Posted by: Donna Cunningham | November 16, 2009

More Insights into Healing Grief and Loss

©11-16-09 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

So many people have recently lost jobs, homes, their life savings, a son or daughter in war, or something else of great significance—or someone very close to them has done so. There is so much sorrow and loss around us just now that if this were a humane society, today would be declared a national day of mourning.

I said yesterday that I wasn’t going to write about grief myself, I’d just send you to some sites that had information on some of the newer grief therapies. I almost got away with it, too, but then Pluto had a thing or two to say about that.

I woke up at 2:00 this morning with a rant going on in my head about the way we’re expected to deal with grief in the modern world, which is basically to ignore and suppress it. If we don’t—if we dare to feel—we’re subjected to tremendous pressure from our families, bosses, coworkers, and friends to GET OVER IT and stop inconveniencing them with our emotions and needs.

The Natural–and Healthy–Process of Grieving

 Let’s take a look at the process of bereavement and recovery from it that is natural, instinctive, and pretty much hard wired into the species homo sapiens.  We can see it in mourning customs around the world throughout history. We can know it on a deeper level if we’ve ever been through the loss of a loved one. I’ve found that people can’t fathom what another person’s sorrow really is until the time they lose someone who’s an important part of their heart.

Acute bereavement comes from deep within our being and not from the mind making a “rational” decision on how to handle it. For a major loss, the natural process of grieving lasts around a year—in earlier days, the bereaved went through an official year of mourning before they were expected to take on their accustomed responsibilities. They were given privacy and support to do so. They even wore special clothes or went through a series of rituals culminating in a one-year memorial. The Jewish practice of Yahrzeit at the death of a parent, sibling, child, or spouse was such a custom.

And how long is this Pluto-Saturn square within a 5° range? Just about a year. Therefore, if the square is activating an important placement in your chart, and if you’ve suffered a major loss, ALLOW YOURSELF TO GRIEVE, and don’t let anyone pressure you to hurry through it.

If it makes them uncomfortable, that’s just too doggone bad for them. If supporting you through the process is more than they are capable of, find support elsewhere, with people who DO understand that you need this time.

There are distinct stages to mourning, and we cannot rush those stages without suppressing the healing force that impels us through the stages by immersing ourselves in each one as it comes along.  It’s physical, emotional–even spiritual because it can make us pretty angry at a God who’d allow the loss to happen.

Yes, there’s a LOT of rage in grief if you look closer at the bereaved’s behavior, but we’re expected to stifle that emotion too because it’s just not politically or socially correct. Rage that isn’t processed can turn into bitterness.

As I mentioned yesterday, another thing that can happen with this transit is that a current situation can bring up a feelings about a series of  major past losses, one after another, as the transit goes on.  It’s said that every new bereavement carries all the old ones with it.

What Can Happen if Grief is Suppressed

Short-cutting acute grief is like going right back to work on a broken leg without having a cast put on it and crutches to walk with for a while. If you ignore a broken limb like that, it won’t heal properly, may not ever be strong again, and can be a source of lifelong pain. In many ways, healing from a devastating loss is like that—taking care of yourself is crucial to recovery.

Unresolved grief about a devastating loss can lead to a chronic sadness–a kind of low level depression that can last for years. When well-meaning people urge that a major loss be numbed with pills or alcohol, it can lead to a sorrowful outlook on life, a sense of resignation and hopelessness, even to apathy. (If you’re a follower of Eckhart Tolle’s writings, unresolved grief is a major contributor to what he calls “the pain body.”)

Having the courage to feel the sorrow and other emotions like abandonment or feeling gypped about a loss and to work them through can lead to new growth and freedom…even, at some point, to renewed joy and zest. That’s not to say you’ll ever completely stop missing the person or thing that was so dear to your heart, but you’ll be ready to start living again.

Related articles on this blog:

More Posts for your Pluto-Saturn Preparedness Kit:

Related Posts for Using the Transit to Change Unwanted Patterns:

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  1. This series has been amazing, Donna. Thank you VERY much for it.

    Transiting Saturn is sextile my Venus (ruler of my Libra Sun) and I’m recalling traumatic events from my early twenties – emotionally abusive relationship, miscarriage, suicide attempt. So much anger and feelings of betrayal – it took years to process. No counseling, of course. That was not done then. But I’m a Plutonian survivor type and essentially sane, so worked it out over time.

