It seems a current theme in my life is grief and letting go. My mother’s cognitive functions are slowly deteriorating due to dementia. I’m losing my competent, energetic Mom bit by bit. I recently was right in the middle of helping her transition to assisted living, dealing with her grief about leaving her beloved home, the place where she had so many happy memories with John, the love of her life. And, then I had to clear out her house, take apart the remains of her life piece by piece. I encountered lots of sadness along the way, and grief underlies so many of my interactions with her these days.
Because I am trained as a counselor and have had plenty of counseling on my journey, I recognize grief when I’m in it, and know that allowing it and moving through it is the most beneficial route for me. But, most people don’t have the benefit of the kind of knowing I’ve acquired over the years of counseling training and my own therapy. In the clutter clearing process grief can be one of those barriers that can paralyze a person despite their best of intentions to complete a clutter clearing project. Uncomfortable feelings of sadness, loss, and even anger can totally derail the clutter clearing process.
I recently learned of a paper clutter clearing victory by a client who ran into papers associated with his deceased mother. Despite the sadness he encountered he persevered. When he ran into the grief he noticed it, acknowledged it and kept going. It probably helped that he had made a commitment to me, his coach, to clear those papers. He had a compelling need to show me what he could do. But, I think the real reason he was able to keep going was because he noticed the grief, allowed himself to feel it, but chose not to pull the entire scab of his sadness off his wound. Instead he acknowledged it and kept moving.
That’s how I got my mother’s house cleared out. I didn’t want that pain to go on and on. I shed tears, recovered, and moved on. I shed some more tears, recovered and moved on. By the way, I was able to allow my grief, manage it and move on not only because I understand the grieving process, but also because I had the loving support of my husband. Emotional support is an essential ingredient in the grieving process.
I suspect that some people are not aware that they can manage the grief they encounter. They don’t realize that they have choices about how they respond to it. They can run into uncomfortable feelings, stop and flee from them, leaving the wound intact and keeping themselves stuck. They can run into those feelings, identify them as grief, feel them and sink into despair and depression, again stopping their possible progress. Or they can encounter sadness, allow it, and view it as an opportunity to release some pain that they carry with them. By doing that they have the chance to let go of the negative energy of feelings that really don’t serve them, that may be keeping them stuck or limiting their personal or professional growth.
The next time you get stuck when clutter clearing, ask yourself, “Is this grief? Did I run into some feelings that were uncomfortable?” If so, take a deep breath and remember that you have a choice. You can run or you can allow the feelings. You can choose to immerse yourself in them and stop or feel them for a short while, recover and move on. Grief can stop you or be a real opportunity for healing, growth and forward progress.