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The Goddess of Grief

Danielle LaPorte's picture

goddess grief

"Grief can make a liar out of you because there is a disconnect between how you feel, and how you think you're supposed to behave."

This was Maria Shriver's intro to her heart-gripping talk at the 2009 Women's Conference. I stumbled across the live telecast. The topic: Grief, Healing & Resilience. Interesting topic for a conference. That's kind of pushing it, I thought.

Then Marissa tweeted about grief catching her off guard. Ronna wrote about the barn burning down, and Emma started thinking about death -- a lot. Kelly riffed about endings because she was inspired by Lianne philosophizing about "something dying to be born." Guess the death thing is up for the sistahs this season, I thought.

And then I went to a Transformational Speaking workshop with Gail Larsen -- which is really group therapy disguised as enlightened toastmasters (and one of the best learning experiences I've had). Gail spread out a large quilt on the floor with the cycles of life stitched in a big circle. She calls it the Journey Well Wheel. "Stand or pull your chair to where you think you are at this time of your life," she instructed. Easy, I thought, I'm here, at the Seek Support-Experiment-Emerge stages. Just before which is Grief and Letting Go. But no matter how I tried to stay in my place, my chair mysteriously kept eeking toward the grief zone. Like a ghost was pushing me -- away from the lie, toward the white hot truth. Black as it was.

In 2008, I Died

I handed over the keys to the studio/office I'd help to fill with staff, laptops and artwork -- to the company that had my name on the door, on the parking stall, on the book, the domain name, the shareholder certificates. Passwords were changed. Computers stripped. Lawyers retained. The CEO I was so wise to hire was given the go-ahead to change the business model -- and the new strategy didn't include very much of me. I was out.

A few months after my, uh, departure, I was scrolling through Craigslist looking to buy a new desk and came across a desk that I loved -- no wonder, it was my desk -- my former desk. And that is how I found out that the company was having a going out of business sale. The company was divided up and auctioned off -- the book, the intellectual property, the website. Sold to the highest bidders. It was over, except for major bank debt, for which I was partly personally liable.

I'm feline by nature -- a gold medalist in Landing On My Feet.

In 2009: I launched WhiteHotTruth to a great reception (a thousand thank yous to every reader). I did Fire Starter groups in about sixteen cities. I've worked with nearly one hundred Fire Starter clients. Shot a demo reel for a new TV show that I could star in. Spoke on some very big stages. Scored a gig as commentator of a national prime-time TV show. Gave dozens of interviews. Creative sovereignty rocks. Hard.

Those are the facts. Facts can disguise grief...only for so long.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler's legendary Five Stages of Grief applies just as much to the death of dreams and identity as it does to people: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. It's brilliant, compassionate, and whole, like a Goddess.

Grief is one of the most powerful Goddesses. She swallows your agony and lets it tear her apart. Beautiful birds fly from her belly -- each one an insight into life and your power. Grief brings the whole flock to your window and she waits and waits to reveal universal truths to you. She goes to the depths with you. She rises with you.

Grief won't rest until you swallow the medicine she made especially for you, and tell her your story of death...and life.

How To Absorb The Medicine Of Grief

1. Grief messes with your focus. When she's tap-tap-tapping on the door of your consciousness, it becomes difficult to concentrate. You're not sure what the priorities are, not sure where to put your attention, and when you do put it somewhere, it slips off easily. Time does not feel fresh, it feels a bit stale. Launching new things feels awkward, subtly inappropriate.

Give your self space to meander, aimlessly. Aim less. Under achieve. Be confused. As Nietzsche said, "You must have confusion in your heart to give birth to stars." You are giving birth to a new reality. It takes tremendous resources. Healing hurts before it feels right.

2. Grief is patient. Grief may operate on a time-release capsule system. She'll let you be busy and distracted for a long period of time before she descends. She respects survival mechanisms and the necessities.

So go ahead and throw yourself into work or hobbies. Just know that...

3. Denying grief her power squelches your vitality. You can dream and laugh and march on, but until you swallow the bitter tea that Grief has brewed, things won't be as vibrant or grounded as they could be. And that's half dead.

