Grief - The Birthplace of Healing, Repair and Transformation

by Cat J. Zavis January 15, 2013

Whether it is in the context of a divorce, a death, an illness, or when we see tragedies unfold around the world or in our own backyard, we react.  Some of us want to DO something, anything to try and fix what happened or to get out of our own pain.  So of us want to escape our feelings. Some of us want more information, perhaps to try to help us understand and make sense of the seemingly incomprehensible. 

Few of us are taught and are able to simply be present in the moment with all of our emotional turmoil and angst.

Yet, I believe it is exactly that act – the act of simply being a human rather than doing a human is what is most called for in these times.  That is not to say that if we are in the midst of the tragedy and can act to protect a life, to provide emergency support, collect supplies, provide food, or other such acts that we should wait before acting, rather I am saying that when we are not able to respond to the emergency with action, and feel so uncomfortable that we want to crawl out of our skin, that rather than do something to get out of our discomfort, we sit down and allow ourselves to feel the depth of our discomfort.

Hafiz says it best when he says: 

“Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more deep.  Let it ferment and season you
As few human or even divine ingredients can. . .”

When we let our loneliness, our grief, our sorrow, our pain, our anger, our rage and our fear cut more deep and ferment and season us as few human or divine ingredients can, then we begin to tap into the depth of our human experience.  From that place we begin to know that we are not alone in this world.  That other mothers, fathers, children, sisters, brothers, lovers, friends have suffered as we have, have known tragedy and sorrow, and cry and struggle as we do. 

When we slow down and allow all of our emotions wash over us and move through us, we can begin to have clarity as to how to respond in a way that is grounded in our needs for love, compassion, empathy, peace, harmony, generosity, care, consideration, forgiveness, as well as joy, celebration and gratitude.

I believe that grief is the birthplace of healing and repair, and healing and repair are the bedrock for lasting transformation.

In the context of our work as collaborative professionals, I believe that if we are not able to sit in discomfort, mine or others, then I will not be as effective in supporting my clients through the collaborative process.  Getting a divorce, whether you want it or not, is agonizing.  Our clients are grieving many things – loss of their primary intimate relationship, loss of daily contact with their children, loss of some level of financial security, and loss of their future as they know it.  These losses come up again and again in our meetings (whether we are alone with our clients or in group meetings).  As professionals, it is our job to be able to hold a container for the intensity of these feelings while simultaneously helping to ensure that our clients actions, behaviors and choices are not driven by their emotions. No small task!

To do this effectively, we need to practice and know how to do this for ourselves first.  Here is how I do this, I welcome hearing from others how you do this and whether this is helpful.

  1.   First, I notice that I am feeling dis-comfort or dis-ease, I slow down and let myself really experience and explore those feelings.  I become a curious witness to myself.  What is moving through me, where is it living in my body, is it stuck or moving, does it have a color, or a sound it wants to express?

  2.  Second, I ask myself what I am feeling.  Anger, fear, frustration, sorrow, grief?  Why am I uncomfortable?  What is it that I need?  Respect, honesty, information, trust, to be heard differently, compassion?  What do I want to do? Yell, convince, fight, argue?

  3.  I then just sit with all of what I’ve uncovered and let that move through me.  Sometimes I cry, sometimes I move my body, sometimes I just sit on my meditation cushion and allow all the discomfort in my body to be and move in my body until I come to stillness.  

  4. Eventually, in time, I have clarity as to how to proceed or where to turn to get the support I need to obtain that clarity.

Here is the amazing thing – if we slow down enough to do this process, the intensity of the feelings eventually move through us. Yes, they will return again and again; they will visit us like old friends who we see infrequently yet when we do we are grateful because there is always a gift to be learned, a muscle to be stretched, a connection to deepen, an opportunity for love to grow, and the possibility for healing and repair.  And from that place, we provide the rich compost from which transformation is inevitable.

When we are able to live this within our own lives, we will be able to support our clients to do the same.  When our clients are able to do this with our support, they will be able to genuinely collaborate with one another to find solutions that meet not only their needs but also the needs of one another and their children. 

