How are you? I’m okay. I’m fine. I’m hanging in there. I’m managing. All of these are true, to a degree. Underlying all of this is a profound grief that makes okay, fine, hanging in there, and managing difficult.
Grief isn’t pretty. It is uncomfortable, ugly, frightening – both for the person going through it, and the people around them. What do you say? How do you interact? How do you go about your days and weeks with the weight holding you down?
No one close to me has died, and still the past year has been filled with loss. Loss of community. Loss of fellowship. Loss of a sense of safety and security. Loss of health. Loss of people through death and illness. Loss of relationships. Loss of mental clarity. Loss of motivation. Loss of confidence. Loss of closeness. Loss of routine. Loss of comfort. There aren’t enough words to express all the loss
“We’re all in this together.” Except we are all separate.
Humans are social creatures. We are meant to interact with each other, support each other, touch each other. And like the infants in orphanages deprived of touch and loving kindness, we are feeling the effects of that deprivation. More and more people are reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression. Looking at other crises in history, like Hurricane Katrina, Chernobyl, and the 2003 SARS outbreak, the mental health effects of these traumas don’t just go away when the crisis has past.
I have the added grief of working with Demeter, the Great Mother. In her most well-known myth, Demeter’s grief at the loss of her daughter, Persephone, is the reason we have winter. No plants would grow while mother and daughter were separated.
Demeter also grieves for us, her other children, because of how disconnected from the earth we have become. We strip the planet of its minerals and fossil fuels, we pollute the soil and water, we burn the forests, we create an abundance of waste that does not break down and return to the earth. We consume and consume, with little thought to our own health or the health of future generations.
Demeter grieves for those who have lost themselves to greed, who accumulate things and wealth for the sake of accumulating, and not for the good they can do with what they have acquired.
Demeter grieves for those who are isolated and alone, apart from their loved ones. She grieves for those who have lost their lives because of the selfishness of others.
Through her and with her, I feel all this grief. Even the promise of spring and the return of Persephone, which I remember bringing a manic happiness when I worked with her before, is doing little to lift the profound grief we are both experiencing.
Profound grief requires letting go
As is common when working with the Gods, their stories are playing out in my life. I’m letting go of a close relationship in the way it had been, and working to redefine what it will look like in the future. I’m reminded that while changes are a type of ending, they also bring a new beginning. It’s not always easy to let go, and change can be hard.
As my counselor reminded me though, I am stronger than I think, even when I don’t feel like I am. It’s important to accept where I am and what I am feeling, and not judge myself to harshly. As I often tell my tarot clients, feel the grief. Move through it, though, and don’t get stuck there. Oh, and keep my heart open, because the alternative is unthinkable.