In Part II of this four-part series of Aesop‘s fable of The Tortoise and the Hare, we recognized the rapid pace in which The Hare pursued the finish line later set him up for an unpleasant surprise.
- We learned how the story often compares with the speed at which our minds try to adjust to grief after a loss.
- We recognized how our self, and sometimes others around us, desire quick relief from the difficult reality of mourning and will sometimes employ extreme measures to get it.
- We noticed the pitfalls when considering grief as a mostly cognitive experience, with logical, reasonable solutions designed to quickly advance us to the finish line, and we framed examples of how viewing grief as a function of time can create false or hurtful conclusions.
Like the Tortoise, however, our heart responds to life change much, much more slowly. Our heart requires ample time to adjust to and it seems to appreciate a much more patient approach. Our heart remains very consistent in its current state and expects repeated, consistent messaging before it responds to change. And once doing so, it then proceeds very slowly and requires significant time and energy to generate momentum.
Consider a new relationship and the duration it takes for your heart to trust, or to love. Consider the ample time required for your heart to feel truly content. Consider even the length of time needed for a good relationship to sour. Each of these heart-based experiences requires much time to generate power and our heart often greatly resists when needing to change direction.
- Our hearts require ample time to feel content and fulfilled.
- Our hearts require ample time to grow settled in trust.
- Our hearts require ample time to bond in love.
- Our hearts require ample time to grieve our losses.
Mourning the loss of a loved one is very much an event of the heart. Our heart feels. We feel love. We feel loss. We feel sadness. We feel anxious and unsettled. We feel lonely, or empty, or even afraid. All these emotions derive from one’s heart and must also be resolved through one’s heart. All of this, my dear reader, takes ample time.
Like our mind, our heart holds immense measures of power. Our hearts can fulfill with happiness and joy beyond belief. It can generate tremendous acts of love, honor, and duty. And yes, it can also grow to hate and sow the power of evil in our world. Our heart offers brilliant examples of strength and power, but it can also become strained, hurt, or sometimes even broken.
We too often believe we can use our heads to overpower the needs of our hearts. We try to “think about something else”, or “don’t pay attention to it”, or, “just move on.” Our heart will not, and cannot, be dismissed. The only way to change our heart is to listen to it, allow it, and to HONOR it.
Wayne Muller, in his book A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough, wisely shares with us that, “our very human heart requires a great deal more time to process, understand, allow in the rich array of disparate feelings, emotions, spiritual events, however pleasant or deeply painful, however familiar or new. Every emotional state elicits in us a certain amount of confusion, denial, understanding, acceptance, and recognition. Some experiences, such as intense grief, can take years to fully digest.”
“To relentlessly force the tender wisdom, thoughtful reflection, and perceptive honesty of the human heart to conform to the ridiculously impossible, inhuman speed of the world, is to cause violence to our most precious and valuable treasure: the necessary guidance of the human heart.” (W. Muller)
A primary duty to enable healthy healing through grief is to honor the heart. It may sound abstract, but there are some very tangible actions one can perform to honor the heart.
1) Value It. Respect It. Attend to It.
The power of the heart is extremely valuable, so treat it as such.
Consider your heart a priority in your life and listen to what it tries to tell you. Adhere to its lessons learned from the past and honor its intention for your future. Attend to your heart’s need by providing quiet solitude to mend hurts from the past, absorb current conditions, and set its intention for your future.
2) Trust It. Allow It. Accept It.
Our heart is often true but receives false blame from our disappointment that results when we are untrue to it.
Trust your heart. Be willing to fully experience the emotions it offers you, and when it offers them to you. Do not resist it. Allow it to help you make decisions and resist denying what it recommends. Surrender to its direction and allow it to take you where it wants you to be. Accept and follow its wishes for you because it always protects your best interest.
3) Offer It Patience, Tolerance … and Time
Hopefully, by this point, it is clear our heart tends to adjust very slowly.
Offer your heart ample patience while it works to adjust. Permit its uncertainty as it finds its way into your new reality of loss. Tolerate its surging emotions and seemingly endless healing process and provide yourself kindness while it does.
One never expected the Tortoise to win its race against the Hare. Nor does the slow, plodding behavior of a Tortoise project the image of a champion. Like mourning the loss of a loved one, the honest work performed in the slow, still, quiet of grief is what often delivers the deepest, enduring, most powerful healing.
Learn how the race between the tortoise and the hare delivers a final, powerful message in Part IV of this series