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  • Writer's pictureAnnelisa MacBean


I sometimes think perhaps all therapy is grief therapy, really. The etymology of ”therapy” goes back to the Greek therapeia which referred to “attending, caring for, and sending breath into.” There was no “curing,” “fixing” or even “healing,” associated with therapy back in the day! No heavy clinical medical orientation. Rather, it appears that the ancients understood our own tenderness toward others to be a means of infusing life; surrounding with warmth, holding with patience and presence and an ability to respond care-fully.

Before therapists were mental health providers, they were midwives for spiritual, psychic and somatic reorganization. Therapy was the act or process of bearing witness to the birth of a new heart, to the transmutation of toxic, distorted conditioned frequencies and energy into the generation, manifestation and full-bodied expression of each soul’s uniqueness. Being human, perhaps the aching and longing and breaking and shattering and opening and crumbling of a heart is the inevitable evidence of the therapeutic process. Perhaps being a therapist is the act, and the art, of channeling for others some faith, or even energetic certainty of mercy and grace as the grieving process unfolds. For myself and my clients, so much of life tends not to turn out the way we thought it would. But this isn’t because any of us are lacking. It is because our minds and our imaginations are limited by an orientation to time, especially to the past. We generally expect the future to be like the past, only better. The truth is we are more alive, more magnificent, more infinitely possible than the limits of our minds can conceive. This “not turning out the way we thought” is not evidence of mistake or that we’ve failed or done life wrong. Rather, it is evidence of the incredible, inconceivable potential our existence represents.

"Therapy" may then be the relational container in which we grieve the crumbling and ending of one world, the death of a dream that has completed expression through our systems, through form. Perhaps the therapeutic process is the allowing of utter dissolution and the offering of sanctuary and safe passage for the energies and ideas of who we were, to continue their journey of transmutation, transformation, death and rebirth. I sense we share an innate, instinctual knowing on some deep level that all form must reorganize, for it is its nature to do so: thus, grief is inherent in the progress of a life. The people in our lives, what we have come to think we are, what has previously provided meaning, our bodies, our own worlds of experience, even our greatest revelations, are ultimately ground into dust and sent back into the galaxies from which they came. Therapy is perhaps the turning toward the end, toward the loss and grieving, consciously collecting the shards and the ashes and shepherding them to completion. Honoring the uncertainty of what will replace what has died, what has been lost. Daring to see the dissolution not as error but as a holy, painful and precious whole; standing with one another, in awe, as the pieces reassemble.

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