Over the past year and a half, in more ways than I could have ever imagined would find me in such a short period of time, I’ve encountered deep, deep grief. As a historically bright and optimistic person, the tsunamis of loss and, for lack of a better word, absolute fuckery that hit my life over the last 18 months – just about took me out.

From deep heartbreak; to the triggering and surfacing of childhood wounds I genuinely thought I had resolved; to losing friends I cared for; to major stressors involved in caring for and supporting aging family members; to both parents suffering major health changes, and then my father suddenly dying…it has been brutal, and relentless.

While any one of these situations is intense and gutting on its own, they are merely the circumstances. The catalysts.

The real story is deeper, underneath. The real story is a much more spiritual and existential one. It’s the story of encountering despair outside anything I’d ever known. Of coming face to face with my own powerlessness…and my power. A story of ego obliteration. Identity deconstruction. A true dark night of the soul. A story of mining the shadows of my soul. Learning what is means to truly surrender. And the unspeakable beauty of seeing the first majestic glimmers of dawn on the horizon of a powerful rebirth and next chapter.

If I had to choose one word for this season of life, it would simply be this:


My known world, my confidence and the insane levels of resiliency and self-reliance to which I always had such quick and effortless access, was brought low, low, low. For a while, I resisted all of this, in the form of trying to will, force and “mindset” my way out of it. As many of you know, I am huge believer in the power of mindset to change our lives. I teach about it often.

I used to be able to “mindset” my way through ANYTHING. I could shift my mood; turn things on a dime; manifest miracles; pull rabbits out of hats; create whatever I wanted, and handle anything. Anything!

But back at the beginning of this very long journey, I didn’t yet know this: That rock-solid resilience and lifelong ability to quickly bounce back, that had served me so well through life?

Grief was coming to mercilessly burn it to the fucking ground.

There is a time and a place for the harnessing the power of mindset. But the version of me that believed I could just apply it to everything in life?

She’s dead.

A truth I learned when I finally surrendered to what was actually happening in my life, emotions and mind – instead of what I so wanted to be happening – was this:

We cannot “mindset” our way out of grief.

Grief is a sacred, brutal, and powerful teacher that is uniquely activated in our lives in different and deeply personal ways. We cannot know exactly what cocktail of circumstances will activate our death and awakening in this way…until it comes. The catalyst will be what it will be. And it is usually something we would never see coming at all.

Sometimes it’s overtly gutting and brutal, sometimes it’s something seemingly innocuous…even mild appearing to others…but what it cracks open inside of us is anything but.

When the transformative fires of grief come, they are committed to nothing less than incinerating just about everything we “thought” we knew about ourselves and life. If we are courageous enough to face our grief with trembling hearts and quivering hands, we step on an ancient and sacred path towards our highest love, joy, freedom and evolution. But first?

Everything. Will. Burn.

Grief pours gasoline on our safe and familiar sense of identity, on our sense of security, on our deeply held beliefs and certainties. It exposes every dark and hidden corner of our hearts and souls. It cackles in the face of our egoic belief that we are in control of anything on this journey other than ourselves. It lights a match and blows the whole damn thing up.

Most of us double-down at this point and try to escape from the experience of grief into just about any form of avoidance or sense of “control” we can find. Society has conditioned us to do this. Society hates grief. Society brings us flowers, says a well-intentioned “sorry for your loss,” but after a few weeks or months, encourages us to sweep these difficult and unspeakable things back under the rug.

Society gets a bit sweaty and nervous when we’re just still crying on the kitchen floor, and lets us know what the acceptable timelines are for our grief. It can sound like this:

You weren’t that close with your dad, right?

But it’s been a long time. Why are you still so upset?

People move on. Maybe it’s time you should too.

The best way to get over someone is to get under another!

The truth is that raw grief is deeply and painfully CONFRONTING. There is not a human being on this planet who hasn’t experienced deep wounding and loss, and seeing someone in deep grief throws a mirror up in our faces. We don’t like it. It reflects back to us whatever remains ungrieved, unfelt and unresolved in our own lives and subconscious.

It reminds of us of the inevitably of death. Of endings. Of how little control we actually have in life, love and circumstances. And we hate this. It’s offensive. It’s fucking uncomfortable. We would much prefer to feel safe and secure in our belief systems, constructed identities and the illusion of having our hearts, lives and relationships under control.

But, society’s deep discomfort with grief is simply a reflection of how poorly we’ve been taught about the deeply transformative power and medicine of grief. We’ve been taught next to nothing. We’ve been conditioned to bypass it with statements like the ones above; to bury our grief quickly and completely after funeral, the divorce, the ending is over… in anything we can find.

So, we’ve become a society of the walking wounded. Underneath the façade, we are all beautiful, broken-hearted humans, carrying so many unhealed and untended parts of ourselves – into the next distraction. The next dating app. The next relationship. The next career. The next adventure, toy, hobby, noise, substance or distraction that will help us to keep the pain we feel in our hearts, in silent check…for now.

But we do this to such, such great damage to our lives, our relationships, and our society.

If there is one thing I’ve learned and witnessed with certainty in my last two decades as a therapist and coach, it is this:

How well we tend to our losses and our grief (or don’t) will directly determine the quality of our lives, future relationships, health, and dreams.

This is because how well we tend to our grief will always determine our capacity to experience joy, self-awareness, connected intimacy, trust and closeness.

