I drew this image of two (bird) people, with their heads hanging down and their wings closed up, on 31st October 2018, Halloween: it was my first introduction to the ‘Grief Cage’. This cage has bars that you probably can’t see, but you can most certainly feel.
It might be obvious that you’re in the cage, following a recent bereavement. You have lost. You are experiencing loss. You are without the one you want to be with. You’ve lost your soulmate. You’ve lost your other half. You are not functioning in the real world; preferring to live with the memories, or in a fantasy world (perhaps aided by addictions and denial, like I did when my brother, Christian, first went missing in 2003).
Or it might be that you’ve become so used to the cage — especially if you’ve been bereaved for many years — that you no longer remember what it feels like to be truly free. That sense of being weighted down. Of life being lacklustre. Of something being missing. Of being disillusioned. Of accepting life, as is. Of being unable to truly be joyful, or joyful for others.
What’s wrong with me?
The trouble with an established ‘Grief Cage’ is that, apart from the general malaise it brings on, you are always at the mercy of your old grief wounds rising when something triggers you.
In my work as a spiritual grief healer, Covid-19 and the lockdown has definitely caused those feelings of abandonment, helplessness and fear to come crashing back in many people. Death has been so in our faces recently that it’s been difficult to avoid thinking about past losses, about regrets, about things unsaid and things left outstanding.
I once had a dream which so vividly showed how grief, if unresolved at the time, lies deep and hidden, affecting your thoughts and actions, subconsciously. [The day before the dream I had been surrounded by many with long-term, unresolved loss — and I was still in grief]. The dream involved my dog (a Labrador who loves swimming) jumping into a serene-looking lake, only to scream in pain. As she came out, it was obvious the water was a toxic soup causing her skin to blister. While it was a disturbing dream, I understood that the water — our deep emotions — becomes polluted with the pain and fear of grief.
Why am I still in the ‘Grief Cage’?
There are so many reasons why the ‘Grief Cage’ continues to exist way past a bereavement. In my case, Christian had disappeared without trace and my anticipatory grief gradually morphed into complicated grief.
Perhaps you were responsible for others at the time, supporting others in your family through loss or were never able to process your grief before returning to work. Perhaps you were too young to grieve. Perhaps you were never shown a healthy way to grief. Perhaps you chose not to heal, remaining broken to stay true to the depth of your love.
My own grief was buried very deep, yet would raise its head whenever I went to a funeral or whenever I saw a young male beggar in the street (my brother’s age when he went missing). Tears I just couldn’t control. It became very obvious that I had to face my grief as my children got older and noticed: “Why are you crying, Mummy?”
And then, for me, by the end of my 7-month failed attempt to find Christian via social media, I had no choice. 2016 was the year I finally hit the barrier.
For their sake, I knew I had to find a way to heal.
I can remember the moment when I decided to heal. I surrendered. And after surrendering, I immediately felt relief. I no longer had to be controlled by grief.
How did I surrender? Well, I *just* said a prayer.
“Please Universe, I can’t hold this burden any longer. I can’t find Christian — I’ve tried everything I can. I have only one choice now, and that’s to hand over finding my brother to you. I know you know where he is. And I’m going to leave it up to you to bring him to me. How that happens, I leave it up to you. I can no longer search for him. I surrender. Please, also, help me to heal because I can’t go on like this. I want to live again. I want to feel joy again. I want to enjoy my family, my friends. I want to regain my purpose in life. I leave it all in your capable hands.”
In retrospect, these words were simply me recognising that I was trapped in grief and that I wanted out. I was choosing to fly free. And I asked for help.
Decide to fly free: The choice is yours.
Surrender: write a prayer for help and speak it out loud.
And then… well, that’s the subject of the next blog, out Thursday 23rd July 2020.
In the meantime, you can watch this live film I made a few days ago about the ‘Grief Cage’ — I’m live every Tuesday at 4pm (GMT) at www.facebook.com/hannahvelten
Plus, if you’d like to download our free booklet ‘Are You Ready To Heal Your Grief?”, please, visit www.hannahvelten.online ❤️