Focusing Tip #558
My beloved mentor, Eugene Gendlin, has died. He died peacefully a few days ago, on May 1, at his home in Spring Valley, NY, with dear friends at his side. He was 90 years old.
I am just sitting here today with the whole feeling of my forty-five years of knowing this remarkable person. My biggest feeling is not grief, but gratitude. For the gift of Focusing… for his friendship and our working partnership that stretched over many years… for his unconditional encouragement of me to bring forth my own gifts… for all that I learned from him about acceptance and inclusion.
I remember hearing Gene listen to a person in one of our phone seminars, someone who was talking about a painful feeling. I’ll never forget the deep compassion in his voice as he said, “Ah… let’s be gentle with that.” Whatever it was – shame, fear, anxiety, whatever – “Let’s be gentle with that.”
Many of you were touched by Gene’s life and work. Many of you were able to have contact with him through the seminars that he and I did together, or through the great work of the International Focusing Institute, or in other ways. My heart goes to you today in our mutual loss and celebration of his life.
The Art of Focusing with Grief
Even if you are new to Focusing and Gene’s work, I am sure you have lost someone at some time who means a lot to you.
So I want to say a bit about the art of Focusing with grief.
I am well known for recommending those three little words, “something in me,” to help us disidentify and be with our emotional states. So you might think that I would say “Something in me is grieving for Gene.” Or: “Something in me misses him a lot.” No.
All of me grieves for him. All of me misses him. Just as all of me is grateful to him, and holds him in my heart.
Even without “something in me,” we can still have and be with the felt sense of missing the person. That felt sense can unfold and deepen in all its complexity. That’s a big part of the grieving process, in fact.
Sometimes we sit in community and remember the person we have lost, so that our own felt sense can be enriched by the experiences of us all. Sometimes it feels right to be alone and be with it all in solitude.
Grieving can include suffering and pain as well as celebration and gratitude. Sometimes there is regret, or even anger. I don’t think there is a formula for grieving. It comes as it comes, for each of us differently.
One thing I learned from Gene: to trust the inner sense of the way it comes… no matter if it is like another person’s grief, or if it’s what we expected. Myself, I’m going to just be open, sensing anew from moment to moment.
No matter what comes, as Gene would say, let’s be gentle with that.