Tending to our grief is one of the most important and sacred things we can ever do, because grief is a force that cannot be managed, controlled or skipped over – not without increasingly profound loss and numbing to our hearts, lives, and relationships.

When we bury our hurt and wounded parts over and over, we progressively numb our ability to be truly open, intimate and vulnerable with ourselves, and by proxy, with anyone else. When we blow past loss after loss after loss, we sink deeper into a false and fabricated persona, editing our public personas and lives, hiding our hearts, managing what we show and don’t show. We damage our ability to have and keep real love, trust, vulnerability, safety, intimacy and joy.

All of us – ALL human beings – long deeply to be seen and loved for who we truly are, in our entirely, in our whole humanity. We crave true intimacy and connection. But when we bypass our grief, we limit the beautiful spectrum of our human experience, our rich and beautiful emotional landscape. We settle. And pour so much of our energy into managing a predictable and perfect presentation of our identity, a controlled and projected version of ourselves. And this is heartbreaking.

We just cannot selectively numb one emotion. If we numb one, we will numb them all.

I had absolutely no idea how many wounds remained un-grieved in my life until I went through a series of losses in the last year and a half that just utterly cracked my heart open, exposing every single unknown fracture underneath. And I’d been doing ALL the “right” things – personal growth work, therapy, coaching, mindset work, yoga, retreats, spirituality, meditation, etc. etc. etc. – for over TWENTY years.


It was not my first rodeo with loss, by any stretch. But this season was much, much different. My particular series of losses were the perfect catalysts, the perfect concoction of utter devastation, to catapult me into a true dark night of the soul.

In the face of day upon day, then month upon month of continued losses, fuckery, and the most relentless and deepest pain I’d ever felt, I realized that I had two choices: Check out. Or surrender.

I wanted to live, and I wanted to thrive…so I became a student of grief. A student of surrender.

I found myself in emotional and spiritual waters much, much deeper than any single circumstance I was encountering. I no longer knew who I was at all. My sense of known identity was completely melting. My usual tricks and tools ceased working. My sense of rock-solid resilience was obliterated. I felt as if I were trapped in horror movie, only truly escaping it in sleep – only to wake and feel like I was being repeatedly punched in the gut upon remembering that I was trapped in what felt like a living hell every day. It was horrific.

But somewhere deep in my soul, there always remained a tiny, glimmering pilot light of faith and understanding that something unbelievably sacred was having its way with me, for some purpose yet unknown. Some force WAY bigger than anything I had ever encountered was in the driver’s seat, and I was utterly powerless to stop it. No form of resistance could change its course.

So, I finally bowed the fuck down. I cried out to God and every spiritual guide and support I had. And I reached out for help.

Contrary to popular belief, surrender is not the absence of empowerment. Surrender is our deepest place of power. When we’re finally surrender – when we stop resisting feeling everything we don’t want to feel, stop avoiding, stop numbing, stop running, and begin to ACCEPT what IS – we step on to a path that sages, teachers and wise ancestors have walked before us.

We begin to get into right relationship with reality. We let go into the river of life that IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING, rapids and all, instead of exhausting ourselves trying to change the entire river’s direction.

Beliefs, relationships and situations that no longer serve our highest good implode and burn to the fucking ground. All our shadows, all our unhealed parts, all the ways we’ve been performing, managing, controlling, resisting and minimizing who we really are and what we really want, are nakedly exposed. It’s a brutal, brutal breaking.

But as we begin to drop out of ego and sink down deeper into our hearts, we start to soften and open. We start to really meet and know ALL of ourselves on profoundly deeper levels – all of our younger parts, feelings, wounds, strengths, joy, and sorrows. Where we once self-abandoned, often without even realizing it, we are invited to come home to ourselves in ways we never knew we longed for, or even needed. And it’s a sweet, sweet taste of peace. Of true self-love. Of radical confidence.

As we surrender deeper and deeper into what IS, we are passing through the birth canal of grief and eventually emerging entirely new – with so many things cleared away that we didn’t even know were holding us back from our greatest love, purpose, joy and abundance in life.

When we make the courageous choice to tend to our grief, heal our hearts and meet ourselves and our shadows, we’re no longer driven by the subconscious wounds and patterning that keep true intimacy, love, purpose, and abundance at bay. We become profoundly powerful healers. We cease hurting ourselves with mediocrity. We cease working out so much of our stuff on other people.

We stop hiding from our real feelings. We start telling the truth to ourselves. We stop repeating the same patterns. We break generational, ancestral and karmic cycles. We start to taste the kind of peace and freedom that only comes from dropping fully out of our ego into our hearts. We feel the beginnings of actually embodying and experiencing everything we’ve been longing for. Our lives begin to move from “fine” – to excitedly trembling of the brink of absolutely remarkable. From beige, to technicolor.

As much as we thought the crucible of grief came to mercilessly destroy us, we now see the absolute perfection of her dark love – a love and compassion so ferocious, she refused to stop at anything less than the liberation of our hearts and the burning of every barrier between us and ourselves…us and Love…us and Truth.

Weeping tears of deepest joy, we slowly emerge from the darkness, shaky, bloody and scarred.

We raise our heads, recognizing the feeling of the warmth of the sun on our tear-stained faces.

And then it hits us:

We’re standing somewhere completely new. Somewhere silent and still, beyond space and time, in the sacred womb of the present moment, a vast and open field…on the very brink of all possibilities, and all that matters.

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