I would love to hear what is stirred in you reading this.  Thanks!  ~ cat


Comments (5) -
joy@gojoy.usUnited States
1/17/2013 11:50:47 AM #

Cat, thank you for this. "Concidentally," early this morning during my morning practice, I'd asked a question, intentionally without look opened Hafiz's The Gift, and saw this:

A Hole In A Flute

I am
A hole in a flute
That the Christ’s breath moves through.
Listen to this
I am the concert
From the mouth of every
Singing with the myriad

Shocks and sorrows need not swamp our least permanently. May we always open to let in the Melody.

View my profile on
carolann@cmazzalaw.comUnited States
1/18/2013 2:12:47 PM #

This is a beautiful post, Cat, thank you for sharing.  I was having a conversation with my coach about my "need" to say the right thing, and when I can't, avoiding the topic/person.  What a wasted opportunity to connect and to show compassion!  And a chance to be less selfish:  putting my own discomfort above that of the person experiencing the pain.  Sometimes all it takes is a hug.  

View my profile on
cat@catjzavis.comUnited States
1/18/2013 4:46:13 PM #

Dear Joy and Carol Ann ~

Thank you for sharing how my post moved you.  Of course, another Hafiz poem is to be enjoyed!  Thanks for sharing this one Joy.  I will have to find it in my book, The Gift!  And Carol Ann, so appreciating your honesty and also aware of how often we want to say or do the "right" thing when simply a quality of presence can be the perfect thing!

Blessings to you both ~ cat

View my profile on
kevin@scudderlaw.netUnited States
2/11/2013 8:21:13 PM #

Hi Cat.  Thanks for sharing yourself with your post.  I am taking you up on your invitation to share what stirred in me as I read your post and comments.

What came to my self is that I am so different from what and whom I was 10 years ago.  The slowing down.  The not being fearful of silence or discomfort.  Asking questions of what is stirred rather than turning away from what is stirred in the hope that it chose to leave as a result of being ignored (it never goes away, just comes back stronger and more unresolved than ever . . . . )

While I do not have a meditation practice (yet), the slowing down has given me room and opportunity to develop my other senses.  As a result I am better able to be present for my client, my professional team members and myself.  This morning I met with a long-time client that I have worked with over the last ten years.  While there was business to be done we took the time to catch up and share with each other and during this time my client cried twice, the first time as a result of my creating a space for him to share something very deep for him, the second when I spoke about his children in such a way that he was touched by my caring for them.  As he was leaving he commented that I had really changed as a result of my "transition" to a Peacemaking practice from a litigation practice.  I smiled and noted that, for me, it was not so much a transition as it has been a transformation.

My immediate takeaway from your post, that Grief can lead to healing, repair and transformation, applies not only to our clients, but to ourselves.

It may be that for us to be quality Collaborative Practitioners we first have to be in Grief, and find our way through healing, repair and transformation ourselves.  Only by travelling that path ourselves can we best know what our clients are going through in their Collaborative Divorces.

View my profile on
cat@catjzavis.comUnited States
2/13/2013 6:59:58 PM #

Kevin ~

Thank you so much for such a rich response.  I am so grateful to hear what was stirred in you reading this and celebrating with you the transformation you've made through the years and feeling a kinship with you.  

I definitely believe, and that is why I write about this through the eyes of the practitioner, that when we have worked through our own grief, or own emotional triggers and discomfort, our own challenges then we are better equipped to be with and support our clients through theirs.

By all means, by traveling the path ourselves, we have more skills with which to support and more experience with which to understand our clients.

Such an amazing journey - makes me grateful to be alive.
Blessings to you ~ cat

View my profile on

Add comment

  • Comment
  • Preview


The Bigger Conversation

Be a part of the conversation! Learn about the latest thoughts, trends and developments in Collaborative Practice from IACP’s Brain Trust, and then join the discussion with other members across the globe. This is your opportunity to be heard; share your experience, knowledge and insights with the rest of us. We’ll all benefit.

Our Featured Bloggers will rotate over time. If you are interested in becoming a Featured Blogger and posting regularly, please contact us at We also welcome periodic submissions from Guest Bloggers. If you have a post to share as a guest, please send your post to us at



Month List