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Twinkle twinkle little star.


Oh, wow. Oh, wow. I didn't plan on doing another season of this podcast. I felt overwhelmed when the first season ended and took a break from going through the boxes of things that belong to my mom and dad and brother, all of whom are gone.






Almost got it.


I've been trying to spend as much time as possible with my kids. Sleep well, Sebastian. Sleep well, Wyatt. I love you.


I love you so much.


I love you so much too. But whenever I go down to my basement, I'm reminded that grief doesn't go away. So I'm in the basement of my house, and surprise, it is filled with boxes. This spring, I started feeling guilty about all those unopened boxes and about all the voicemail messages from listeners during the first season that I hadn't gotten around to playing. I lost my father when I was 10.


My beautiful son.




Three years ago. I lost my mother. My mother died when I was 13.


Last season, I'd ask you to leave a message if there was something you'd learned in your grief that might be helpful to others.


I felt compelled.




Call. We lost our son, Brad, eight years ago.




Dad took my mom's life and then took his own.


I lost my only child and she was two and a half. I'd only had time to listen to about 200 of the calls before I had to select some and write the final episode of the podcast. But there were more than 1,000 calls I hadn't heard.


I have never shared anything like this before.


But I.


Never told this to anyone.


-situation, my mother. She was very, very abusive. Even though I wasn't going to do another podcast, I decided a few months ago I'd listen to all your messages. I mean, you'd taken the time to leave them. The least I could do was listen.


Society was telling me it's just a miscarriage.


Just get over it. I had to grieve the person that I was.


There is life after death, both for oneself and for the relationship of the person. I realized that my relationship with my parents wasn't over.


As I thought it would be. Every day I'd put in my AirPods and I'd hear your sadness. You hear those words? Your child has cancer. Your bravery. It's okay to cry.


And it's okay to talk about it. And it's okay that it sucks.


And your love. When I wear this jacket, I feel.




In his love even 27 years after his death. You helped me feel my own sadness in a way I never allowed myself to. I'm embarrassed to say, listening to your messages, I cried more than I ever have before.


I held.


You in my arms.


I could feel his heart pounding in my chest. I said, It's all right, and I got you. I love you. And I felt his heart stop.


Today I've listened to probably about three hours of voicemails from people, and every now and then I just have to stop because it's...




Calling from Edmond to Alberta, Canada. It took more than two months, but I listened to every one of you. I listened to more than 46 hours of your calls. The sobbing.


May last a minute or two.


But I honor that. Their strength and vulnerability.


The social.




Is actually the thing.


That pulled us together.


So many grief and silence, hold it in, carry the weight.


It has to go somewhere.


I didn't understand why I was so emotional. I mean, I've always been pretty good at controlling my feelings. When I was done listening to all your calls, I went down to the basement and for the first time in months, I opened up a box at random. It turned out to be full of my dad's papers. He was a writer. The first paper that I picked up was an essay he'd written that I'd never seen before. It stunned me. Here it is. It doesn't have a year on it, but it's called The Importance of Grieving. I came across this section while he was talking about kids and the importance of kids grieving. Then he quotes a psychologist, Psychoanalytic studies have shown that when a person is unable to complete a morning task in childhood, he either has to surrender his emotions in order that they do not suddenly overwhelm him, or else he may be haunted constantly throughout his life with a sadness for which he can never find an appropriate explanation. When I read that, I just thought, That's me. That's exactly what I did. And it's true. I have lived through my entire life with a sadness for which I can never find an appropriate explanation.


