“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the back hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
~ Jamie Anderson
Strictly speaking, I think there’s more to grief than that, but I have found this perspective to be very useful. I have used it as an exercise, and it’s yielded some valuable results.
To begin with, it seems I have a lot of unprocessed grief.
More than it feels like I should have. Yes, I have people and pets that I miss, but in general, my response to death and loss feels out of proportion.
That tells me there’s something to look at.
So when this quote caught my eye, I decided to use it as a prompt for an exploratory meditation/inner journey. With this idea of “unspent love” as a catalyst, I let thoughts, images, stories, and spontaneous responses float through my mind while gently observing them with as little interference as possible.
It’s a delicate balance, but when I hit the sweet spot between thinking (controlling the process with my mind, trying to “make sense”) and unconscious (unaware, not present), connections and deeper meanings can start to reveal themselves.
Initially what came up was the obvious and expected feelings I have about those in my life who are dead. Eventually, though, I started noticing a different theme from my past.
I started to see how often as a child, the love I may have felt had nowhere to go. Either my environment discouraged emotional expression, or the people I had feelings for declined to receive it. Over time I learned to expect this. I held back, I lost touch with those feelings, I became more cynical.
My awareness, at that time, shifted to my frustration and longing rather than the feeling of love or the possibility of expressing it or sharing it. This became its own consistent source of grief.
As I opened up to these alternate versions in my meditation, one more angle that I hadn’t thought to consider emerged.
Another consequence of my childhood was that I didn’t learn to love myself. It wasn’t mirrored back to me enough (feeling love from others makes us feel worthy of love), it wasn’t modeled for me (we need examples to show us what that might look like), and I certainly was never taught how… or even what it really meant.
Later in life, my circumstances changed. There has been much more love and loving people. My work on my relationship with myself continues in the right direction. But none of that healed my past. If anything, it distracted me from the need to attend to it.
It’s much harder to grieve when you don’t understand what you are grieving. This has given me a path to begin to mourn what could have been, what never was, and what I never understood I needed.
If your spirit is prompting you to have a conversation about your unspent love, I encourage you to consider working with me.