By John Cunningham

Grief arises in our lives through many different channels. There are certainly the obvious ones – a death or terminal diagnosis of a loved one, loss of a dear pet, feeling abandoned when a spouse or partner does not want to be with us anymore. There are more subtle sources of grief as well – our kids growing up and leading their own lives, changing patterns in our families, our jobs, our communities. If fact, almost any change in life can bring about a feeling of loss, and with that loss, grief.

Normally when we feel grief, we also feel a deep resistance to the loss and grief. This can manifest as mindstates that say life is unfair that the loss we are grieving happened. The resistance often manifests as a mind asking why – why did a person have to die? Why did I have to be sick? Sometimes even a question, “what did I do to deserve this loss?” In the world around us, these are very common and acceptable parts of dealing with loss. Sometimes we may even feel pressure from the world around us that we are not grieving the “right” way unless we are resisting the loss. Resistance causes the sense of loss to embed itself more deeply within us. Our grief grows roots, and may be with us for months, years or even decades.

This resistance is added – it is not a part of the grief. It is intertwined with grief, and we are not able to see the separateness of the resistance unless we are able to look for it deeply. Often the resistance is so strong at these times that we are not able to look at it directly. Turning away – while a very natural response – allows the resistance to embed itself more deeply, allows the roots to occupy more of who we are.

But when we are able to see that grief is separate from resistance to grief, we can loosen the hold of the resistance and be more fully present to the grief. Grief is the process of integrating a new reality where something that was very integral to us is no longer present. Grief seems to be a pulling out of some deeply-seated roots and allowing what is true now to be here. From this perspective, we can begin to see that resistance to grief is not only dukkha-inducing, but also seems to hold back the process of integration, as we are resisting the new reality. Grief and loss hurt, but it is the resistance that causes us to suffer as we hurt.

When we are not resisting our pain of grief and loss, we are actually closer to the grief – there is no longer anything between us and the grief (the role that resistance played). In this sense, we are more intimate with our grief, with our loss, with our hurt. We submit to what life is offering in this moment, even though it is not what we would bring on if we were in charge of life. Being intimate with grief changes our relationship to the pain and the sense of loss. No longer is it an external enemy, a force to be avoided or driven away. The sense of self that is so deeply tied to the resistance softens. It is as if grief, loss and pain are manifesting in awareness. It no longer needs to be other than it is. It no longer needs to go away. The boundary between who we truly are and the sensations we experience dissolve. In time the grief passes, as does everything. We are strengthened by allowing the natural healing and integration power of grief to do its job.

When we meet our grief and loss in this way – even if we can only partly meet it this way – the resistance dissolves and does not grow roots. We grieve intimately when life asks that of us, and we do not hold the grief and loss when life offers a fresh new moment.