Grief, Grace, and Gratitude Part I

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I woke up every morning with a heaviness in my chest. I had not had a feeling that intense since the loss of someone very dear to me. And that feeling, that raw unrelenting feeling of tightness around my heart made my breath shallow. It was an unrelenting weight like an elephant sitting on me… the way I feel when asthma gets triggered. But there was no pump I could grab to relieve the pressure in my lungs and heart. It was the onset of grief.

After an agreed upon time of separation, we had just laid eyes on each other for the first time in weeks when we met for a walk at my favorite park. As we slowed our walk, I asked “so where are we?”. As he formed the words “I don’t see us moving forward”, I froze. My heart started flapping wildly inside of my chest and a quiet voice inside of me said “Don’t cry. Don’t do it.” 

I wanted to immediately leave the park bench. My skin felt hot with confusion and I suddenly felt small. After almost 12 years, there it was; the closing of a long and deeply loving chapter.

For the next few weeks, I awakened to greet my sadness through journaling and honoring her many stages by taking her to the ocean where the sea air could soothe the intensity of my grief. I talked out loud to the waves and had a soul to soul conversation with my former partner. Naming my feelings as I let the wind carry each one. I experienced a calm as the waves allowed the unexpected beauty of grace to wrap her loving arms around me. Through grace, I began to gain clarity. It became a welcome visitor in my house of healing and slowly gratitude became a welcome guest. In both I found self compassion and nudges towards self validation.

Self forgiveness wedged its way into my Spirit and out of a paralysis of all the ways that I had not honored myself in the relationship. It highlighted intergenerational patterns of abandonment, secrecy and lack of emotional trust. It showed me that shutting down was no longer a helpful way to protect myself. What I had learned was “no one will take care of you so you better learn to take care of yourself” and “don’t depend on a man because he will disappoint you”. I now know that withholding my truth was built around a labyrinth of fear.

Celia Hilson

I witnessed myself outside of my internalized belief system to see that I was not trusting myself to speak my own truth. We were imperfect people trying to bridge our differences. Yet, I was not allowing my voice to speak up on behalf of the part of me that wanted to thrive differently in the relationship.

I am grateful to my beautiful community of friends and family who asked “how’s your heart?”. 

I’d cry deep and long as I tried to make sense of and peel away layers of pain. They were so patient and loving. Now when they ask, “how’s your heart?” I say, “She’s doing much better”. 

Grief is a portal to healing. Grace is the quiet that comes in the midst of the pain storm. Gratitude is the anchor that has grounded me through it all.

I heard all the voices of my ancestors; the ones that stepped forward to speak lovingly and gently to me about how my armor of survival was my loyalty to a story that no longer serves me.  

3 thoughts on “Grief, Grace, and Gratitude Part I”

  1. Your story has a quality that I would call universal, expressed with a lot of heart and vulnerability. Thank you Celia – you are such a teacher to me.

  2. Dear Celia, Your words touched me deeply. Especially:
    “Naming my feelings as I let the wind carry each one. I experienced a calm as the waves allowed the unexpected beauty of grace to wrap her loving arms around me. “
    I can picture this, feel it, and simultaneously it is an aspirational.
    What a blessing that you are willing to share your life-lived wisdom with the rest of us who are also trying to find our way to ourselves.

  3. It’s such a gift to hear your share so openly and beautifully. I find it moving and relatable. I have so been there.
    You have a way of knowing and sharing your heart that is rare, and I appreciate it.


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