The Power of Owning Our Grief

person alone winter woodsI had my first round of chemotherapy last week.

If you read my last post, you know that I went into it with the attitude of: “let’s do this thing, Uncles.”

I re-read that post, and I have to say, that the woman who wrote it (though well-intentioned) had never had chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is beyond awful. I know that I’m supposed to make friends with it, understand that it’s my ally. I want to find the warrior-ess inside of me that kicks ass and uses chemo as the arrows in her quiver. And on a good day, I do feel motivated, and at least philosophical about it.

But, though I fear that no one really wants to hear it, I’m grieving.

I didn’t realize that I would still have to grieve this cancer thing. I thought, I’ve cried enough, been cut open three times, dealt with crazy infections–now these “really quite tolerable” drugs will be the easy part.

Yeah. I know. Now, I know.

In the throes of the worst day, when the nausea rolled over me and the fatigue was extraordinary, I found myself losing the boundaries of my Self–the edges of my own suffering blurring with the pain of the millions of people go through this particular hell. I experienced so viscerally the fact that, as inside my body there was a killing field, so is there a fierce toxicity in the oceans and rivers; so women are raped as a tool of war; so thousands of refugees starve and shiver on the ground; so two people decided the fate of 12 others in a center for developmentally disabled adults in California.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne

Why is cancer a pandemic? Is the violence that cancer and its cure does to our bodies a reflection of the violence in the world?

file8551233874461Are we reflecting the planet, or is it reflecting us?

I don’t know how to get ok with all this.

I don’t know how to not feel these things.

And I hate that I feel these things, because on some level I don’t want to deal. I can’t fix it, and so I don’t want to think about it. As Heidi Hutner said in her TED talk about eco-grief and eco-feminism, we don’t want to acknowledge that the planet is in trouble. But her belief is that we can lift this grief if we acknowledge it. And act.

I believe that much of the grief of our species is unacknowledged. I believe, however woo-woo it sounds, that this collective despair is part of what makes us sick.

I also believe that there is a benevolent, loving force in the universe that wants us to be ok. But we have to act on our own behalf.

personand universeAnd that starts with being with our grief. As much as I don’t want to cry anymore about how incredibly shitty I feel, unless I let those tears fall (leaking chemo down my cheeks), I cannot find my way to strength, to joy, to peace, to power. I realize more every day that this process will not be tidy, on schedule to coincide with my infusion weeks, or to make someone else feel better about my situation. Some days the sadness will be present, and others not.

Perhaps–along with hope, and activism, and positive thinking and choosing love–the act of grieving is an act of empowerment.

Perhaps grace is present even when we are on our knees.

Thank you for reading. And I would like to dedicate this post to those who were with me last week as I met the chemo for the first time: Denyse, Nichelle, Nikki, & Malcolm. And Nancy for always talking me through it. You guys don’t even know how important your presence was/is to me.

Photo on 4-15-15 at 9.23 AMElia

PS: As always, please share this post and/or comment if you like. And I am seeing clients (for astrology only) right now, so check in if you want a session.


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