    Pluto was sextile my Mars, Mercury & ASC with Neptune conjoining my ASC during that period. Explains a lot, now that I think of it. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing that, Neith. I’m surprised that a sextile to Venus would bring it to the surface, but at least the Saturn gives you the wisdom on how to work it through, and the perspective.

    I’ve often noted that Saturn transits to relationship planets or houses will bring people from the past back into our lives–we hear from them or they for some reason are on our mind. Donna

  3. Thank you for this, Donna. What you are saying is so important, it cannot be said too often! While the current Pluto-Saturn square is not directly impacting my own chart, I’ve had some intense Pluto transits at other times in my life, so I know the importance of not short-circuiting the grieving process. Our culture needs to re-learn this and develop some new rituals to remind us how to care for people who are in grief.

    • Our culture is less and less attentive to the very human need for rituals, but I agree about their importance. Donna

  4. I’ve got a lot of rage coming up. Currently being bullied/verbally assaulted by a fellow worker and I’ve had enough (I have Mars in early Aries/6th opp Jupiter in Libra/11th/12th). This time I’m getting good support and not running away. Going thru each process methodically. Looking after myself by changing some other unhealthy eating patterns – professional nutritionist helping. Pluto transits often feel like my internal teeth are being constantly drilled and filled. I know this isn’t for ever but jings it’s a bit exhausting.

    • I salute you, Angi! You’re using this transit to grow rather than being a victim. People have often said that Pluto transits can be as grueling as a bone marrow transit, even though they often produce deep and much needed changes….but I guess your dental metaphor is something we can get our teeth into! Donna

  5. Thank you Donna for another helpful blog. I have noticed that the sexual abuse seems to be related to the challenges (how I cope) I have experienced in the last six or so months. I’ve had lots of therapy in my life yet there seems to be another layer yet I can’t quite put my finger on what the connection is. I am Scorpio Asc so I don’t know if that magnifies the grief/emotions I am experiencing.


    • Tracey, it sounds like you’re about to uncover some deep connections between the abuse and a variety of blockages. Keep looking, because this deep violation of your capacity to trust others–and to trust your own worthiness and strength–can underlie difficulties with authority, with money, with relationships and a whole host of other things we are asked to master as adults. Some time spent working with a therapist who specializes in this sort of history–and/or a group for sex abuse survivors–might provide a boost to the process. Donna

      • Hi Donna. Thank you for your response. I was thinking about it last night as I fell asleep and had another dream that keeps repeating itself where present challenges take place in my childhood/adolescent environment. However, last night’s dream gave me great insight, it seems, as to what my subconscious is telling me having to do with a lack of self love as result of the abuse. I do agree that I have difficulty trusting others, myself and am not all together comfortable with authority figures. Ironically, I have a non-profit that helps individuals who are recovering from sexual abuse. I suspect it will not expand until I deal with these present healing issues. Thank you again.

      • The very highest use of outer planet transits is to use the personal wounds to move from personal to transpersonal–to see the hurt chld in all of us. I have a feeling that your work in healing yourself now is going to help you take that non-profit to another level. You’re very courageous. Donna

  6. Pluto-Saturn and a whole lot more that I don’t understand. My son was killed in afganastan 10-27-09….

    • Oh, Victoria, how sad and life changing. I’m so very sorry to hear it. You mustn’t let people talk you out of grieving over a deep loss like that. Donna

  7. I am so grateful you were urged, pushed and pulled to write about this particular subject (grief) in these NOW moments in humanity’s time and space. We seem not to honor that process consciously as we really should. We seem to be an “instantaneous” society and concurrently want either to fix and/or be fixed. Deep greiving takes time ………..whatever time is really NEEDED to heal.

    • Thank you, Wanda. This is a subject that I care about passionately. It angers me that people are pushed to stop their grieving process short because other people are inconvenienced or unsettled by it. And that doctors rush to sedate people out of the natural and normal process of healing from loss that grief represents. Grief is NOT “cool,” in fact it’s doggone HOT at times. Donna

  8. Please write an article to help us prepare for the Saturn conjunct natal Pluto (in Libra) that many of us are going to go thro’ soon.

    • Your group would already have experienced some preparation for the aspect during the time recently that Pluto in Capricorn was squaring natal Pluto–and transiting Pluto and transiting Saturn were squaring one another in the sky. I wrote a long series of articles on dealing with the Pluto-Saturn square that many of you will find helpful, including the one about the houses involved and one about the major players. In the right hand column, below the list of new article, click on the category called “A Pluto-Saturn Preparedness Kit,” and you’ll find links to about 20 articles. Donna

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