How Grief is necessary for any restoration in life

In this post I would like to expand on the connection – or often disconnection – we have with grief, loss, mourning and sadness.

We live in a world where it’s cool and appreciated to be upbeat, positive and happy.

But where do we go, and what do we do in such a world when we are having the blues, feel sad or maybe are actively grieving over a loss?
Maybe the death of a dear person, the loss of a friendship, the end of a particular phase in life or the letting go of an old self-image.

All of those things can and will bring up sadness, grief and the need to mourn over what is no more.

This sadness and the instinct to mourn and grief is actually very healthy and life-affirming.

If something is gone, and it was precious to us, we need to let it go, so that life can continue.
For this we need to mourn, maybe even weep and wail, cry our pain, so that afterwards we can be reborn into a new life.

With some things this can happen in a minute.

You get sad, because your best friend called, and said she can’t go to the concert with you that you have been excited to go to.
You might feel sad for a bit, and then move on.

​If the los is a significant ones this process will be deeper and repeat for quite some time, before this natural process of letting go will feel complete.
This is why in traditional societies there were set times, often a year, for mourning over a family member or spouse.
Our modern society is not so friendly anymore to such a natural rhythm.

​Where do you go if you are feeling sad or need to have a good cry?

​People often tell me that their sadness and their grief is an isolating experience, something they do by themselves, if at all.

​I guess it’s another reason why sad movies, melodramatic songs and dramatic stories are always selling. It helps us to get the tears going.
Maybe we have lost sight of the healing power and regenerative quality of grief and sadness.

Grieving over loss actually helps us to mature and develop the human heart, because suffering and loss is a quintessential part of the human experience.
Like with death, nobody will be spared, and we can just learn to develop compassion and empathy by going through it wisely and with the right support.

​Also there is tremendous beauty in the pain of weeping, allowing the depth of sadness to become a song, an expression of love and appreciation for that which is no more.
Amazing songs, art and literature have been gifted to us by humans who were transforming their grief into art.

​There is a deep wisdom in life which goes for all emotions, and particularly for sadness.
None of these feelings can sustain themselves forever if they are allowed to flow.

​All of us have experienced that.
If you really cry over something fully, if you allow yourself to go to the bottom of it, at one point it will change and a new relaxation and space happens.

​Something new is being born, if that which is no more is allowed to fully die.
If we give ourselves to the experience totally, it will change.

​Yet, sometimes this is really difficult and scary, or it might feel impossible, and we are unable to grieve or shed even a single tear.

We all have our individual history of how we have learned to surrender to grief and mourning, or how we have learned to not pay attention, disconnect and simply move on. This is often the case when the loss was traumatic, came at a young age, or the feelings of being sad or down had been discouraged in upbringing.

​But there are also patterns in our collective history that make it difficult to grief in a healthy way.

​In the last year I was facilitating two Labs in the Pocket Project (, which were explorations on the impact of collective trauma in certain regions.
I facilitated a Lab in Austria, and one for the Balkans.

​Among many really deep insights in both Labs, I was most struck by the realization how much unprocessed grief is still sitting in all of us, personally and collectively.

In one particularly moving situation, one participant from the Balkan Lab suddenly realized that he never had the chance to mourn over the loss of his native homeland Yugoslavia, which after the brutal war in the region suddenly became Serbia.

For the first time he allowed himself to actually grief over a significant loss, and it became very apparent in the Lab how this unprocessed grief over time had become an idealization of the past.
In this situation Yugoslavia now had become this idealized utopia, where everything had been okay.

​This is a very important lesson.
What we don't grieve, will remain stuck.
What we can't grieve, we can´t let go.
What we can´t let go, can't renew itself.

​Suddenly we feel nostalgic, we glorify the past, idealize the person that has left us, or we stop looking and honoring what had happened.

​We close the heart, close this chapter of our life, convince ourselves that anyway we never really liked this or that person, and simply become overly pragmatic.
No need to cry over spilt milk.
Just move on.

​This is what previous generations often had to do with tragic, collective experiences of loss, after the World Wars, the horrifying experiences of the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing and so many people having to flee and leave behind their home.

​Every nation has its own particular way of dealing with grief, and sometimes such experiences of loss even become national narratives.

​In Austria for example, the death of the Habsburg Empire in WWI was never really digested, and it lead to this naive and very peculiar romanticization of the “good old time”, most famous with the “Siss & Emperor Franz-Joseph” cult in movies and viennese souvenir stores.

​All of this points again and again to the importance of time and rituals to honor that which is lost, if we are interested to really be present in life.

​We live in exciting times that will bring incredible change and transformation in the coming years. This also means we will all experience loss due to this change, either personally or collectively.

The best way to prepare for change is to learn to grieve, to give time for its natural rhythm, to find new ways to mourn, even weep with delight and dedication, so that you can be born anew.

​Only then we can clearly open space to think about the future, otherwise we will simply dream up a past that we had not allowed to fully die.

​If this speaks to you, I would invite you for a bit of a contemplation. I would also invite you to not go through it alone.

​Find a friend, a mentor or a group to share this exploration together.
This is what we humans had done from the beginning of time.

​Come together to support each other in honoring what has died so that we can let go in order to be fully here with what is.

​Is there anything that you still need to grieve over in your life?
Was there any loss lately or in the last year that you didn't fully honor with your grief?
What would be an appropriate celebration and ritual of letting go for it?
Who can you invite to come together to even make a shared ritual of grief - telling your stories of loss, with beauty, poetry, crying and singing together?