Here it is. My dad writing this when I was a little kid. He knew he was at great risk of dying early. And maybe he did write this with me in mind, my brother and mine. Maybe he thought one day, maybe those kids will come across this essay. I like to think of it as like a message from him. It's reading that sentence that my dad somehow picked out, I realized, I guess, for the first time that I didn't really grieve my dad's death at all and that I didn't really grieve my brother's death. I didn't allow myself to. That's why going through all this stuff has been so overwhelming. I thought I was just going through my mom's boxes to organize them. But what I opened up was hidden boxes of grief that I'd stored away, that I'd buried when I was 10 years old and then when I was 21. Listening to your voicemail messages, listening to 46 hours, it opened up all these boxes in my own head and in my own heart that I need to deal with all this stuff, not just this literal stuff in the basement, but I can't just keep it all stored away anymore.


That's why I'm doing another season of this podcast. I don't want to keep this sadness, this grief buried any longer. I can't. It's like that listener, Jen, said, It has to go somewhere. It doesn't go away. In trying to bury my own sadness, I realize now I've also buried my ability to feel joy. I don't want to live half a life any longer. I want to feel all there is. We'll be right back with my guest, Francis Weller, whose book about grief and loss was a revelation to me. I'm Dr.


Sanjay Gupta, and this week on Chasing.


Life, the fascinating brain.


Science behind simply tidying up.




Environment and how we.


Can all do it better.


I need to be.


Able to learn how to organize as a messy person.


That's Casey Davis. She's a mom. She's also a licensed therapist. I need.


Skills that work with my brain instead of against my brain.


Get ready to learn how.


To cut down.




Clutter in your home and in your mind. Listen to Chasing Life.


Wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome back to All There Is. My guest is Francis Weller. He's a psychotherapist whose book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow, was sent to me by a listener named Cynthia, whose son, John, died in 2016 when he was 32. Cynthia wrote me a letter saying she hoped something in Francis's book would speak to me. I started The Wild Edge of Sorrow, and it blew me away. I underlined things on nearly every page. When I get back from Israel, I wasn't sure that I should even do this podcast. I felt like in the face of so much suffering in Israel and in Gaza, talking about my grief or talking about any individual person suffering? I mean, does it matter in the face of the scale of suffering that we're seeing?


Well, let's ask the question, what would happen if we don't address our grief, our personal griefs? That's the collective trouble we're in right now is that if we don't address our grief, our hearts close and our hearts don't have the capacity then to register the suffering of the world. This podcast gives anybody who's listening a chance to address their own grief and to not minimize it, not shut it down, not do comparison, which is so hard to not do. But our hearts depend upon our ability to keep close to the sorrows that are there.


Facing one's own sadness, facing one's own grief, it helps one become more understanding of the sorrow of others.


Yes. What grief work does is it has a way of deepening our capacity to hold sorrow, to hold suffering. James Hillman, one of my primary teachers, said that the issues are rarely about resolution. We're not here to resolve our issues. The issue is about spaciousness. How much can I hold? How much can I allow in to touch me? Most of us, because of our traumas and our grief, that aperture has become so small that we barely register the sorrows of the world. We barely let them in.


I listened to about a thousand calls, more than 46 hours of voicemail messages from people about their losses, about their grief. And a lot of the callers talked about their own suppressed grief, the grief that they didn't allow themselves to acknowledge until late in life. And I just want to play this one call. As I approached the age at which.


My mother died and my children approached the age of me and my siblings when she passed, something was triggered.


Inside me subconsciously.




Brought up the.


Grief that I never processed as a child. I was able to finally cry and grieve as that.


13-year-old girl.


Who never.


Could really cry it out.


Because she had to develop skills to survive and thrive.


I was stunned by what she said because I feel very similar.


Very few of us had our grief, our losses held adequately by anybody. That unheld material doesn't just dissipate, doesn't just go away. It burrows in and becomes some place that we will to return to at some point.


You hear that all the time.


I do. I've also encountered that myself, just how much that melancholic echo was with me all through my life. I was the youngest of eight kids, and they're all gone. Suddenly, I'm having to take care of him, get him dressed. I was now the parent of this man who couldn't really take care of himself. All of what I was feeling, the grief, the sadness, the fear, the anger, all of that had to be submerged. There was no room for it. We were in survival mode. All of that just had to disappear. I didn't touch that until probably in my 40s. It began to push its way back to the foreground.


