“Sit with your pain, be with it,” he said.
I smiled, screaming inside:
“You have no F*ing idea! I’m steeped in it; I am it. I just need it to stop!“
I took a deep breath and with my eyes closed I exhaled. I exhaled as slowly as I possibly could.
“OK,” I said, “One day, I’ll try.“
And so I wrote…. for years… attempting to capture a profound truth about the nature of grief and the intensity of love and pain that comes with it.
(2015, © Julia Delaney)
You know, when the heart is heavy with loss, the advice to ‘Just sit with your pain’ can feel not only inadequate but also deeply misunderstood. Below, I have collected several poems that I wrote from 2015 to 2022. I guess ‘Sit With It’ would be an appropriate title for this collection. At least for now…
Sit With It
In the depths of my soul, where silence and chaos intertwine, I found myself grappling with a pain so profound it seemed to eclipse the very essence of my being. My soul was howling, my heart bleeding, caught in the relentless grip of grief that whispered incessantly of loss and emptiness. There I was, wrestling with an anguish so fierce, I thought I could bear it no longer. The world around me seemed to fade into a distant hum, leaving me alone with my sorrow, my memories, my unyielding despair.
In those moments of profound isolation, the well-meaning words of those around me often felt like echoes in a void. “Be with your pain,” they would say. “Feel it, accept it.” But what does it truly mean to “be with your pain”? I was living in its shadow every second, every breath—a constant companion to my suffering, bleeding out from wounds unseen. The notion of simply being with this pain seemed like a cruel jest, an impossible feat for anyone who has not felt the consuming fire of loss.
Sit With It
(2015, © Julia Delaney)
I understand, perhaps more deeply than I ever wished to, the myriad forms grief can assume. It’s not just the mourning of a person who is no longer with you but also the mourning of relationships lost, of love unreciprocated, of dreams unfulfilled. Whether it’s the agonizing end of a cherished relationship, the death of a beloved pet, or the profound loss of a part of oneself, grief wears many faces, each one etching its mark upon our hearts.
Throughout my experience, I’ve encountered the all-too-common admonitions to “move on,” to “let it go,” to “get over it.” Such advice, though often born from a place of love and concern, can feel dismissive, a denial of the pain that feels as vital as breath. I’ve come to realize that grief, in its all-consuming presence, renders us invisible to those who have yet to acquaint themselves with its cold embrace. And yet, it is in this very invisibility that we find our shared humanity, our collective vulnerability to the forces of loss and change.
As If It’s a Choice
a futile escape from this relentless morass.
Alcohol for the numbing night’s chilling embrace,
I would do anything to fill this ever-expanding scorching space.
longing for the pain to be gone.
Did I want it to end, or just a pause from the fight,
a brief respite in the endless night?
(2019, © Julia Delaney)
The path to healing, I’ve discovered, is not through the evasion of grief but through its embrace. It is a journey to the very heart of our pain, a dive into the depths where the darkness holds sway. This is not a path of avoidance—be it through work, substances, or the myriad distractions we conjure to shield ourselves from our sorrow. No, it is a path of confrontation, of meeting our grief with open arms and allowing ourselves to feel its full weight, its sharp edges, its suffocating embrace.
In the Heart of the Tempest
(2022, © Julia Delaney)
It was in this confrontation that I found my solace, my sanctuary. Writing became my raft in the tumultuous seas of grief. With each word, I wove a fabric of memories, of love and loss, of joy and sorrow. It was through this act of creation, of transmuting pain into prose, that I began to see the glimmers of light within the darkness, the possibility of peace amidst the storm.
My book, “Through Grief’s Tender Heart,” is born from this journey. It is a vessel for the shared experience of loss, an offering to those who find themselves walking the shadowed path of grief. It is my hope that within its pages, you may find a companion in your sorrow, a witness to your pain, and perhaps, a guide toward a peace that seems so elusive yet is ever within reach.
It is only by acknowledging the depth of our loss that we can begin to find our way back to the light, gently, tenderly, through grief’s tender heart.
know you’re not alone in the night’s suffocating grasp.
