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Just wait.

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Several years ago, I sat with my partner, Ruth, as she recovered from her second round of aggressive chemo treatment. She had metastatic breast cancer and this was the last of several different kinds of treatment she had received over her four-year journey with the disease. This particular concoction made her very weak and ill.

I was reading Science of Mind Magazine and a passage jumped out at me. “Listen to this,” I said to Ruth as she lay in bed:

When we are ill, we may feel lost as to what to do or where to go. