Clean Grief

Photo of woman in a yoga tree pose, on top of a rocky ledge, surrounded by mountainous scenery, with a lake or river far below her.

Today’s article was written by Change Coach Missy Maiorano


Many years ago, our family had to say good-bye to our sweet German shepherd, Bailey. She was the kindest, most loving dog we could have asked for. We only had her for 8 short years, but in that time, she became a true Maiorano—”one of the girls”—along with our three daughters, Megan, Taylor, and Parker.


The day before we knew Bailey was going to transition from her Earthbound body to return to the infinite light and love of her true essence, we all held her and took turns saying goodbye. My three young daughters wept without restraint as they told her how much they loved her. My middle daughter, Taylor, held Bailey’s face up to her own, soaking our sweet pup’s black nose in tears. My husband Pete, not one for open displays of emotion, allowed his unspoken grief to pour out freely.


After we said our final good-byes, it was only a matter of days before our daughters were pleading for a new German shepherd puppy. But the idea of going through that experience of grief again felt like too much for me. So, for nearly a year, I said an emphatic “no” to the girls’ non-stop requests.


The story in my head went something like this:

If we get another dog, I will never relax and enjoy it because I will be waiting for something terrible to happen. What if the next dog has the same medical issues that Bailey had, as well as the same astronomical vet bills? How will we manage another sick dog and more bills? What if I can’t love another dog as much as I loved Bailey and the new dog senses my lack of affection? What if…


The narratives that played in my mind were endless and unkind. And they were so incredibly normal and predictable given the fact that I have a human brain! After all, we have been conditioned from birth to believe that certain emotions and experiences should be avoided if at all possible. Strive for the good emotions, we’re told. Even in the world of spirituality, we’re often instructed to look for the good feeling or find the silver lining in every dark cloud.


But, what if all that old, conditioned, programmed thinking is upside-down? What if it is simply not true or helpful?


All those stories my mind told after we said good-bye to Bailey were convincingly masking a much deeper, not-so-conscious belief.


Like many people, I believed that I needed to manage and control my experience so that I wouldn’t have certain emotions or physiological reactions. I believed that my job was to be vigilant; to maintain impenetrable fortresses to keep out all “the bad stuff.” That whole year of thinking that I couldn’t bear to have another dog simply because I couldn’t bear to lose another dog came down to one simple belief: I can’t handle the experience of grief.


But, the truth is, I am perfectly designed and equipped to experience grief, cleanly.


Grief on its own—”Clean Grief”—is beautiful, alive, healing, and made of the energy of Love.


Grief—without all the conditioned stories of what it means, what caused it, what might happen, and how awful it is—is energy. It is aliveness, intelligence, and love—arising in the temporary costume of something we humans have innocently labeled “grief.”


This thing we call grief is, at its essence, a swirling concoction of bodily sensations, biochemical transactions, hormonal fluctuations, along with the release of tears, and the fluctuation of raw energy through the mind-body-heart system. Without identification with all the conditioned stories, there is nothing inherently bad, wrong, or even unbearable, about the raw experience of grief.


Grief—clean grief—is not a form of suffering. It is a vehicle for healing. It is the most natural, loving way for the energy of emotions to be fully processed and released.


It is meant to be leaned-into and felt to its completion. It is not designed to be avoided, pushed away for a better time, or feared. In the very center of the experience we call grief, there is Love—and an exquisite sense of lightness that cannot be comprehended by my adorable, limited human mind.


When I innocently identify with the endless narratives that my clever little mind weaves, I suffer.


That’s the kindness of the design. The suffering is not telling me to go fix, manage, or control something; it is waking me up to the fact that I am lost in confusion. I am attaching my innate wellbeing, peace, and joy to something as transient and fleeting as world-of-form experience. I am lost in the illusion that my attempts to strong-arm Life into going a certain way is the thing keeping me safe and secure.


These days, when I notice that I am contracted and tense, it doesn’t take long to realize that I am simply trying to manage and control my human experience. I am buying into a lifetime of conditioned beliefs that I “shouldn’t have” or “couldn’t handle” experiences like grief, fear, anger, or insecurity. I am forgetting that I am never at the mercy of experience; I am in the loving flow of Life itself, being carried, guided, and lived.


I am reminded, again and again, that Life is trustworthy, even if it doesn’t always look like it to my naked human eyes.


Now, when I am lost in confusion—believing that it is on me to get it all right, to hold it all together, and to make things happen—I instinctively take my hands off the wheel. I remember that, just because my mind insists something is uncomfortable or “awful” that doesn’t mean it’s the truth. Human minds love telling old, repetitive, well-worn stories. Just because my mind tells the same story again and again doesn’t add one ounce of truth to it.


Thankfully, I am no longer a slave to inaccurate, unhelpful stories that veil the love and freedom inherent in clean, raw experience.


As a result, emotional discomfort is no longer the signal to escape. I find that I naturally don’t look for the escape hatch quite as often.


Instead, I accept the invitation to draw ever-closer to what I have spent a lifetime believing was uncomfortable, and I look for the truth in the middle of the experience. I trust that, in my openness to what is there to be seen, I will organically and instinctively be led to the next right decision. No more buying-into the urgency of my mind’s stories as the guidance for how to navigate life.


Tears tend to flow more freely now. Shouting into pillows and singing at the top of my lungs in the car help release the energy of anger or frustration. Raw experience is met with open arms. Energy is allowed to flow freely in real time without my stories mucking-up the gears. Life is lighter. Emotions are cleaner.


Does this mean I run toward everything my mind fears? Nope! I definitely do not. After all, I am human. I still have phobias and fears and things that seem scary. But, even in those, I find that I more readily offer myself kindness and grace. And that seems to make all the difference.


And, in case you’re wondering—yes, we did adopt another German shepherd puppy. Her name is Lacey and she is the love of our lives.







Learn more about Missy here:



Become Your Own Habit-Free Success Story!

The Little School of Big Change Self-Study Course!

The Little School of Big Change is a program designed to help you overcome anxiety and unwanted habits without needing to rely on willpower or self-discipline.

Learn More

Get The Just A Thought Introduction and First Chapter for Free

Just a Thought: A No-Willpower Approach to End Self-Doubt and Make Peace with your Mind is available in all formats. Download the Introduction and Chapter 1 now!

Get your chapter

Get a Free Student Access Account

Dr. Amy Johnson’s work has helped thousands of people find lasting freedom from unwanted habits and anxiety, and realize deeper meaning and peace of mind. Get access to free resources to help you on your journey by creating a free Student Access account today!