It doesn't go away.


It doesn't go away. It shouldn't go away. It's part of our story. It's part of our history. It's part of the depths of who we are. And so it really does request, require, demand at some point, some acknowledgment. I mean, isn't that what's happening for you right now, Anderson?


Yeah, but I don't even know what that means. I don't even know what does that mean to it.


Well, it does mean that we have to, at some point, be willing to turn toward that grief because the strategic posture is always moving out in a way, getting busy, doing our life, doing our career. At some point, there's a pivot we have to make and turn and face all of the untened grief that's in our life. We live in what we could call a very heroic culture, and we're told to buck up, to get over it, to rise above it. Even in our spiritual traditions right now, how do you transcend this trouble? But we're never really taught how to be with it. When we're asked to carry it alone privately, we end up carrying it around in new hauls, dragging this weight behind us. We rarely feel like we're in the current of life. We're a relief, living more tethered to the past than we are in our current life. To really do grief work is actually to get present. It's to be in this time, in this place. But throughout our history as a species, grief has always been communal. It's never been private until now. In that privatization, in that sense of having to sequester my grief within my own being, I feel like I'm all alone in this, and that's one of the most intolerable places for the soul to be.


What is the next step? I feel like a well, an ocean of tears just below the surface. For the last two months, I've just felt it constantly there, and it bubbles up all the time now.


You have to make a slow titration into that territory. I don't think we dive head first into it. We have to build some faith that the grief itself won't swallow me. You can do little writing practices to begin to know that I can touch into that space and step back out. Touch into it, step back out. Begin to see that when you're there and when you return, I'm not going to drown. This grief belongs here. It'll actually help me to become more human.


I think I would do that over the decades by going to wars and going to places where people were suffering and touch it and then be able to step back and leave.




In answer to the question, How do you begin to feel again? You say slowly.


Slowly. There's three principles. One is to slow down the pace because the faster we go, it's like skiing, water skiing. Speed is great for water skiing, but it keeps you on the surface. To get into the depths, you have to slow down. Pace is the first thing. Second thing is warmth. Can I bring warmth to this place that sometimes for all of our lifetime, but also for generations, has been carried coldly? Can I bring warmth to it? Compassion, kindness, affection, curiosity.


Self-compassion you're.


Talking about. Self-compassion. The third movement is to bring it into some type of communal attunement where we can share what's there.


Talking to other people about it.


Talking to other people about it. Those three movements of slowing down, warming the place, and bringing it into communal regulation, those are the things that we needed as a child. Think about that, right? When we get hurt, when we are witnessing your father's death, to slow down and just make that the only thing that mattered. With someone sitting you down with you and just having their arms around you and just say, This is so sad. You must be so sad. Then to bring the affection and the warmth to that place so that someone sees you and someone gets that how much you are lost in this moment. That brings the communal element to it as well at the same time. Those are the things that we needed as a child. And when that doesn't manifest, what we're left with is, How do I cope? How do I survive? How do I endure this? Well, we endure it primarily by pushing it away.


I feel like I turned deeply inward as a little child, and I've always felt like a shell of the person I was meant to be or the person I was. I think that's the reason I felt that. Because I don't think I've ever emerged from that defensive crouch.


Even just saying that, Can you turn towards that boy who made that decision? Can you just be with that for a moment and just say, That was hard. I was alone. There was nobody there for me. Not to have pity for that boy, but to begin to give some element of what it is that he needed in that moment, in that time.


My mom would try to talk to me about my dad, tell stories about him, and I just found it... I just could not respond. I would say, Oh, yeah, I remember that, but I just wanted her to stop talking. It is interesting. I realized recently how angry I am over what happened when I was a kid.


