deny the grief becomes a lot more work and more of a beast than actually feeling the grief.

Feeling the grief requires us to face our helplessness, our humanness. Of course there is pain with this, and fear. None of this feels sexy or powerful.

Many of us are are also caught up in the idea that we have to stay positive. In order to heal, we have to stop dwelling or being caught up in the negative emotions I am told.

Which is a fundamental misunderstanding. We can’t build anything lasting on top of unstable ground.

It is actually allowing yourself to feel all of the emotions – including the ones that feel bad, scary, painful, hard – that allows one to stabilize that ground for something new and strong to built upon.
What happens when you allow yourself to feel the grief? What does it mean to really feel any challenging emotion?

There is some technique and skill to this. Many of us fear that we may become lost in the grief or the fear or the pain and never come back from it. (Certainly if you have experienced severe trauma, you want to take care and ensure you have a well trained facilitator or specialist.)

This act of truly feeling is new for most of us. It helps to have a skilled practitioner or group to guide you with this.

It begins with feeling your body and noticing and naming out loud the sensations you discern there.

Sometimes this is hard to describe and metaphor can even be useful here. We can tune into whether there is a temperature to it, is it tingling, buzzing. Anything.

If we are able to embody it – that is, bring our full attention and awareness to it – we may want to move or make sounds. It’s important to allow this.

Usually as we attune and get closer to the true witnessing and feeling of the emotion, something about it may shift. We may feel a release or we may get information about it in the form of a memory or a piece of wisdom for us.

But likely not on our timeline. It doesn’t work to force or expect or demand. This work takes time and so much permission.

I’ll tell you a bit about grief and how I’ve experienced it in my life.

The first time I really understood and was able to name what I was feeling as grief was as my mom was dying. At that time, I had a strong yoga practice as well as a couple of years of chiropractic care all of which had been moving me more towards understanding the importance of embodiment – feeling things in my body and letting them flow.

When I connected to my grief – because my mom was dying and there was nothing I could do to change that – the sensations that would most often arise would be this weird feeling in my throat like pop rocks candy going off in there alongside a kind of dark choking kind of feeling.

As I let myself feel it, I would cry and cry. Sometimes it became outright sobbing.

Often this would overtake me in public places. Many times in the first couple of years after she passed I would end up stopped, overcome and sitting on a city bench crying.

This is part of what makes it hard for people. This feels so vulnerable to be so – what – weak? Or perceived as weak? Or crazy?

All those times though I don’t think anyone ever truly noticed. Everyone is too busy in their phones first of all and second of all, everyone is concerned and in their heads about themselves.

Second, there was something about this loss that was so precious and deep that something so trivial about looking weak or pathetic to someone just couldn’t touch it. I didn’t care.

Does it make you uncomfortable? Fuck if I care. I’m grieving my mama.

And more than that, I realize now, I was honouring and taking care of myself. We can’t be healthy for long if we’ve got these trapped emotions taking up space and eating away at us inside (in combination with the resources we’re using not to feel them means so much diminishing of our life force energy).

Now, the thing is grief (or any emotion) will feel different for you. I’ve experienced grief in other ways in my body as well.

We have assigned words for delineating emotions and isn’t as helpful as some of us think. For example if I’m angry and I check into my body it will feel different than what you feel when you are angry.

If we aren’t aware of this and practicing this checking in, we can, and do often, mislabel what we are feeling. We may think and say we’re angry for example but what we really are is afraid. How will we know? By going into the body sensations.

It’s important to know this. It means that simply naming an emotion will not allow us to heal or move through it. Because we will all feel it in different ways and places and therefore require different remedies to moving with them.

Here’s the thing about grief though. If you’re able to sit and be with it long enough, you’ll come to something else underneath it.

That something else is love.
We only grieve the loss of someone or something that we’ve loved, that we’ve cherished, that meant something to us.

When we can stay long enough with the grief to finally feel the love underneath it, we can perhaps get to knowing and feeling that the love can hold the grief.

The love is big enough and strong enough to hold the grief.

Having to now experience the grief is worth it to have known this kind of love.

Some of you may disagree and say, Lana, no. This pain is so bad.
And I would say: yes it is. And you haven’t allowed yourself to feel it all. There will be more. This isn’t a one-time pain.

It’s 12 years since my mom died and I did cry a bit writing this.

Surrender and feel it all to find the love.

Nothing short of that is going to work.

You may think you’re going to die. Yes, in a sense you will die and it will feel torturous but isn’t it a worse insanity to fight your whole life something inevitable and unchangeable.

I still grieve, I still feel pain but it’s become more exquisite now. It gives me so much compassion. It’s allowed me so much liberation.

Feeling grief has finally made space for joy – true joy.

I want that for you too.