Notes on a Buddhist path

Grief: releasing what is already gone

March 28, 2011 By | 5 Comments

“Write grief”, the angel said.

It’s day 12 of my 14 day cleanse. Every spring and fall for the past five years or so I cut out caffeine, sugar, dairy, salt, alcohol, most grains, meat, fish, fermented foods and fruit to get a fresh start and clean out the old body gunk. The detox reactions have come in waves: headaches, dizziness, fatigue, brain fogginess, nausea. Along for the ride are also the emotional sidecars. Fear, anger, joy and sadness have paid a visit, but mostly it’s been cravings. Food craving, comfort craving, partnership craving, more light in my apartment craving. Wanting and wanting without satisfaction; according to the Buddha, it’s why we suffer.

Before going to sleep the other night I asked for guidance in my dreams, something to help me through the cravings and perhaps clear out a few old patterns as well as that pizza I ate last month.

An answer, or sorts, showed up close to morning. An angel (I couldn’t see her, but I’m sure that was her line of work) told me to write the word “Grief” in my cup of coffee. I kept repeating the word, over and over, until I began to see the cursive letters appear in the cup. It transformed into a masterful piece of latte art, but instead of a foamy heart, Grief appeared through the steam.

Then I woke up.

An hour later in my meditation I asked what it meant, what I was to do with the word or why it was in my morning cuppa of brew. With each breath I said the word “grief” to see where it landed in my body. After a few moments I found it. Grief was sitting in my lower back, clenching it with pain, an ache that had been with me for several weeks and I couldn’t seem to shake.

So I sat down next to Grief for a little heart-to-heart talk.

It reminded me of the relationship that every cell of my being knows is over.  I can’t seem to let go of the memories or desire for it to somehow turn out differently. Kind of like watching “Out of Africa” again and again and hoping this time Robert Redford’s plane doesn’t go down. I saw how choosing to live more in accord with The Noble Eightfold Path has widened the gap between myself and some friends to the point where I can’t bear to hear another scrap of gossip or watch one more cute kitten video. And it showed me how much I wanted those foods which don’t feed my body; the sweets and the wine, the bread and yes, the coffee.

Grief is cleansing. Just as each spring and fall I ask my body to let go of the waste it has been clinging to, grief asks us to let go of what is already gone. The big stuff and the small. The grief around the death of a way of being can in no way be measured against the retching pain of losing a child. Yet the practice of facing each grief, each death, every moment of every day, regardless of its measure, prepares us for the next one and ultimately our own death to this world.  As Stephen Jenkinson puts it, “living well and dying well: they are twins, like grief and the love of being alive.”

Will I ever again think of that old flame or get pulled into a friend’s rant about her job or sidle up to a decaf soy cappuccino at Discovery Coffee? Probably, but grief, like all suffering, doesn’t have to come along. I wrote Grief and it appeared on a froth of white floating over the dark pool of my cravings.  And in time it melted away, just like all things.


  1. Wow. And you had doubts about writing a blog again.

    You are doing tremendous, awe-inspiring work. “Tess Symphony, Opus 137”. The thing is, I don’t think you would be able to do it in *any*other* situation than this very one you have been gifted. You are in a magical place, this life of yours right now, doing magical work. The apples are all there, within your reach. We mere mortals can only stand back and gaze in wonder.

    Let us know when you become enlightened; we’ll throw a party.

    I guess I’ll have to deal with my own grief now, of not being able to rant to you anymore about the craziness of life on this small island. My soapbox will grow dusty! 😉

  2. Lynn Marttila says

    Loved it Tess!

  3. I love your blog, Tess! This one especially resonated with me, with the part about grief being cleansing. It must be why the cliche about “needing a good cry” rings so true.

    Kudos to you for finding a place of happiness in yourself in the last few years. I miss you, but you seem to be in a really good spot.

    And, since I know you’ll be proud of me after all those talks we had about cleanses, etc. I’m happy to report that I recently completed a cleanse of sorts – the Whole30 program. Cut out all alcohols, sugar and other sweeteners, dairy, legumes, and grains for 30 days. So just organic meats, veggies, fruits and fish. It was hard for the first few days, but after a while it felt really good. I’m going to start again soon and try to stick to it for longer, to see if I can make this more of a permanent lifestyle, rather than a fast or cleanse.


    • Thanks Sabrina! The blog is a fun project that’s keeping me writing and that’s what I like best about it.

      Hurray on the cleanse! It’s tough to do and 30 days is no small feat. I know, I wish sugar and lattes didn’t whisper to me every time I pass a bakery or cafe. Oh well, always something to work on.

      I miss you too! Can you believe it’s been 10 years since we started at RTMM? So glad you’re still in my life.


  1. […] since those desperate times…) and my angst about how to pay the bills was rising with the foam on my lattes. Yet I was blissful and happy most of my waking hours, meditating and contemplating the present […]

Speak Your Mind


Site maintained by Synaptic Systems Inc. - Using the STUDIOPRESS Genesis Framework under WordPress