Well, we think grief is only tears, but grief is also outrage. Grief is also a form of protest. That what happened to me was not all right, whether it's molestation or death by suicide of a brother. For you, those scars there, they need to be protested. They need to... That outrage is a very important part of our grieving. It's not just, like I said, it's not just our tears, but it's also our saying that what happened? It stays with me. Grief, when we're really in it, we are in the commons of the soul.


In the commons of the soul?


Yeah. What I mean by that is that any time you walk down the street, any pair of eyes you look into, they won't know loss. No one's been excluded from that club. It's probably one of the most, if not the most common human experience, is one of loss. But when you're in a grief-phobic culture, that language, those commons don't get to be visited. When it comes up, when it arrives at our door, we don't know how to be a good host to it. We don't know how to express it. We don't recognize it. I share this with you. I mean, your tears today are very.


Touching to me. I deny that I'm crying at all.


Well, try as you may. They're very familiar to me. I think that's the beauty of what you're doing right now, Anderson.


You write about revisioning grief. What do you mean by a revisioning of grief?


Well, our familiar story is that it's something to get over or fix or get through as fast as possible. But what if we could reimagine our relationship to sorrow not as something to just endure, but to change it into an ongoing companionship? I mean, tell me a day that you've been through in your life when there wasn't at least some element of grief in it.




Never. But still we have this estrangement to it. Let's not buddy up to this thing. To revision this as an ongoing process that I'm walking with grief every day, that keeps me in deep relationship to my soul. It keeps me in relationship to the world, and it keeps me capable of responding to what arises in my internal life or my relational lives with war. It's a matter of our love, with kindness, with kindness, with some measure of care and compassion. We do need to revision grief not as an unwelcomes guest, but a continuous presence that we can befriend. I'm not saying it's not a difficult guest at times. Absolutely.


Stephen Colbert talked about it as a tiger in the room with him.


I want to say something about living with grief.


It's like.


Living with a.


Beloved tiger.


There are times when it is... When I say grateful for it, I don't want to.


Say that it's no longer a tiger. It is. And it can really hurt you. It can pounce on you in moments.


That you.


Don't expect. But it's my tiger.








To get rid of the tiger. It's going to live as long as I do. It's painful.


But there's some.


Symbiotic relationship between me and this particular pain.


That I've made.


Peace with.


I don't regret the.


Existence of it. That, again, does not mean I wish it had ever become my tiger.


Yeah. I mean, grief is fierce. Grief is not depression. It is a wild energy. It's feral. It's difficult. But we can come into relationship with it. I think that's part of our aliveness. I think when you meet someone who has digested grief adequately, they're not numb, they're not flattened. They're actually quite alive. We can't just say, Well, we're going to shut down grief. Well, that has a cascading effect. It also shuts down joy, shuts down our aliveness. So to feel alive, I have to welcome this tiger. I have to welcome this difficult presence in my life. But I've known so much more joy since doing that than I ever did before that.


I want to ask you a little bit about your own experiences because you say in the book, It was through the dark waters of grief that I came to touch my unleaved life. I'd built a strategically controlled life in which I was appreciated and respected. But when I plunged into this place of emptiness, it was like a wall that had been blocking my view was shattered, and I could finally see how I was limiting my life in hopes of avoiding the emptiness. You said facing our emptiness is the key to our freedom. Until we do, we are driven by lifelong patterns of avoidance. When I read that, I was like, Wow!


Yeah, and that's it. At the heart of all of our sorrows is this profound experience of emptiness. I ended up feeling so emptied that I really performed my life for the first 40 years.


You performed your life for the first 40 years.