Together, in our shared sorrow, we can sustain,
in our united hearts, a stronger love we clasp.
(2022, © Julia Delaney)
And as to “Sit with your pain, be with it,” you know, it is quite common within mindfulness and spiritual communities. This guidance encourages you to fully experience your emotions and physical sensations without attempting to change, judge, or escape from them. This practice is rooted in the belief that acknowledging and accepting our feelings as they are can lead to deeper self-understanding, healing, and emotional resilience.
This approach draws from various traditions, including mindfulness meditation, where the practice of observing thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without attachment fosters a state of compassionate awareness. By “sitting with” our experiences, we learn not to be overwhelmed by them, but rather to observe them with kindness and without judgment. This can help in diminishing the power of negative emotions or pain over time, leading to greater peace and equanimity.
The rationale behind this practice is that often, our struggles with our feelings are amplified by our resistance to them. We might try to avoid or suppress uncomfortable emotions, but this can lead to more distress.
From my own experience, I learned that allowing myself to “be with” my emotions, to feel them fully in a safe and mindful way, can be a step toward processing and eventually moving through them more healthily.
“Sitting with” my feelings generally helps me to understand them better, to see them as temporary states that pass, and to recognize that we are not defined by them.
It’s a practice that encourages growth, self-compassion, and a deeper connection to the present moment, teaching us to approach life’s challenges with a more balanced and accepting perspective.
Now, as I got generalities out of the way. Grief, in its many forms, can indeed feel all-consuming, as if it permeates every aspect of existence—waking moments are filled with its presence, sleep brings no respite, and even dreams can become a battleground where the heartache continues. The desire to escape, to find some relief from the relentless pain, is a natural response to the overwhelming intensity of these feelings.
It is quite common for people to turn to substances or behaviors to numb the pain. These actions speak to a need for survival, a way to endure the immediate and unbearable weight of loss. It’s a cry for respite, for a moment of peace in the midst of a storm that feels endless. Sharing my own path through this pain—through the darkness of wanting the pain to stop, even at the cost of not waking up—is my acknowledgment of the depth of suffering that grief can bring.
In the midst of such profound distress, the suggestion to “be with” one’s pain might seem almost naive, a simplistic solution to a pain that feels too vast to comprehend. Yet, I get it, the intention behind this advice often comes from a place of wanting to offer a path through the pain, not to minimize it but to find a way to live with it, to eventually integrate the experience of loss into the fabric of one’s life. This is not to say it’s the right or only approach, nor is it accessible or suitable for everyone at every stage of their grief.
Finding what provides genuine support and healing in the throes of grief is deeply personal. For some, it may be therapy or counseling, offering a space to voice the unspeakable with someone who can bear witness to that pain. For others, it might be found in the arts, nature, spiritual practices, or in the solace of communities that understand. Sometimes, it’s about surviving moment to moment until the sharpness of the pain begins to dull, and other ways of coping become possible. To me, it was a combination of things… Being in nature, physical movement, like walking, yoga, meditation and breathing practices, and… writing. Writing helped me a lot.
I think finding the words to my feelings was the most helpful to me. Writing… You see, to write, I had to observe my feelings keenly, without judging, in order to see them for what they are. I tried to describe them precisely, pour them on the paper in prose, in rhyme, or in a random cacophony of words. Without any expectation. Just this… pouring out in words… naming… describing. At times the process was quite tumultuous, yet I felt relief afterward. I felt like some of the weight was lifted off my shoulders…
In the realm of loss, where words often fail and solutions are hard to come by, the shared acknowledgment of our vulnerabilities and our sufferings can be a powerful bridge, connecting us in our most human experiences. Your voice, just like mine, adds to this chorus of shared humanity, offering both a reflection of the depths of grief and a beacon of hope for those still navigating their way through the night.
Be Alive 🌱
Love ❤️, Julia
A Journey Through Loss
GUIDED MEDITATIONS 💗
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