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Leading But Grieving

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You have to rally to get out of bed. People count on you. One voice inside says, “Clear your day and stay in bed as long as you can.”  The other part says, “Go slowly, do what you can, and take care of yourself in the space in between. It will feel good to stay somewhat engaged.” Both voices feel true, so you feel torn about how to proceed with the day.  The grief of sudden loss is insurmountable.  All the training you’ve done all the people you’ve been a support to in their life challenges seem to fade to the background as the only leader at this moment is grief. 

I have thought of grief as a power, not a negative emotion. I believe grief opens our spiritual heart and emotional heart, and when our hearts open, our minds open.  But damn, does it hurt.  Losing someone or something you love that you have a heart connection and bond with is like re-igniting every single cellular memory of the touch, smell, sight, sound, and maybe even taste (even if metaphoric) of who or what’s been lost.  The whole body activates the cellular memory all at once, and it…is…so…overwhelming.  The body grieves. The nervous system grieves. The loss is traumatic, along with thoughts of what you could have done differently and who is left behind that needs comfort. The guilt, the powerlessness, the broken heart- all of it. 

I lost my father when he was 85 years old. He lived a full life, co-raising 8 children with my mom. I cried only once after he died. My predominant feeling was that he was happy in his spirit form and freer than he ever could have been in his human body. That brought me peace. I even felt closer to him as a soul than I did when he was human. 

Fast forward 5 years, and my sweet 2-year-old labradoodle, Gracie, was struck by a car suddenly the day before Mother’s Day, 2024.  I was taking her and her doodle brother for a hike. As soon as I opened the car door to put their leashes on, they bolted out of the car toward the familiar hiking area and ran right into traffic.  Bodhi, the brother, ran off into a field, and Gracie died almost instantly. Nothing could have prepared me for the out-of-body devastation, helplessness, or trauma that I experienced at that moment. I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t save her. I had to let her go. 

Sweet Gracie was my dog. They say pets choose their person. She chose me. She cuddled with me every morning, throughout the day and at night. She was a gentle being who emanated pure love with her eyes from the depths of her soul. She was loved by my daughter’s friends, by those at the bus stop, and by everyone in the neighborhood. My daughter, stepson, husband, and I are all devastated. I was grieving that she died and how she died. The tragedy of suddenly losing a 2-year-old beloved pet was a whole other level of grief from the passing of my father.  

Grief doesn’t know a two-year-old pet or an 85-year-old parent.  We grieve the transition of the bond that was there when they were in physical form to a more expansive love that will continue on a soul level. For this reason, the spiritual heart opens. We know their souls beyond this physical reality. Yet, there is a timing to this awareness. In the moment when grief is present, the spiritual perspective may not matter until the grief is given its time to process.  As hard as it is, grief is the priority, and it needs space, time, and comfort. 

For me, having to show up to lead as a mom, a teacher, and a business owner was a big surrender to vulnerability.  I could not show up as the leader I was the week before this tragedy. The frontal cortex of my brain forgot everything I knew, and I became a beginner again.  The patterns of handling it all had to surrender to receiving help, love, support, and prayers, and my mind needed to be on board. 

The response and outpouring of love were huge. It was because everyone had been there in one way or another. Grief was everyone’s teacher at one point in their life.  I am reminded that when loss happens, it brings people right to their hearts and into connection with each other.  When grief is leading the way, it tells a story, sings a song, or becomes a beautiful memorial art project like the one my daughter made for our dear Gracie (pictured below).  Grief connects us all through our hearts and souls, and the crazy lives we lead get put into perspective with how precious life really is.

Leading while grieving makes me human. When I’ve been on the receiving end of a leader acknowledging their grief, compassion opens up for me.  I feel more connected to that person.  Perhaps you’ve experienced this too. It models that we can be with grief and our humanity at the same time.  If anything, perhaps this can be a reminder that when grief is present, and you have to show up in the world in your role, let grief lead the way and show you another side to being the leader that you are. 

with love, 
Wendy

P.S.

Energetic grounding practices can help with processing grief. If you need a guided meditation to follow, try this simple grounding practice in my digital store.