Yeah, I was performing the role of the good man, but I wasn't inside my life. That was so incredibly painful, and I began to see how much I had propped up a fiction. But that was the beginning of my return to coming back into this experience of being able to say, I'm here. I feel. I weep. I'm in pain. That's where I began to feel human again, was through those outcast parts of me. Strength doesn't get us down the road very far. It's these vulnerable parts of us that bring us back into the commons, back into relationship with others. These crises that happened in our life, the death of your brother. These rough initiations are invitational spaces to cross some threshold into some deeper sense of who we are meant to be. We're obsessed with happiness, but the real work isn't to be happy, it's to be alive. Live. When people come into my office, one of the first complaints is often I'm depressed. But when I listen to them for any length of time, it's not depression, it's oppression. It's the weight of untouched sorrow that has settled on them like sediment and become this immovable place in their heart.


We have to be able to loosen that territory up and bring them back into some closeness to that because there's so much vitality and grief.


I just re-read Joan Didion's book. She said, I know why we try to keep the dead alive. We try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to live ourselves, there comes a point. There comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead. Let's let them go, keep them dead. Let them become the photograph on the table. Let them become the name on the trust accounts. Let go of them in the water. Knowing this does not make it any easier to let go of him in the water. I mean, is that the goal?


I don't know. I don't know if there's a goal. I don't know what we need all the time. I think we are one of the few cultures that has almost no relationship to ancestors. Whereas many traditional cultures, that's a very primary way of... It's as if the dead are not gone. They're still in the currency of life, of imagination, of dream, of feeling. They're in the land.


I like that idea.


It's not something past. It's a very current and alive relationship. I have in some odd ways a better relationship on my mother now than I ever had when she was alive. I think the ancestors are very much a part of who we are and what we're carrying. We are suffering from a profound amnesia. We have forgotten how to be human. We've forgotten how to tend the commons of the soul. The oldest forms of human expression are basically grief rituals. The anthropologists, archeologists, think that we were probably doing ritual before we actually had language. We were burying people ceremonially, ritualically. Right after 9/11, our son had just moved to New York City and we went to visit him. Everywhere that we went, there were circles of people, some silent, some singing, some praying. There were shrines everywhere. It's deep in our psychic structure to take what is unbearable into ritual. You can't think your way through grief. You can't try to understand it or figure it out. It's too emotional and too embodies. Ritual is the language of emotion and body. It gives the psyche a way of expressing what the mind cannot totally comprehend. I spent some time in West Africa in a village in Burkino Faso, and there was a grief ritual happening someplace in the village almost every day.


I remember walking up to one woman and said, You have so much joy. And her response was, That's because I cry a lot. She made that immediate connection between this deep register of sorrow and the upper register of joy. When we deny that deeper register, the upper register collapses and we have this very narrow band of what we're allowed to feel, what I call the flatline culture. We rely upon excitement and stimulation and achievement rather than genuine joy because we can't open to that deep place of sorrow together. Multiple times a year, three, four times a year, we hold grief rituals across the country. It's a gathering usually for three days, usually 25-40 people. We do writing practices together. We share in small groups, trying to loosen the ground. By the time we got to the ritual itself, you were ready to move the grief-out. The grief is never meant to be permanently stored in the body. It's supposed to be consistently moved out of the body. That's the old idea, traditional idea. I would love to have you come to a.


Grief ritual. Maybe if I become a little more fully evolved.


It takes a lot to do this. I mean, it takes a lot of courage. We are so self-conscious. What will people think of me? I went to many grief rituals as a participant in the 1990s. It took me three grief rituals before I shed my first tear. But I knew I carried this boatload of grief.


Not everybody listening to this will be able to attend one of your rituals. So what can they do?


Anything. It doesn't have to be complicated like a three-day grief ritual. It could be just getting together with your friends and saying on Friday night, the topic is loss. But let's just agree not to fix each other. Let's just agree not to give advice. Let's just light a candle, say a poem, say a prayer, whatever you want to do. But let's begin to tell the stories. I think people are just longing for permission. I think that's partly what you're giving them with this podcast. I understand you're giving them permission to begin to speak about the griefs that they have been carrying sometimes for decades. That's what we need.


Because just doing this by yourself is not enough.


