“Oh, they say people come
Say people go
This particular diamond was extra special
And though you might be gone
And the world may not know
Still I see you, celestial”
– Coldplay, Everglow
Earlier this year, I learned that a friend had died suddenly. She was a dancer and movement educator who loved the fullness of being human, and one of those bright sparks whose energy was contagious. To steal a line from Coldplay: this particular diamond was extra special. In the shock, I tried to learn how to support her family. In the grief, I cracked open with sobs. “Life is short as the falling of snow,” sings Coldplay in their most lovely song, Everglow.
“Plan for grief,” author and activist Pixie Lighthorse tells us. In her book Prayers of Honoring Grief, she writes: “I believe that grief does not claim lives. Only a lack of grieving builds up and causes implosions and explosions.” She urges us to work with our grief by keeping it moving in our lives and learning to recognize it in the ways life is in transition. Learning to grieve well is an art that brings us more alive. How do we find completion with what no longer is? How do we keep the spirit and wisdom of what was alive for us informing how we want to move forward?
I like to think that when we grieve we grow in our capacity to hold life’s inevitable heartbreaks in a bigger and bigger love.
As I walked out to the barn that frosty evening to tuck the horses in, I reeled through all of the laughs and adventures I had with her, the people I’d met because of her, and the work that was only hers to do in the world. The memories were alive in me, as was her wish for me and everyone she impacted: to fully feel the magic of life in our bones and under our feet. She wholly believed that. And even in the midst of languishing mid-pandemic, I could believe it too, right then, in my cellular matter, like a booster shot. In connecting to the light that she left me, I felt resourced.
But when I’m cold, cold
Oh, when I’m cold, cold
There’s a light that you give me
When I’m in shadow
There’s a feeling you give me, an everglow
Thanks to the magic of the human nervous system, all the good memories and the good feelings that they bring alive in us can give us the juice we need when we need it. Like listening to a most-hearted playlist, we remember and reconnect with the positive and generative feels that support us. From favorite songs to favorite pals (furry and not), to peak performance moments, we can find anchors in these resources when we feel unmoored, lost, burning out, or running on empty. They help us find a lifeline back to ourselves.
Coupled with the power of the creative imagination, we can use our imagination for generative and healing (versus anxiety and worry). The ability to converse with those we’ve known who are no longer with us is as close as our mind’s eye. The neural networks within us that capture our full bodied memory can bring our senses alive again, allowing us to touch into what we knew to be true, supportive, meaningful, and life-giving. All of this can keep us connected to our very own everglow when the world seems so dim and grim.
In this podcast conversation with Jerry, Nitin Agrawal, Co-founder and CEO of Interstride, discusses how he managed to stay afloat after the sudden death of his co-founder, Christian. He shares how memories of Christian helped him lead his company as a solo founder through the grief, loneliness, and times when he found himself in shadow. Nitin remained connected to the vision of the company–something so embodied by his former co-founder–via a connection to Christian himself. Through it all, even when it felt like the ground below him had dropped out, Nitin was able to fall on his feet by finding the deep psychological stability he had within him.
That deep psychological stability is resilience–a resource we all have to call on. (Life makes certain we have plenty of subject matter to work with.) In the midst of transition and moments where the ground rushed out beneath you, what helps you recover or fortify your deep psychological stability? Who do you call on? Where do you find the inner resources to keep going, even if one noble step at a time?
In her book, Pixie Lighthorse offers some prompts for working with grief while in the East (as if you were located in that direction on the Medicine Wheel):