Finding Freedom Through Grief

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Wendy Black Stern
Founder and Executive Director
Grief Support Network

“You’ve got to break down in order to break through.”  ~  L.S.
Graduate of Wendy’s 9-month yoga therapy program

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I have spent most of my life searching for freedom. For almost 40 years, I have been seeking experiences, tools and opportunities to feel less burdened by my fears and more comfortable in my own skin. Throughout my life, I have had glimpses of the light and carefree feeling that I long for, but it wasn’t until I lost my son that I came to understand what freedom means to me and an unexpected pathway to finding it.

There have been many ways that I have moved through my grief over the past ten years. What stands out the most are my experiences of opening myself through music, especially at Phish shows with my husband and community of friends. This may seem like an unlikely place to feel and know my grief, but the music touches my soul and invites me into my body in such a way that I can’t help but come alive and feel more of everything – more love, more connection, more confidence in myself and more willingness to be vulnerable and let my light shine. At first, these experiences were separate from my life. I would go and have fun and touch the tender places in my body and heart, but then come back to the grind and keep the memories tucked away. However, as I came to understand myself better and the desire that I have for greater depth, connection and authenticity in my relationships, I am learning to integrate these moments into my life. Through this I can recognize the precious opportunity that I have to feel my pain (in order to heal it) and as a result free myself from the burden of of my grief.

Just this weekend, I watched my friends love each other so freely and share their hearts. I realized that I am not alone in my longing for greater meaning and connection, and these experiences of expanding myself and exploring the infinite range of both darkness and light are all a part of finding greater freedom. When I can let go of self-consciousness – the feeling that I am too much for other people to handle – and let the full force of my loving heart come through me and just be who I am, I feel free. It takes way more energy to hold myself back. As a close friend and I discussed together, “we are all ultimately trying to find our way back to ourselves and when we show up authentically as we are, we shine the brightest!”

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My journey through grief has certainly been the most painful experience of my life, but there is something beautiful happening in the process. I am finding a freedom inside of me, a new capacity to experience the fullness of life – with all the highs and lows and moments in-between – that I did not know was possible before. In these moments of expansion, I am in touch with a sense of Gratitude that is not in spite of my grief, but because of it. Grief has taught me that we have to experience the depths of the darkness to fully know the light.

Like most of us, I have layers of grief and trauma to work through in this lifetime. There are moments of clarity, understanding of my purpose and gratitude for what I have and moments of despair and fear and longing for what has been lost. All of this is a part of my soul’s evolution. Each layer is a new opportunity to meet my fears head on – to feel the darkness and pain and all of the sensations and emotions that go with it and then let it move through me. Each layer offers a new perspective and each time I bump up against the same issues over and over again, I am spiraling closer in towards my center and my truth. Each layer is a part of my healing, showing me where I am holding onto my pain and holding back my love. To be truly free, I have to be willing to be with the shadow of myself, over and over again and for as long as it takes to release my fears. Of course, I am afraid to lose my children. Who wouldn’t be after living through what I have lived through? Yet, I know that I am resilient – I have already proven that – my fear says that to lose like that again would be too much. My greatest fear is that it will happen again and I won’t be able to return again into the light. My higher self knows that I am doing something important with my experience and learning through self study how to heal and transform grief into pure love. All I need to do is be patient with myself and to love myself through it – my shadow and my light – it is all a part of the pathway towards greater love and happiness and knowing how to share it with others.

I am blessed to have my husband, community of friends (who are so dear and precious to me) and Trey Anastasio (the guitar player for Phish). Through the safe, expansive, accepting and blissful spaces that he holds to explore the shadow and the light, I have found the meaning of the word FREEDOM – a light, comfortable feeling in my body and soul that opens me to the fullness of life.

With love,
Wendy