To express it to really... I mean, a lot of people come back and they say, Well, I had a very emotional week and there was a lot of grief. I said, Did you happen to share that with anybody? They'll often say, No, I don't want to burden anybody. But that's like recycling grief.


You said, We cannot figure our way out of grief. We must turn toward our experience and touch it with the softest hands possible. Only then, in the inner terrain of silence and solitude, will our grief yield to us and offer up its most tender shoots. This move is another form of sacred ritual crafted in the moment and consecrated by the grace of compassion.




It's beautiful.


Thank you. Yeah, I told a story in that chapter about this woman I was working with. She said, I hate going home at night. She was going through a pretty ugly divorce at the time and said, Well, when I get home, it's dark in there. It's cold and there's nobody there. I'm lonely. I said, Well, can you imagine this as the holiest time of day? That when you open the door, you're greeting your most vulnerable self. Can you imagine greeting her and saying, I'm home. Let's put the fire on. Let's start some soup. I'll start the tea. Tell me about your day. Then I remembered this line from the poet, Reiner Maria Rilke, where he said, I am too alone in the world, but not alone enough to make every moment holy. Now, that's when you create a consecrated space. That's when you turn loneliness into solitude. That's when it becomes this sacred ground. When you can meet these tearful, sorrowful brothers, sisters, others that are there, and you can grant them the audience that they are craving some sense of, I'm with you, rather than, What's on TV tonight? We keep finding ways to avoid.


It's as if we try to mask over to anesthetize the absence of what it is we really want. It's some place to come home to, some place of belonging. We rarely have that. That is really at the heart of our grief. That's what we're talking about, is how alone we are, too alone.


To someone who's listening to this and they do feel alone, what do you recommend?


Well, my hope is that every one of us has at least one person that we could speak to, one little place of shelter. If not, there are places where you can go to speak and share what's going on. We read our wounds as if they're indictments against our character, rather than symptoms of a larger loss. This loneliness, this depression, the anxiety, whatever it is that we're feeling is really not some commentary of my character, but really the soul's trying to call our attention back to what is missing. What do we need to feel? Even some remote sense of contentment in this life. But we need to know that we belong, that we have some places to bring what has been touched by pain or loss or grief. We need these places. And so finding one or two people that can welcome us into that shelter is necessary. Grief work opens the heart to compassion for others, but we need to practice the capacity to turn towards our own suffering with kindness, with warmth, with affection. There is no suffering, no challenge, no loss that doesn't require some degree of self-compassion. Thank you.


So much for.


Talking to us. It's been a pleasure, Anderson.


Francis Weller's book, which I really recommend, is called The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the sacred work of grief. You can find out more information about him on his website, francisweller. Net. Next week on All There Is, I sit down with President Biden in the White House. This isn't an interview about current events or politics. It's a conversation that I'm not sure any other modern American President has ever had before. It's about the losses in his life, how they've shaped him, and how he lives with grief today.


You got to confront it. You got to deal with it, look at it, understand it, and decide I'm moving on because I have another purpose in life. My two children are alive, my grandchildren, my wife, whatever it is. But it's hard as hell. I mean this from the bottom of my heart, my word of the Biden. I think it's critical that people understand that they're always going to be with you. Your mother is in your heart every single day, your brother, but in your heart, you're there every single day, and there'll come a time that you can welcome that, that you had that, that it was there.


President Biden, next week on All There Is. All There Is is a production of CNN Audio. The show is produced by Grace Walker and Dan Bloom. Our senior producers are Haley Thomas and Felicia Patinkin. Dan de Zula is our technical director, and Steve Licktye is the executive producer of CNN Audio. Support from Charlie Moore, Carrie Rubin, Simrit, Cheatret, Ronnie Betis, Alex Manassari, Robert Mathers, John Dianora, Laney Steinhardt, J. M. Andres, Nicole Pessarou, and Lisa Namrow. Special thanks to Katie Hinnman. Thanks for listening.


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