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Grief is a process of identity transformation. It’s a time of deep reflection, bone-aching sadness and life-ripping readjustments. In some ways, perhaps those of us who have the highly sensitive trait might actually be more uniquely equipped for it than ‘the normals’ —we are no strangers to strong feeling after all…
The Special Psychic Territory Of Grief
The soul pain of grief is the emotion that arises when we are in touch with irrevocable loss; it is the place that lies beyond hope and where we go to keen those parts of our identity that are now dying too. Because, you see, we are never the same person after losing something or someone that shapes our identity, even if it’s invisible to others; and, to some degree, it’s always invisible to others. No one but you can ever inhabit the subjective reality of your relationship with whomever or whatever it was that no longer is, and without which you feel unmoored.
Grief is a full-mind, full-body, full-soul response to life, to loss. It shakes us to our core and the aftershocks continue long after others think we should be over it. Whatever ‘it’ is. And it is this aspect of grief that may feel deeply familiar to HSPs and where, in a strange way, we may have some experience to draw upon.
We know what it is to have our perceptions and experiences belittled or ignored; to be told from childhood onwards that we are ‘too sensitive’, that we need to ‘stop being so hysterical’ or to ‘man up’. Our ability to connect deeply to the non-material (and non-human) world of sensation and feeling is something that others are rarely comfortable with, or just get worn out by. So it is with grief; people want us to be ‘over it’, to ‘move on’. And whilst they think that they want this for us (which they probably do); they also want it for themselves. Because just as experiencing grief is exhausting, so can it be to be around. And our society is singularly ill-equipped at companioning grief in others because to do so requires that we be in touch with our own ungrieved losses. And we each carry so many…
An Exquisite Emotion.
That’s not something you’ll hear very often, as our culture has made it a ‘problem’ —something to be fixed, to be got through, to be got over. But grief is a form of love, the ‘shadow’ side; it’s what remains when the object of that love is taken from us —and that can be a person, a stage of life, a belief, a dream, a career, an ability, a country, a language, a conceived or unconceived child, a species, an ecosystem… Yes – what is happening to the beloved home world of humans and non-humans alike is something that many of us HSPs are already grieving, because so much of it has already been irrevocably lost and so much more is to come. And without grief to help us process these losses, we would probably stay stuck in numbness, denial, fear, panic, overwhelm or paralysis. That’s where most of our society is right now.
Grief, once it’s honored and supported by conscious community can give us a fierce energy to stand up for what we love. To know that when (not if) we are hollowed out by loss once more, we have the capacity to survive that. Knowing how to journey through the underland of grief can bring us the capacity to engage with the dark underbelly of our civilization with courage, compassion, creativity and curiosity.
Grief can be our HSP superpower.