Getting Out of the Grave

buriedaliveby Shelly O’Connell

A handful of dirt tossed on the coffin, that’s the image that has prompted this reflection. It started me thinking. For some time in the not too distant past, I was living in the grave. I didn’t quite know it, of course, but looking back, I see that is where I was: buried under mounds of dirt, barely breathing and constricted in my ability to move. That is, until I started digging my way out.

That involved looking at the lies I told myself, as one of my friends puts it. I had to get radically honest about my life and the fact that I was in the grave. Not only that, but I had to be clear that people I thought had my back were in fact doing their best to toss a handful of dirt on my coffin. In some cases, they were using shovels. In one instance, that person actually had a backhoe! It’s a wonder I made it out alive! Just so you know, I’m laughing as I write this now.

The coffin was of my own making. It consisted of the walls I put up to keep myself safe, or so I thought. If I act in this way, then these folks will love me, not hurt me, and I’ll be all right. It will keep the pain away. If I stay small and constricted to this tiny space and way of being, then no one will have any reason to throw dirt in my face. These were thoughts in my mind, but they existed well below my conscious mind. They impacted all of my actions and lack of actions.

Guess what? It didn’t work! I was in terrible pain, and then it started showing up in my body. That’s actually what woke me up. I injured my back and had two months of being laid up in bed to contemplate the truths of my life. That was when I started digging. I uncovered some interesting things, most of them painful.

Then I had some decisions to make. Was I going to continue to suffer? Would I have people in my life who were essentially adding to me being in the grave? Or was I willing to change? Could I embrace life? Was I able to be truthful to myself about everything and everyone in my life? Did I have the courage to stand in my truth? What would it require to flow with the beauty of life, with all of its changes?

Before those answers came, I had to grieve. I faced and let go of the lies and the ways I wanted it to be even if it wasn’t so. Tears are very healing; they wash us clean, in a way. So I was completely vulnerable, raw. I learned that’s what it takes to start uncovering the real you.

I let go of people and unhealthy ways of being, then started to follow what I felt was right and true for me. I found a therapeutic yoga teacher who helped me to completely heal my back. Deep listening to the prompting of my essence found me doing things that made me happy. I made the commitment to be fully alive.

Each day I see beauty, and at the end of the day, I offer gratitude. Life has become richer because most days I am able to see things with honesty and move with them. I am still learning and growing, but I’m finally out of the grave. After all, it’s pretty hard to bury someone who is standing up.

Shelly O’Connell is an author, artist and speaker engaging people in the discovery of their own wisdom. She holds a Master of Divinity with a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science. Shelly has an extensive background in women’s advocacy, Native American Spirituality, and has prepared for Unitarian Universalist ministry. Combining the spiritual realm with the sphere of the psyche, Ms. O’Connell offers workshops, teachings and books that uplift and celebrate each individual and the gifts they have to offer. To connect with Shelly for additional information, visit

This article by Shelly O’Connell, M.Div., is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is printed here with the author’s permission.