|Photo courtesy of Chanelcast|
"During expansion, dark energy -- the unknown force causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate -- pushes and pushes until all matter fragments into patches so far apart that nothing can bridge the gaps. Everything from black holes to atoms disintegrates. This point, just a fraction of a second before the end of time, is the turnaround..."
I'm working on a paper on traumatic grief and its natural, uninhibited trajectory if we allow full inhabitation. "If" is a key word here.
Grief is not just a spiritual/existential, emotional/psychological, social, and physiological process. Grief is also an evolutionary process of expansion and contraction.
The expansion-contraction model is seen all throughout the natural sciences from physics, cellular biology, and thermodynamics to immunology, physiology, and childbirth. The black hole is an enormous vacuum of contraction. A nova is the product of its birth.
Yet, it's never been applied to traumatic grief theory.
Still, I see this process enacted in grief when it's allowed to inhabit its own natural course. What does this mean?
The contraction of grief occurs when our attention and energy are pulled inward, our surroundings made smaller because, in the moment, we are overwhelmed. So we contract and tighten, emotionally, reserve our energy and attention and focus, very intently, on grief. And on self. In a moment of contraction, it feels as if our very survival may be in question. We may feel unsteady, unsafe, unheld, tenuous, desperate, maybe fearful, and yes, vulnerable. We curl up and hold our breath. We self-protect. The contraction will save us.
Contraction is not wrong or bad and needs not be controlled in nature. The contraction is necessary for the expansion...
Expansion comes with the deep in-out-breath, the period of, even minuscule, growth post-contraction. We grow 'larger', the tightness loosens, and we are more willing to venture out and explore, to take risks, to open and unfold. We are in a moment of trust, safety, curiosity, willingness, connectedness, openness, belonging, and maybe even hope. The expansion will save us.
Expansion is not wrong or bad and needs not be controlled in nature. The expansion, too, is necessary for the next contraction ...
I see the lifelong grief journey as a series of little- and sometimes big- waves of expansions and contractions.
For me, childbirth is the most salient, albeit painful, tangible metaphor: Without contractions, our child, like the nova, cannot be born. Contractions are excruciating. Indescribably so. Yet, it is this tightening that opens the cervix for the baby's birth. It is this process that inhibits postpartum hemorrhage. It is through this process that expansion, and transformation, can occur.
And, during contraction, it is essential to have those who accompany us through our most painful contractions so that when we arrive at our pique, we can turn and look into the eyes of a loving other, pause, and hold through the other side of that pain. During expansion, it is essential to remember our contraction, learn from our contraction, cultivate trust in self and other, and maybe even turn toward another in contraction.
Yes, in grief, we must have both contraction and expansion to truly have- to inhabit- our grief. When one does not have both contraction and expansion, we cannot make it to the other side of that pain, and all that remains stagnates and does not move. In fact, the word emotion has roots in Middle French (c 1500s) and means "to stir up" and "to move".
Indeed. Contraction only will leave us unmovable- paralyzed with pain for the duration of our lives, fearful of love and life and terrified of more pain. This is a kind of Death for us. Expansion only is a futile endeavor as well, mostly because it is a ruse. It is often a state of self-delusion and inauthenticity that will leave us unsatisfied with our identity, soul-less, and worn out from persistent pretense. The natural course of grief, as in nature, is contraction-expansion-contraction-expansion-contraction-expansion.
Disintegration first. Reintegration follows. Over and over. And over and over. This is the path of natural, uninhibited grief.
This is the wisdom of the Universe, the wisdom of your body, the wisdom of your heart.
Trust it, and it will save you.