My appliance guy came over to the house the other day to do a minor repair. He says to me, “You look good; are you happy?” He and I have worked together for many years (through Property Management) and are on a friendly basis, talking about life and relationships – you know, the tools of Emotional Martial Arts® are always on-board J
“Happy?” I respond. “No, I’m not happy. My heart is broken and I’m doing the best I can to stay present.” He smiled back at me – more in discomfort and not knowing what to say. He went into the laundry room to look at my dryer and his co-worker, his adult son, joined him. I walked into my home office and continued to work. I could hear them conversing in the background but without any attention to detail.
After a few minutes, I walked down the hall to the laundry room to just see how they were doing. My-appliance-guy-friend, head in the dryer drum, looked up and saw me outside the door. “You know, sometimes I’m pretty stupid with my language,” he confesses to me. “How’s that?” I inquire.
“Well, I didn’t mean to ask if you were happy….or, or….I don’t know. I just didn’t know what to say. And you look so strong and so together and so I guess I was confused.”
“Thank you for sharing that with me.” I felt grateful for the exchange. “I am strong. That does not change that my heart is broken and I have pain, and sadness and grief. I have all of it. And I allow it to happen as it comes up, without judgment.”
His smile back to me this time was one of appreciation and the beginning of understanding the dimensions that are in play in all of us that at times feel contradictory or not able to co-exist.
It’s the elephant in the room! Everyone on this earth has ONE thing in common. We will all die at some point. Yet, in this country, in general, we don’t talk about it. We don’t know what to say to others who have lost someone. We don’t know how to be around people in grief.
Here’s the thing. As a society we don’t talk about death. Combine that with deep love many have for those around them and when they die – even when we know someone is very sick – we are surprised! Maybe not “surprised” intellectually(1), but emotionally(2). We feel like we’ve been kicked in the gut. Like someone is strangling us. Like we are paralyzed. We are shocked! Life as we have known it has ended in a split second of a moment.
So, do you think we know how to grieve? Nope. And neither do most people around us. Oh, many loving, good-intending people will open-heartedly give you their perspective of what you should “do.”
In-hale. Ex-hale. All I have to “do” right now is breathe. And keep breathing. I don’t have to eat if I don’t want to eat. I don’t have to bathe if I don’t want to bathe. All I have to do is BREATHE.
Most mornings I’d open my eyes realizing that this is, in fact, real and I have to start all over with the shock and disbelief. Eventually I started to notice in the evenings feeling like “I’ve made it through another day.” As Dr. H would always say when people would ask, “What do I do?” … let’s ask the question, “How do I be?”
Keeping breathing. Through all the emotions as they come up, letting yourself have them. Without judgment(3). Others may not understand; that’s ok. Just be. Breathe, have the feelings, don’t judge. Be.
And for those who are around grieving people? Support us by letting us Be. Just unconditionally hold the space for our process. It might feel awkward at first, however, it can be the greatest gift you give to your loved one – and even yourself.
Today, one of my maintenance men came over to fix my ceiling fan. He and Howard knew each other before I was in the picture. I had not seen him since Howard’s passing. I opened the front door. He stood there with both of his arms stretched out. He hugged me and said, “I won’t ask you how you’re doing.”
Nothing to fix or solve, just an opportunity to evolve!
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(1) When we “know” things intellectually – i.e.,, in our minds – that is called the Intellectual Operating System (IOS)
(2) When we “feel” things – can be in our hearts, our bodies, our sensing – that is called the Emotional Operating System (EOS)
(3) And when we do judge, notice the judging and don’t judge the judge
Based on the teachings of Howard E. Richmond, MD. Founder & Co-creator of Emotional Martial Arts®