Welcome back to Restorative Grief with Mandy Capehart. You’re listening to episode 80, titled “What Not To Do When Grieving.” Hello my friends, and welcome to episode 80 of the show! This week, I’m excited to share a secret I’ve learned about grieving and what you absolutely need to avoid. This is a quick and to the point conversation, because while I’m sure there are a long list of things to avoid, there is only one thing in particular that I want to bring to your attention this week. So what are we waiting for?
When we are first faced with grief, we get a little weird. No matter how you approach loss, you’re likely searching for answers. Maybe you find them in your spiritual practice, in books, in podcasts. Every day there are more and more resources available to create deeper understanding and grief literacy in your life. It’s a fast growing field of study, and I’m so grateful to be a part of the opportunity to teach and lead others into a better way of grieving.
But with all of those resources, we bring one of our very human habits that can easily derail our growth, grief work, and ultimately, our healing altogether.
And that’s choosing a guru.
Now you might think that choosing a guru to follow – a teacher full of wisdom and insight – would be a worthy thing to do. Find someone that you resonate with and want to work alongside as you find your healing path. And to a degree, yes. You should find someone that resonates. For the rest of our little chat today, I’ll assume I am the teacher you’ve found that resonates with your grief story.
But the problem with choosing someone and placing them on a pedestal as your guru is that you may forget their humanity as you study their work. It’s so easy to place someone on a higher plane and celebrate their work, but fail to see how much you rely on their presence for your own healing journey.
And that’s not fair to you, or to me. Or to anyone else you’ve given that level of honor. Here’s why.
A few weeks ago I started sending a newsletter again every other day during the week. The response was immediate and positive – my subscribers love my shared thoughts on life and loss in the morning. Like clockwork, I remained on schedule and sent a short missive Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to people interested in supporting themselves a little bit differently through loss.
But this week, my own world careened into all my good intentions. Wednesday came and went. When I woke up Thursday morning, I had something lovely to write about… and realized I was a day late.
Immediately, I slammed face first into a wall of regret, shame, and disappointment. I had failed. I set a guideline for myself, allowed people to get excited about it, and so quickly, I missed the mark.
I wrote the email I wanted to and hit send. I felt a little better, knowing something was available. But I also wondered if the disappointment of not hearing from me on the expected schedule was going to derail someone’s grief work. I’ve felt similarly on this show, to be honest. It’s a weekly episode that takes a lot of time and intention to craft, edit, record, and publish. How would listeners be impacted if I missed a week?
When I started this work, I did so with the intention of humility in mind. I never want to be anyone’s guru. Not because I’m scared I won’t meet your expectations. Those fears I felt about the missed email and worry about a missed podcast episode are just my own ego trying to protect me.
My desire for humility in this work is because the brilliance, insights, and growth you need is within you.
My words may be activating at times. With any teacher, you’ll hear something that seems new or different than you’ve heard before. But that only matters if and when it sparks something new in you. When you are activated and then move from that place with compassionate curiosity toward whatever little thought is now dancing across your brain.
We’re all human. We’re all imperfect. And we’re all in a position of influence – even if the only one we feel we impact is ourselves. Every grief professional you encounter hopes they can inspire you to think differently, because that’s all we can do – offer words and hope you find inspiration in them. You are literally the only person who can decide to think differently. And being inspired to do it isn’t enough.
I’m not so naïve to believe my work is full of the most groundbreaking work on grief, but I also trust that what I bring to the conversation is changing the narrative.
In this place, with a deeper narrative available to you, I’m inviting you to look deeper within yourself. Go beyond being inspired. Grief work and grief professionals exist for you to become connected with the innate wisdom of your body – of your lived experience.
We talk a lot about how we are whole beings – not disparate parts, but parts of a whole working in tandem to keep us safe and stable. The path of least resistance is usually what we choose, especially because that path allows us to preserve mental calories and energy output. Theoretically, it prolongs our survival.
But your body is tracking what your mind, heart, and spirit are unwilling to process. This makes me think about the days I was a summer camp director in my early 20s. I always had a backpack full of sunblock, first aid supplies, snacks, and entertainment. I carried things my campers needed to access later, although most of the time, I was returning those things at the end of the day. The kids had of course, been distracted and forgotten all about them.
But those things still existed. And someone had to carry them. We don’t all have a camp director willing to schlep granola bars up a mountain trail for us. When we have something to carry in our lives, we are usually okay (or insistent) on doing it for ourselves. But what of the emotions, thoughts, connections, and somatic feelings we carry? Just because they’re intangible doesn’t mean we aren’t being weighed down. You’re a griever. You know this to be true in your bones.
And that’s just it. Your bones know. Your body is carrying things for you until you’re ready to give them attention and metabolize them through your being. But just like my backpack from summer camp, your body gets to a point where it’s just too damn full. The weight is too much, and things need to be dropped, removed, and thrown out as no longer worth carrying.
I’m not your guru. You’re the source of wisdom here. You contain multitudes; the wisdom and insight to reflect on your story – WITHOUT relieving the traumas – and to shake out what the impact of those traumas has done to your life. What you carry through this life is up to you. And while working with me or other grief professionals is a wonderful step in the right direction, we’re just navigators. We can read you a map, but it’s up to you to follow the directions.
Thank you for listening to episode 80 of Restorative Grief. One of the things I love about this is the responsibility lifted from my plate as a helper in the world. It’s not now, and will never be my job to resolve or heal your grief. My job is simply to make an open, safe space – to ask questions, to challenge your ideas about loss, and to share my education and experience as another source of reflection for yourself. We end this show each week with the same reminder, and when I missed sending that email on time this week, I wondered how many people were disappointed and felt less equipped to do the work for themselves. How many have come to rely on me as the source or activator in their lives? If that’s you, please don’t hear me handing out shame, because that’s not my intention at all. My intention is to remind you that even the moment you realize the email is missing, your body is giving you a sign. That thought is a signal to look inward – what does one missed email of encouragement feel like in my body? What did that missed email mean to my heart, thoughts, or grief work for the day? It’s not an easy question to ask, but it is a necessary one – one that will allow you to embody your grief work in a way you never thought possible – but have always truly needed to learn.
If this is your first time listening to Restorative Grief, thank you for being here. Thank you again to all my patrons and supporters. If you’re interested in joining our Patreon for premium episodes, you can find the links at MandyCapehart.com or in the show notes. You can also use the website to subscribe to my email list and hopefully, receive 98% of them in a timely manner. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show, leave a shiny five star review to make my day, and share this episode with a friend. We all need a reminder to be confident in who we are and what we carry.
And one last thing, as always. Please remember, the only solution for grief is to do the work of grieving. Thank you for listening. I’ll see you next week.
Links + Resources for this episode:
- Work with Mandy – Visit MandyCapehart.com/coaching
- Become a Patron of the show! on Spotify Podcasts
- Join the Restorative Grief Project on Facebook
- Purchase my book, Restorative Grief, on Amazon
- Follow & chat with me on Twitter or Instagram @MandyCapehart