Shift happens: A report from Grief land

Recent insights:

dawn’s early light

I’m finding that after days of traveling down extremely difficult, dark rabbit holes of grief and despair, I sleep well on the night before the dawn of a new day, and significant shift in outlook. Not that the darkness won’t descend ever again—nah, too much going on in this world, and I see way too much to ignore or put on rosy glasses just so I can carry on. It’s more about allowance: allowing the process to process, because no matter how huge the falls, something new is arising.

As best as I can, I’m practicing detachment. Yet, I’m also being extra gentle with my human self. She’s struggling mightily, and there’s no sense in trying to whip her into shape like I used to do. Not too long ago, I and my almighty ego would power through the challenges and their aftermaths. For instance…

*Hey Elke, Jim has almost died from ventricular tachycardia or stroke or Grand Mal seizure or any number of death-defying bodily complications and incidents! Ok. Get him the medical care he needs, and then carry on. Come on now, you do not have time for a breakdown. You have his life to maintain and care for, and a home and business life to keep up.

*Shoot, Elke, due to circumstances beyond your control, we need to find a new home again! Ok. Network, affirm, and create accordingly.

*Damn, Elke, the pandemic response is shutting down just about everything that brings you joy! Buck up buttercup, people are suffering, and you need to be there for them.

*Health challenges are starting to show up in earnest, Elke.
*You’re having another grief attack, Elke!
*You’re feeling overwhelmed and desperately sad, Elke.
Elke, are you there?

Yes. Yes I am here, present and accounted for. And this time, I am not powering through. I am not bucking up or placating myself with platitudes and positive thoughts, either. I am allowing these feelings and experiences to be.

And weirdly enough, with that allowance, the shift to a brighter outlook happens quicker than if I tried to stuff it all under a rose-colored rug, and it is more long lasting, and even permanent.

You read the correctly. Permanent shifts in my world view happen after the darkest, crankiest, hopeless, and saddest dives.

There is the old saw of the greatest darkness preceding the dawn. And I so get that now! Grief has been the most profound teacher of my lifetime. Grief has taught me lessons in fragility and trauma and deep sadness. It has also taught me about resiliency and gratitude and love. Yes, grief has provided the most profound lessons about the true nature of Love: Unconditional love is just that: love with no conditions or expectations placed on it.

To love someone unconditionally is a big risk to my ego: I mean, what if I lose that someone? What if that someone rejects me, or disappears or abandons me or…

What if that beloved someone dies?

What happens is this: I grieve the loss. I allow a process to happen. I treat myself with kindness and generosity and allowance. I go deep, and I go dark and I break down.

And I also emerge, transformed to a new level of being here as a “left behind”—the one left on this side of the veil. I know my sweetheart Jim is transformed by his transition to the other side of the veil. This is a heart knowing. This is a statement of faith. This is the mystery of Love: it infinitely expands in the Great Beyond.

I also know that being left behind is a strange and mysterious privilege. Rather clunky and burdensome at times—well, a lot of the time, if I were to be honest with my experiences as of late. Yet a privilege all the same.

So today I’m giving this strange time on this sweet lil’ planet a chance to play out, and see what comes of it. After being down, I seem to be up for it.

Posted in

Elke Macartney


  1. Jody Bower on March 11, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    Yup yup yup. The shift happens AFTER you allow all the feelings full sway. I think for those of us who are really good at “powering through” and stepping up to meet challenges, giving ourselves permission and time to just be with our feelings is hard! But we need to learn how to do that, for more reasons than dealing with grief, and there will be many payoffs. For one, surfing the waves of emotion gets easier each time . . . and knowing that there WILL be a shift helps too.

    • Elke Macartney on March 13, 2021 at 3:44 pm

      Surf on, dear Jody! Thank you for your wisdom.

  2. Ken Dunning on March 11, 2021 at 10:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. deborah scharaga on March 11, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    dearest Elke,

    “I also know that being left behind is a strange and mysterious privilege.”

    i like the above line from your post, i feel this way also at times, i was happy to
    help my partner part from our so very precious life together. wonder how it would
    have been for him if reversed? would he be as lonesome as i am? I think so, but
    that doesn’t matter now….i will try and channel his courage and constant wonder.
    I will try and be all his best parts as I slowly learn this new dance of separation.

    Finding a spirit like yourself is a good step, being open to all the signs of another
    springtime on terra firma, hoping for healing and feelings of gratitude among
    all the layers of loss..

    Thank you for appearing in this universe.
    hugs someday for real,

    • Elke Macartney on March 13, 2021 at 3:42 pm

      Sending love and care to you, Deborah, on your mystery tour through grief.

  4. Mary Wohleb on March 11, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    Oh Elke! Your words so speak to me right now!! This is how I am feeling, too. I know I will emerge transformed but damn it to is so hard and painful. I’m here for you sista! ❤️❤️❤️

    • Elke Macartney on March 13, 2021 at 3:41 pm

      We have one of those sisterhoods born from grief. Yet, I’m glad I have company on the journey. Thank you.

  5. Debra on March 12, 2021 at 1:04 am

    The last paragraph got to me, brought up feelings, that feel much the same as grieving the loss of my dear Son.
    Strange time on sweet lil’ planet, I feel blown to bits but my bits are still here. And yes there is still sweetness, and I have much I am thankful for, although nothing feels purely sweet anymore.
    Im sitting in my garden on a buttercup patch where the last of the sun shines at the end of the day. My neighbors dog barked at me and his mom quickly told him not to bother me, I can hear the sound of machines beeping, thumping and nails pounding together a new elementary school in our neighborhood, a small plane just flew over.
    At this moment I feel myself here and there and waaay out there, which gives me a tiny relief.

    • Elke Macartney on March 13, 2021 at 3:40 pm

      I feel you, mamma. And I can see, through your noticing signs of life all around you, that you are emerging. Keep allowing. Keep noticing. And be extra kind to yourself.

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