The Great Slow Down
An excerpt from my upcoming book, “Restorative Grief.”
Release scheduled for 2021.
“Everything counts; everything leaves an imprint in our minds.Pema Chodron
Allowing moments of grace for ourselves through grief is the crucial act of kindness we need to survive the intensity and overwhelming need to move forward. Indeed, we will eventually move forward. But without first reading the map, a road trip of such magnitude will result in missed turns and flat tires. We do not need to suffer additional indignities simply for the sake of healing. Quite the opposite — our minds will allow us to heal more thoroughly if we can embrace the humble, steady pace of one thing at a time.
Focusing on the small things we can handle restores our sense of control and involvement over our own lives. Denial allows us to pace ourselves, to daydream, and protects our heart against the shame of slow.
What looks like reverse may just be standing still. I struggle with stillness, but as I mentally and physically practice being still, I am learning patience with myself as I process at my own pace. Every single time I learn of another life lost, another home burned, another illness diagnosed, I experience what I’ve come to call “The Great Slow Down.”
In “The Great Slow Down,” light moves faster while minutes seem trapped in molasses. Simple decisions, like what to eat next, feel weighty. Even my next breath takes more energy than I can muster. But in this pacing, my own body is giving me permission to wait. To pause. To be still and resist the litany of decision making, criticisms, and damaging thought processes our culture tends to rely upon during grief.
It is the unending questions from well-intended outsiders that cultivate shame. Although they usually mean well, those leading questions make us internalize and “should” all over our decisions. This comes from the cultural discomfort with suffering and a need to fix the broken situation. But rather than bandaging it up early, imagine what would happen if your wound had a chance to breathe.
Not sure what the “fixing” sounds like? Notice those who offer platitudes of cheer and stories of their own grieving process. This feeds the narrative of “move on” with expectations you have no obligation to carry. Yet from those interactions, we “should” ourselves with their stories, believing our denial and sorrow do not deserve the space to move slowly or simply stand still. After all, “Peace, be still!” is not a reminder, but a correction. Choosing to remain still is a holy posture.
“When clouds are heavy, the rain comes down. Whether a tree falls north or south, it stays where it falls.”
In grief, it is not your job to brighten another’s day, lest you unintentionally stomp on their sorrow. If you’re not sure how to hold space without fixing, try saying, “This sucks. I love you. I’m so sorry. I’m with you.” And these are the same words you should speak to your own heart! Every time your heart lurches with pain today, say the words above to yourself. Your heart needs to learn how to rebuild a connection to the swimming thoughts in your head but taking it slow will allow you to build a bridge that remains trustworthy in the strongest of winds.