Good Grief: 3 Ways Pain Can Be Your Healer

This year (without a shadow of a doubt) has become the most important year of my life. Back in February, my darling brother died of a drug overdose. He was 33. The shock of this devastating blow left me reeling. Once the dust had settled, Grief, in all her black finery, knocked at my door. I didn't want to let her in. Ever an advocate of positive thinking, my initial reaction was to ignore her furtive glances in my direction, and turn the other way. I plowed myself into activities that I believed would make me feel better. Yoga became my refuge. Daily, I would flow, sing mantras, meditate and pray, and for awhile I did feel better. Yet, the heart is a wound and it could only take so much stretching before it began to pulsate with pure and raw pain. The goddess Grief had been let in.

We live in a world where pleasure is seen as good; we just can't seem to get enough of it. Pain, however, is viewed as bad and not to be trusted. When many of us feel hurt or vulnerable, we eat, drink, go for a run, call friends, read a book, watch a film, anything but feel that feeling. So, when you're not used to it, and pain smacks you right in the heart and refuses to leave until it's done with you, you are left feeling confused, scared and drained. This is precisely what happened to me.

I felt indignant; had my yoga practice and newfound spiritual devotion done nothing for me? Why was I feeling so bad when I had made every attempt I could to fight it? And, then it hit me. In order to learn what I needed to, I had to look Grief squarely in the eye. I had to let her guide me and trust that she was in fact my friend and my teacher, illuminating all the aspects of my life that needed attention. Once I took her hand, I never looked back.

1. Pain is beautiful. The old clichés are the best. Pain is beautiful. When you are mourning a loss, be it the death of a family member or the breakup of a relationship, you do so because it meant something to you. It touched your heart deeply and changed you. The pain is a signal that you had that connection, and that it was real.

2. A spring clean for the heart. If we don't pay attention to our heart, it can shut off and become clogged up with old resentments. The pain of grieving is powerful. It is pure energy that vibrates around our heart space. We can literally feel it pouring out of us and engulfing us. As it leaves, it makes space for new energy -- it's up to you what you fill that space with.

3. Path to self-realization. It is when we feel at our most vulnerable that certain truths start to surface. If we stay with that feeling long enough, we begin to gain insight into the inner workings of us. We begin to know ourselves better, and it is then that we can truly ask, “What do I want from life?”

I have cherished my time alone with Grief. Her energy has been a saving grace for me in so many ways. My heart is more open. I understand myself better and have come to love myself more. And through the residual of her energy, my brother is in my heart forever. Grief still visits occasionally, but I treat her as I would an old friend -- with warmth, compassion and gratitude for all that she has done for me.

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