A woman once sat before me, exasperated and plagued with a fatigue most mothers and middle-aged women feel to their core. Her begrudging symptoms had dragged her body into my Naturopathic care. Sitting heavy in her chair, breath stinking and overweight she described to me symptoms I lacked the experience to treat. No doubt she’d hurried between the tasks of getting her family ready for school/work, done a load of laundry - maybe even hung it out? I can imagine her that morning having finally completed her start-of-dawn marathon only to find herself in the ‘john’ at my clinic with no toilet-paper. She began to cry the kind of tears an exasperated middle-aged woman does. Silently. Sobbingly.
This she expressed to me in similar terms later but I couldn’t remember the text book I’d studied to handle her despair. We sat world’s apart. I was 26 years old and massively under-qualified in LIFE. Me with my long hair and a body sculpted by youth, with lots of time to prepare healthy meals and read all the books I cared to; and her with her hefty appearance, a face worn-out and bereaved. I sat across from her with honours and distinctions but no children, not plagued, not middle-aged. I felt inadequate, and I should have - a healer must be humble before all else.
Then there was the 40 year old male, father to 2 young children and husband to a wife who could not endure his black depression any longer. He wept many times in my clinic room, his wife cried as many times over the phone. Their grief was at a magnitude beyond my years. I scurried back and forth to my dispensary desperate to help them both - but unqualified to heal either. What did I know about marriage, children or paternal depression?
‘Who was I to help them?”
I hadn’t yet learned to pause and bear witness to their vulnerability. And sorrow is complex - there’s a discomfort and wildness to it. The gift is to let it be felt without the impulse to fix or make it better. Deconstructing grief is gentle, untamed and honest - a facilitation of unlearning old emotional patterns that have imprisoned us. Sometimes for years at a time…
Over the years as a healer I’ve realised that knowledge is important but Life is the greatest qualification of all.
Empowering people to heal themselves is handing them the baton of their existence with empathy not expecting them to 'get better' by just being more like YOU. Social Media is a breeding ground of the under-qualified and over-confident. But what happens to our sense of worth when failure dissatisfies social expectations? What happens when we can't get the LIKES we hunger for?
This is what I know. Our experiences invoke Empathy. The way we birth and raise our children, our endurance in long relationships, our insecurities and portfolio of failures are the very things that qualify us to hold space with others.
The reconstruction of Self after tremendous grief is the ultimate act of Wisdom, and in a world navigated by online acceptance and vacant praise it makes me wonder how younger generations will face such vulnerability? A public grid of filtered photographs has become a testament to their existence…
If older generations cannot ground themselves in the realness of what we do and how we do it whole traditions will be lost, and wisdom will only exist in TED talks on You TUBE. We have some wounds to heal. But there are long heavy days in the yearning for wisdom. Most of us become recluse, we sit in darkness, silent, falling between the gaps of our thoughts. The mind can be tumultuous - a biding of time spent in painful disconnect. That’s how I’ve seen many people suffer….
Grand sorrow behind front doors
Gut-wrenching grief with curtains drawn
...primal emotions that have been felt deep in the hearts of our ancestors over millions of years - but we have little time for Grief now. We’re too busy with our public grid of filtered perfection.
Ask your Self how you dance in the flames of grief and sorrow? Spinning on the feet of anger, resentment and fear. Will you dance yourself ragged with exhaustion chasing the tail of your despair while months and years pass? There’s a choreography to that tango but grief always finds a way - to find You.
So you better be ready, and you better get good at it.
Melanie Lock ND
Naturopath | Writer | The Hollow Store | Nurture Magazine | Mama | Realist | Griever