Most people who gravitate toward me for help are high achievers who are in a moment of transition in their lives:
Ready to sell or buy a home; move to a new job or career; on the cusp of a marriage or a breakup; contemplating the next step in business; facing an empty nest or the impending birth of a child, or some other moment of change.
My clients may feel unmotivated or frustrated, possibly at the point of hopelessness and despair. Often, they feel confused, indecisive, or stuck. No matter what they have tried, they can’t seem to get traction on a path to meaningful progress.
They have no shortage of brilliant ideas, big visions, and dreams. But they feel stuck in taking their next step forward.
What I have found is that, regardless of the context in which they come to me, my clients are often struggling to let go of something, refusing to acknowledge a loss, or haven’t grieved a loss.
Our Cultural Aversion to Loss
Loss and grief. They seem to be nobody’s favorite subject to discuss.
But if you want to unlock your productivity, you must learn to get comfortable with the feelings of loss and grief, and the related emotions of regret and disappointment.
Acknowledging and grieving loss is another aspect of embracing winter energy. Here I want to explain where this arises and why it’s so important to acknowledge and grieve our losses.
Letting go of things is difficult because we aren’t taught how to process loss. If there’s a topic our culture dislikes more than the idea of destruction and death, it’s grief. If we can avoid death and destruction, we can avoid loss and grief. The belief is that this will keep us on the path to happiness, the apparent holy grail of life.
We don’t learn how to acknowledge and process loss; there are few resources for learning how to grieve.
The common approach is to sweep it under the rug and “move on” or “give it time.” We typically bypass winter and go straight to a new spring: attempting to implement new things immediately. We try to fill the space before it is fully cleared.
Not All Loss is Death
The Loss of Endings
When we speak about loss and grief, death is often the first thing that comes to mind. But death of a person isn’t the only type of loss we experience. Sometimes there’s no physical death involved at all. Some other types of loss that we experience include:
- death of a pet
- ending of a friendship or intimate relationship (breakups and divorce)
- losing out on an opportunity or job you wanted
- having your kids move out of the house
- moving out of your home or selling your home
- voluntarily giving up an option to do something
- clearing the physical or digital clutter in your life
The Loss of Beginnings
We don’t experience loss only at endings. Destruction is part of the process of creation. New beginnings come packaged with moments of loss that we must acknowledge. Some examples of this type of “new beginning” loss include:
- birth of a child — loss of freedom for the parents
- moving in with a significant other or getting married — loss of independence and an old way of life
- stepping into a more visible role in your work — loss of anonymity
- starting in a new career or job — loss of certainty that you know the answers, loss of status
- buying a new home — loss of liquidity in your assets
- hiring an assistant or expanding your team — loss of control over how things are done
The Loss of Identity
The losses we feel at beginnings are often more profound than the losses we feel at endings because they often involve giving up a piece of our identity. A man loses his identity as a bachelor when he moves in with his girlfriend. When you start a new career or move to a new field you lose your identity as an expert. A new homebuyer loses her status as a renter.
This are just a small sample of examples.
Every transition point, moment of creation, and new beginning entails an ending, and therefore a loss.
Whether it’s a death or one of these other types of losses, we must grieve the loss. And this is the place where most people stumble.
We Experience Grief Beyond Our Personal Experience
It’s important to understand that our emotions respond to events beyond our immediate lives. A story you read in the news or hear from a friend can also create feelings of loss and grief within you.
It’s common to believe that these events are unrelated to your life. But the body holds onto emotion without rationally considering what’s relevant. It doesn’t distinguish between the grief you feel when your dog died and the grief you feel because of some event not directly related to you. It just knows grief.
Why Grieving is So Important
In my practice, I routinely find that clients who feel stuck have an ungrieved loss. It might be an entrepreneur who feels stuck creating a vision or following a plan, a person who is caught up in indecision about a job opportunity, or a client who feels incapable of moving forward with a purchase or sale of her home.
Often, they haven’t even acknowledged the loss, let alone given themselves time to grieve it.
Every loss clears a space for new opportunities and energies to emerge. When we don’t grieve our losses, we don’t clear this space. Ungrieved loss causes us to hold on to hope that we will get back what we lost.
Perhaps you have a friend who waited at home for his or her ex to call after a breakup, even knowing that the ex has moved on. In some aspect of our lives, we all do this.
Hope is an anchor that prevents us from moving forward.
When you’re gripping on to something that you lost, your energy and focus are directed to that thing. Until you grieve the loss, you remain bound in the energy of that thing, tied to the past.
Grieving frees up the energy, making it available for us to reinvest elsewhere. It frees our hands from the grip on the past so that our arms are open to receive the gifts of the present and future.
As Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. explains
When you allow emotions such as grief to transport you to the depths of your heart, you can hear the lessons of your past, let go, and regain the strength and clarity to more fully experience your authentic self.
The Winter Energy of Grief
Just like in nature, the winter season follows the season of release. The energy of winter invites us to engage in the grieving process, which clears our energy and creates space for new visions, new plans, and new opportunity.