Welcome back to Restorative Grief with Mandy Capehart. You are listening to episode 39, titled “Four Reflections to Find Solid Ground.” This week, I wanted to give you a few solid tools for when your footing feels unstable. Moving through grief, we tend to hurry and often find ourselves slipping into old ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving that reinforce the hurt when we want to move into the healing. So this week we are going to discuss how to move into lament and why it’s so valuable as we heal.
We in the West are young in thought and practice. Although we often lay claim to ancient beliefs, our Western perspectives have much to learn from common practices in the East, such as lament.
I recently finished reading “You Can Talk to God Like That” by Abby Norman. It’s a fast read with rich reminders of the invitation to become honest, open, and available to feel the full range of our human experience. If you are in a faith practice, you may have experienced a teaching or two diminishing your human experience, your emotions, or even your thoughts or body as untrustworthy. That some part of you, if left to truly become “wild” and full of reflection, would offend the figureheads of your faith, leaving you outside the inner circle.
While that belief structure alone is cause for grief, it would also lead to a life of repression. You are believing that what you contain in and of yourself is not worthy, not valid, or not healthy. All of which is not true. Learning to acknowledge the fullness of our emotional selves is not only taught and demonstrated through honest faith practices, it’s encouraged.
Lament is so much bigger than letting your tears fall. It is the practice of allowing our sounds to speak on our behalf. When we have no words, our spirit reaches deeper for the emotion and brings our cries to a power much beyond our own. We admit we are in distress, and in time, find release.
When we suppress the big thoughts, emotions, and feelings, we fall into disarray. Our connection to self, others, and often our faith feels tenuous. The threads are thin and ready to snap at the first sign of our emotional upheaval.
When we lean into the practice of lament, we engage the heart of our creative selves. We are made for expression, and in grief, that expression is cut short. We often believe the lie that if we do not have words, we have nothing worth saying. But articulating emotion is not limited to eloquence. It is our deepest cries that allow the guttural truth of our loss to rise up, be heard, and release from every aspect of our being.
Lament is intentional and pointed. Our questions, directed at the self and our loss, must be equally intentional if we hope to rise again. We cannot rely upon the interpretation of an another to understand or express who we are and what we need. And indeed, although we may share a common faith text with another person, rest assured that we all have our own interpretation, understanding, and approach to that text based on who we are as we read the work. The same is true of grief, and so it is with great humility that I offer these four questions that may help you understand the intensity of the grief you’re experiencing.
Learning to lament allows the big, pressure-filled emotions to pop the cork. The pressure releases eventually – whether slowly or all at once. That part is up to you and how you want to grieve. If grieving in isolation with the occasional explosion is working well for you, then feel free to continue along the path. But if you recognize that misalignment in your mind, heart, body, and spirit are affecting your daily life more than you’d like, then perhaps it’s time to set aside a time to lament.
So here are the four questions.
- What emotion am I feeling right now after expressing my sorrow? Be specific. Not just anger; is it rage? Disgust? Disappointment? Practice identifying the specifics, and ask someone to talk it through with you if you feel stuck. If you’re unsure of the words you need to find those specific emotions, take a moment to look up the Human Systems Emotion Wheel. It leads you from the familiar emotions (like happy, sad, angry) into more intentional, specific emotions that are both comfortable and uncomfortable. Sometimes our biggest block is our lack of language to describe what we’re experiencing.
- Do I feel this emotion anywhere in my body as well? Maybe your head is pounding, or your fists are clenched. Is your stomach upset? How’s your jaw? How’s your vision? How’s your hearing? Sometimes I get a little ringing in my ears when I’m so angry. Recognizing the impact of emotions and grief on your physical self is a level of wisdom that we often discredit and this is our invitation back into the intentional form and on behalf of our bodies.
- What is the “Next Right Thing” I do for my body to address the grief?
A simple response. If your throat hurts, make tea. Is your body stiff? Maybe take a short walk. Add a sweater if you’re cold; drink cool water if you’re overheating. Taking care of yourself in the physical makes a difference, even if it seems so unnecessary or simple. Because here, nothing needs to be complicated. We are moving slowly.
- How does this emotion connect to the love I felt for the loss I suffered? As you come down from the big responses, because it’s okay if when they rise up, you need to scream, or cry, or punch a pillow, or just sob. Sip your tea and observe yourself; no judgments. Moving through grief consistently, even in little moments like this, is crucial for healing. Like preparing for a speech; the very first time is intimidating, but the more often we do it, the more familiar it becomes. It may still suck, and we may still get stage fright or fear judgment from others. But in our hearts we are building confidence, resiliency, and leaning into the beauty of our own complexity.
Scheduling a time to lament and work through all of these questions are two separate times. Lament doesn’t need structure or an outcome: It needs your honest. As Abby Norman describes in her book, quote:
“I don’t know who decided that holy people don’t suffer…We are allowed to bring our broken bits to God. We are allowed to talk to God like we are working out our relationship, with all the ups and downs and hard times. We don’t have to always be happy; we don’t have to always look on the bright side. God does not and will never ask that of us…The bible leaves a lot of space to lament – and not just in a soft and delicate way.”
The reflections offered above are intended to bring you into the present. It may feel awkward or scary to approach your faith practice or your grief with the intention of lament, so becoming honest with yourself about your experience or hesitation is often the best first step.
Whether or not you are in the habit of taking notes and journaling, your grief process will benefit from these compassionate observations of self. The next time you notice the floodwaters rising, let them crash through the barrier and practice these gentle questions for yourself as you return to a sense of quiet.
Thank you for listening to episode 39 of Restorative Grief. Lament is often positioned as a bible-based practice, which I think is silly. Although the book I referenced is related to the Christian faith, I think lament is the guttural language we all contain. I know it’s not pretty, but it’s honest. And when things are pretty, I have to say, I often have questions. I may be cynical, but even I know that pretty is usually a mask to a degree. Like makeup! We wear it to enhance a reality – or occasionally to cover what we do not want to have seen.
Allowing ourselves to lament might be a little like showing up in the public arena with mascara streaming and no one cares. Or better yet, someone reaches out with a tissue and a bottle of water, because they’ve been there and emotions are universal. The moment we can stop embodying shame for our emotional selves is the moment we become more human, in the most beautiful and honest way possible.
If this is your first time listening to Restorative Grief, I want to thank you for making the time to show up on your own behalf. I hope this episode brings you a little insight into what you might need in your own grief story. Please y’all – remember to subscribe to the show and leave your reviews on Apple podcasts to help others find this work. If you’re encouraged or have questions, you can come find me on all the social media platforms under @MandyCapehart – I would love to hear from you! Also there are links to my other grief work, as well as Abby’s book I mentioned and the Human Systems Emotion Wheel in the show notes so be sure to check all of those out!
And one last thing before we go; please remember, the only solution to grief is to do the work of grieving.
Thank you for listening. I’ll see you next week.
Links + Resources from this episode:
- Abby Norman’s book “You Can Talk to God Like That.”
- Human Systems Emotion Wheel
- Join The Restorative Grief Project, a private online grief coaching community
- Listen to this episode of Restorative Grief with Mandy Capehart on Spotify
- Snag a copy of my book, Restorative Grief
- Connect with me on Twitter or Instagram @MandyCapehart