Welcome back to the Restorative Grief podcast with Mandy Capehart. I’m your host, Mandy, and I am so grateful that you have chosen to join me again. Each episode is written with a desire to help you grow in grief literacy and understanding so that you can become the person you need the most when it comes to navigating loss. There is an invitation that goes around social media every few years, and I saw it again this week: Become the person you needed when you were a child. The same is true of grief; by deciding to do this work for ourselves, we become the space-holders and grief supporters we are looking for in the world around us. With any luck, our newfound knowledge and awareness of loss will create that same space to heal for others we encounter as well.
This week we are going to run down one of my favorite rabbit trails. The last few episodes of our show have hopefully felt like an invitation to become curious about your own grief story. Often I find that we are resistant and nervous when it comes to our stories. We carry judgment from our own thoughts or from the opinions of other people. Maybe we struggle to see the value of our own lives or story because our filter of grief has become too clouded.
And if there is one thing I know for certain, it’s that in grief, we all want clarity. We are all searching for answers. And it makes perfect sense. We want understanding or closure. However, I believe that before we can find movement in our grief story, we have to figure out what role we fill in that story.
I don’t hear this talked about often, but when you are grieving – whether it’s over a job, a relationship, a life – there is a very significant secondary loss that we can miss if we’re not careful. We will never be the person we were before, and now, we may even have an unsteady understanding of who we are going to be in the future.
Our stories and words shape the world around us. It is crucial that we come to understand who we are to the narrative. How do we fit in to our own stories?
This is super important work in a season without active grieving, but it really becomes necessary in the face of great suffering.
And yet, it seems impossible to see ourselves when grief is holding up the mirror. Our reflections feel distorted, unfamiliar. We carry criticisms and blame, condemnation and what-ifs.
Learning to see ourselves through a lens of nonjudgmental curiosity is the lynchpin for anyone chasing down a breakthrough in their grief. And one such tool for self-awareness, discipline, and restructuring is known as the enneagram.
If you’re not familiar with the enneagram, that’s okay. I’m not going to do a deep dive into the tool itself, nor do I want you to think that it is the only tool for self-knowledge and progress toward healing. It is simply one of the many tools available that provides a high level of insight toward ourselves. It invites compassion for our story and helps draw a path toward balance and realignment of our disparate parts. (stopped here)
Author Hannah Paasch writes: “Our survival stories are often the passwords to our healing.”
I love that quote, because in grief, we feel locked up. We have fallen out of alignment. Don’t you feel discombobulated or disoriented? I bet you might even feel pretty damn broken. And that’s the trouble with misalignment. Our minds, bodies, and spirits are no longer on the same page, so any little disruption can send us right back into lockdown.
And if you learn nothing else from me, learn this: It is your great calling in life to find a way home to yourself in mind, body, and spirit. The techniques and support you gather around you to do so is up to you, and the enneagram is just one of those tools. It’s not a test on the internet. It’s not a book you can read and move through. The enneagram framework is an invitation to practice lasting and extravagant mercy over our broken hearts. To wander intentionally toward wholeness. To recognize that owning our story is the key to unlocking our healing.
And perhaps most importantly for grievers, the enneagram can help you stop “shoulding” on yourself as you heal.
Let me explain.
Take a moment to be honest – when is the last time you said, “Ugh, I should have just done it, even though I didn’t want to.” Or maybe yours sounds more like, “Ugh, I should just give this up to God and let him handle it.” This shoulding language is more commonly known as a cognitive distortion, but more often than not, we simply call them “lies we are believing.”
And that’s true – cognitive distortions are lies about our identity, our responsibilities, or our place in the world. But they are a manifestation of internalized shame. And shame does not get a seat at our table, my friends. While shame can motivate us to reach some short term goals, there is very little long term value in anything built on such a shaky foundation.
I appreciate the enneagram because figuring out where you fall in the framework can feel like coming home to yourself when you hardly recognize you anymore.
I remember when I first learned about the enneagram, I was confused, hurting and grieving, and trying to sort out what number made the most sense for me. I was hopeful that a little bit of external knowledge could act as a salve on my wounds. I was elbow deep in shame and shoulding language after a number of losses.
I love this quote from author Don Richard Riso:
“The process of transforming the heart can be difficult because as we open it, we inevitably encounter our own pain and become more aware of the pain of others. In fact, much of our personality is designed to keep us from experiencing this suffering. We close down the sensitivity of our hearts so that we can block our pain and get on with things, but we are never entirely successful in avoiding it. Often, we are aware of our suffering just enough to make ourselves and everyone around us miserable. But if we are not willing to experience our own hurt and grief, it can never start healing. Shutting out our real pain also renders us unable to feel joy, compassion, love, or any of the other capacities of the heart. Every moment has the possibility of delighting us, nurturing us, supporting us – if we are here to see it.”
Grief is a transformative event in our lives. I have a feeling every one of you listening already knows that, but as Riso states so plainly, we have a choice to make. We can continue resisting the pain in our story, knowing it will lead to a continually numb atmosphere in our minds, bodies, and spirits. Or we can ever so gently tiptoe toward a new way of seeing.
You can use the enneagram as a tool for spiritual discipline, team building, or as a way to understand others. It’s not just a tool for the grieving (although I might argue we are all grieving at any given moment). You also cannot use it as an excuse for poor behaviors or justification as to why you just don’t like someone.
But you do get to use the framework to ask some big questions of yourself. To become more curious. To let yourself off the hook for things you’ve always done that are probably connected to an old, unaddressed wound. And more than anything, you have full permission to engage your grief through this lens in a way that brings you back into alignment without shame for how you started or where you are headed.
This is a tool that gives us permission to learn how best we can heal and tell our stories with extravagant compassion and grace for our process.