Processing Unexpected Grief

In the past few weeks I’ve been working on my book again. It is nearing completion now and that’s an exciting prospect for me. The editing process took a long time, as my editor was deeply affected by the book and it unearthed things that required healing in her. As frustrating as the delay has been, I’m encouraged by the fact that the book has had an impact.

It is my desire to bring the topic of burnout into the light. I want people who have suffered from burnout not to feel shame any longer, to understand that they are not flawed or weak. The book is meant to act as a catalyst for healing, even for those who have not experienced burnout.


For a few nights in a row, I kept waking up at 4:30 am. Through my journey of healing I have become aware of the link between emotions and the body. Louise Hay‘s work and many other fields such as Chinese medicine show links between emotions and specific areas of the body. Even scientific studies show that different parts of the brain light up when specific emotions are felt.

I remembered an article I read on how the Chinese body clock shows which parts of the body are being regenerated at various times in the day and night. The lungs are processed at the time of day when I kept waking, and are associated with the emotion of grief. That confused me and I wondered what grief could be applicable in my life. I dismissed it.

Recently I’ve developed a pain in my right foot. I was confused as to where this came from as I haven’t taken on any different sports or done anything to cause it. I looked up what the foot represents and saw unprocessed grief included in the write up. Again, the grief. I remembered that the right side of the body is usually associated with the masculine. Which male am I grieving?

When preparing for a speech last Thursday night I looked through my notes on the positive psychology books I’ve read. I read a line that said “You cannot grieve until you forgive.” It occurred to me that perhaps I have finally forgiven my father for the ways in which he let my down in my life. Forgiveness is hard and I have been working on forgiveness for about two years now. Perhaps working on my book unwrapped another layer of forgiveness, and triggered the grief.

My father gave me a medal in the form of a coin he got for a special marathon he did in the past. He gave it to me in the car on the way to my wedding ceremony. He told me that it was his lucky coin and he wished for me to have it. In a symbolic gesture, I released the coin to a spot that was significant in our childhood. I spoke a few words and thanked him for his impact on my life, my path and for everything he taught me – even for the pain.

From my experience, grief comes in waves. We feel fine for a while and then it hits us again unexpectedly. After cutting my father out of my life, I was upset but I used many techniques to forgive him and to release myself from his reach. Each wave of grief gets less painful and each exercise feels less emotive than the time before. Perhaps this is the final stretch where he no longer affects me, and I can be free to live a happy life.

From the reading I’ve done, the best way to process emotions is to truly feel them. Ignoring them or suppressing them just delays the inevitable. They will surface at some point and will have to be processed eventually. I have been feeling down lately and I really wish to shake this feeling so that I can get on with my life. I want to return to my more positive self.

I’ve been listening to sad break-up songs to immerse myself in the emotion of grief. It feels like a break-up for me. I’m remembering the past and the fun times from our childhood. I’m remembering the pain of disappointment and unmet expectations. I’m wondering if he thinks about me and feels sad that I’m not in his life anymore. There’s no replacing a father. He’s gone from my life. And I grieve for all that could have been.


It’s clear to me that I am who I am from the experiences of my life, good and bad. I had to endure suffering in order to grow. I had to experience burnout to speak from a place of credibility. And I wouldn’t have burnt out without my experiences with my father and his business. It was necessary suffering to take me through growth and into a happier future.

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I am a champion for living your passion. Writing is my passion, my destiny and my calling. I am a mother of two beautiful daughters and a wife and live in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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