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The Will to Grieve

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

My workout was complete, miles were logged, weight lifted was charted and sweat on my face and arms was being mopped by the white gym towel. There it was again, the tugging, nagging twinge; that little feeling inside my gut that was suggesting I go visit my grandma. Ugh. Even though I was wearing workout clothes, I knew that if I went home to change, I would not go back out into the cold winter night.


I rarely walked into the nursing home through the front doors. As a funeral director; I typically used a back door so as not to disturb the residents with the sight of a gurney being rolled into the building. But tonight, I was a visitor. I walked the halls as any other visitor. I lightly tapped on Grandma’s door. She didn’t answer so I peeked in. Her frail body propped on pillows, eyes closed and labored breathing greeted me as I stepped into the quiet of her space. I knelt by her bed and took her warm hand into mine. Quietly I told her who I was, I felt a tiny squeeze of her finger. She didn’t acknowledge me with her eyes. There it was again, that “gut” feeling, she was dying. The twinge was strong, I knew, this would be the last time I saw my grandma alive. I did what came naturally, I told her I loved her, I thanked her for loving my daughters the way she had, I kissed her forehead and held her hand. My knees on the tile floor began to ache, but I willed myself to stay there so my grandma would not be alone. I wanted her to know she was being held. One tiny gasp and her time on earth was done. My grandma had died.


I had never witnessed a death before. For my grandma, her death appeared peaceful. For her granddaughter, her death was spiritual. For the funeral director, her death was surreal. I had never been in this position before. The funeral director, always arrived after the family was called in and they were ready for me to take their loved one into my care. This was all new to the granddaughter. Grandma and I sat in the stillness of her room for quite some time. Noises from the hall faded into the background as I sat holding her hands. I didn’t want to disturb her peace.


The subsequent days were a flurry of activity. The funeral home was busy with four other funerals and grandma’s funeral was scheduled for New Years Day, six days after her death. The funeral director, granddaughter wanted to grieve but she willed herself to focus on the details of the funerals of other families. I pushed my grief aside and ignored it.


The past few weeks I have been discussing the energy centers in our bodies and how they relate to grief.


The manipura chakra is located in the solar plexus region. Its energy swirls and vibrates above the navel and below the sternum, right where those “gut” feelings originate and are felt. The solar plexus is the location for a bundle of nerves that are connected to the brain, spinal cord, stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreas and intestines. The manipura is a powerhouse of energy represented by fire. Karla Helbert writes, “It is our own place of personal power that radiates outward into the world.” The manipura houses the essence of who we are, our sense of responsibility, our self-esteem, our actions and achievements.


In grief, our solar plexus chakra is greatly affected. On a physical level our digestive system is stressed. We feel like a “bundle of nerves” because this nerve bundle, located in the solar plexus connects to the digestive organs. We may experience diarrhea or constipation and nausea. Gurgling and rumbling are common sounds of a digestive system effected by grief.


The manipura chakra is also known as the “Place of Gems”. The pieces of life that make us unique and individuals are these gems. These gems represent our identity and personal power. All of our personal history, beliefs, society, actions, achievements, failures, regrets, traumas and responsibilities contribute to our personal story. In grief, we think about this more. We may evaluate our lives and our relationships. When a death occurs, we are forced to think about our own mortality and we question the legacy we will leave behind.


In grief, the willpower can become compromised. We know we need to experience our grief but, instead we hide from it, ignore it or push is aside. We busy ourselves with work, in hopes grief will leave us alone. We don’t live our grief because we don’t want to experience the pain. It hurts. Society is pressuring us to “move on” and it is easier to comply. However, if we are honest with ourselves, we want to let grief in so that we can let it out. We want to muster the courage to do down deep into the well of despair, but we fear we may never come out.


It takes the fire of the manipura chakra to live our grief. We tap into the strength of our willpower in order to tell ourselves we WILL let our emotions be felt. We WILL take time to grieve. We WILL allow the tears to flow, for as long as they need to flow. We WILL allow ourselves to feel the anger of the injustice of an untimely death. We WILL talk about our loved ones. We WILL continue to love them; even though they are not on this earth. We WILL remember their birthdays. We WILL miss them, every single day. We WILL say “Yes let me grieve” when society is telling us “Not any more”. We WILL nourish our bodies when we don’t feel like eating. We WILL.

During the visitation and funeral for my grandma, I depended on the willpower from my solar plexus chakra to participate as the granddaughter instead of the funeral director. I was not accustomed to this role. I was comfortable as the funeral director. I will always cherish her hands, those hands that I held in her death and restored to beauty as a part of my job. But what I cherish most was being her granddaughter on the day she died and being her granddaughter in the past, present and into the future. I grieved then, I grieve now and I will grieve in the future.


This is living with Grief in Life.



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