Recognize where you are numb. Notice the memories that ouch the most. This is the beginning of response-ability.

4. Grief crystallizes in your body. The medicine will get stuck in your muscle memory and joints. It needs to circulate and be digested.

You have to dance grief to the surface. Stomp. Rock. Stretch. Move without your intellect getting in the way. Keep moving.

5. Grief thinks scars make for great tattoos.

Accept that you'll never be the same. Trauma marks you. Embrace how much more dimensional you've become.

6. Like Bindu reminded me, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." (Maya Angelou). Grief needs to hear your story told.

Speak it out to a sacred listener. Be witnessed. And then...

7. Tell a new story, one that includes the description of how you healed. The Goddess of Grief's favourite word is Goodbye. You can smile when you say that.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Danielle LaPorte is the creator of WhiteHotTruth.com, which has been called "the best place on-line for kick-ass spirituality." She is the author of The Fire Starter Sessions: A Digital Experience for Entrepreneurs. You can find her on Twitter @daniellelaporte. Proceeds from the purchase of The Fire Starter Sessions go to Owning Pink! Click here to check it out.


Rachel A's picture

More thanks...

My just-turned-13-year-old son asked me a few months ago why I have so many books about grief & healing & depression... I am okay admitting that I am partially obsessed (probably too strong a word) & fascinated with loss, grieving, healing, what we as humans have in common and the ways our grieving processes differ. I have a strong desire to help others face and "embrace" their grief, and discover their path to healing and renewed joy... We know, in a logical fashion, that death & loss are unavoidable, but so many of us go about our daily lives hoping to ignore those realities as long as possible. Giving people a week off work, or sending a sympathy card to a friend who's lost a loved one but then never reaching out beyond that to see how things are going a month, 2 mos, 6 mos later. And, like your post describes, our culture (for the most part) doesn't have much patience or acceptance for people needing to grieve other major losses in our lives. I'm almost through my first reading "Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart" by Stephen Levine... A beautiful book full of deep caring for all of humankind...

Thank you, Danielle, for yet another heartfelt post about such an important theme... Acknowledging, accepting, working through our different losses (small, medium, large, supersized) and showing ourselves the love & tender mercy that will allow us to move on & to help others do the same...


melissa's picture


I wanted to thank you for this post. Tomorrow will be 2 months since my son Wesley who was born at 25 weeks 4 days passed away. I know everyone says "it takes time", "there's no right or wrong way to greive" I don't know if I believe that. i feel validated that you said it's ok to throw yourself into work or hobbies. I believe I've been changed completly, and will never ever be the same again, but it's ok. I think Wesley has changed me for the better, I'm more open and driven to have MORE to be MORE and to experience MORE thank you so much for helping me to accept my own way to greive.

Rachel A's picture

Sending love to you...

Dear Melissa,

I just wanted to send some love out to you; I'm so sorry to hear of your loss... The loss of such a young little one never will probably never "make sense" in this lifetime... I'll be keeping you, Wesley, & your other loved ones in my thoughts and prayers. You do get to decide your own path of grieving & healing... It will probably morph & evolve over time. Following your heart is rarely a mistake ... Take good care of yourself, okay? :-)
Xoxo, Rachel A.

Anonymous's picture

Thank you.

Yes! Yes!

I know grief far too well. When my father died, I was 14. Cried at the funeral, then focused on nurturing my little brother. At 18, I finally cried, for 4 months, nonstop. She waits, all right, but she does not leave.

Losing the 16 yr dream that was a marriage did me in. There was no funeral, nobody seemed to understand I could not drive safely in familiar territory.

Losing the voice that is my means of livelihood, twice, was the most personal. If you can't speak, you are essentially invisible. The last time I had to stop working and did not know if it would ever heal (last summer). I prepared for the possibility of a new career.

But: I am stronger from the healing from all these losses; like a mended bone.

Thanks for adding your story to my understanding. We are grief-sisters. I salute your humanity, your journey.

RobinKD's picture

Thank you!

Thank you so much for sharing this! I wish I had been able to read it years ago when a dream of mine died years ago. I especially like the part about sharing one's story. There is even some research to support the act of storytelling as a process of self-definition, rather than simple reporting of events.

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