I’ve experienced all sorts of grief in my life. The loss of multiple jobs, relationships ending, seeing my parents marriage end, leaving home, and above all, the loss of a parent.
In the last few months, like all of us, I’ve had another deep experience of grief, thanks to the global pandemic and its world-changing consequences. But this has been different for me than any other – because in the last few years, I’ve learned to process grief well, and it’s transformed my life.
This journey began in 2015 when I suffered a major grief experience, around my writing. At the time I’d been writing for a decade. I’d written blog posts, e-books., and the draft of what became my first book. I’d also grown a significant blog following. Writing was my life, and I loved it.
Then, I was stabbed in the back multiple times by a mentor who I trusted, and had my ideas stolen from me. It was almost a literal stab to the heart. My writing came from my heart, and the idea someone had taken a piece of me and used it deceitfully, without consent, for their own benefit, was a major trauma. I lost my love of writing. I lost writing itself, which had been a love of my life.
However, five years on, I see now this grief was the birthplace of transformation.
‘Deconstruction’ is a phrase used often in spiritual circles now. What it essentially describes in a spiritual setting, is the tearing down of old religious systems and beliefs in our lives.
But as I’ve been on my own journey in recent years, I’ve come to see the real journey for me has been transformation, as well as a discovery and connection to my deepest, truest, most divine self.
In the process of this my faith deconstructed…but so did my whole life. All the false securities – job, mortgage, money, success, relationships, religious certainty – all were stripped down and laid bare.
The day I hit rock bottom was a year after I had left my previous job to launch a book and a coaching career, both of which didn’t succeed as I’d hoped. I had almost no money, had come 2nd in 9 job interviews in a row, and was at a point where if I didn’t find a job, I’d have to sell my house for a knockdown fee to keep myself going, and live on my dad’s sofa.
I slid off my sofa and sank to my knees on the beige carpet, and surrendered. I had no energy left. I had no resistance. Nothing left to keep me from the raw grief – not just of two years earlier, but all the grief I’d been carrying. From my childhood, from losing a parent, from all the things I’d lost but covered up. It all came up.
As I sat there the question popped into my mind “what if I threw myself in front of a car?”. I even visualised it.
I never took it further. I never seriously considered ending my life nor did I plan to.
This was rock bottom. In many ways, it was a death. All those false stories and securities, all the structures around my grief, which had stopped me truly growing, had fallen down.
That’s true deconstruction. When all the structures we’ve put up to hide from our pain have fallen down – not just religious certainty, but everything else too.
Right now we’re experiencing arguably one of the biggest collective experiences of grief in human history. Both the global pandemic and death of George Floyd, are experiences of collective grief which is connecting us in a whole new way.
This grief has power. We can either build a structure into it, name it, do the work and be transformed – or we can do what we’ve always done and build structures around it, which numb the pain and give it power over us – which stops us growing, and stops us being free.
If we do not name and own our grief, it will own us.
If we choose to name and own our grief, then grief has no hold over us. Rather, we are using its energy to transform ourselves and connect with our deepest self.
We are free. And as we find this freedom, we encounter the divine in a more intimate, authentic way….and discover ourselves again.…maybe even for the first time.
Darkness is the place where new life begins, and grief, if we approach it well, can be the engine room for transformation – in our faith, in our daily lives, and in our world too.
As we move forward into a post-pandemic world, may we name our grief and be transformed, and step into a new freedom individually, and collectively
James Prescott is an author, blogger and host of the Poema Podcast, which explores the spiritual journey, mental health, grief & creativity. His book ‘Mosaic of Grace’ was published in 2017 and is available here. He also authored ‘Dance of the Writer: A Beginners Guide to Authentic Writing’ which is available free on his website. James has also written for Huffington Post and Thrive Global. You can find his work at www.jamesprescott.co.uk and his podcast here.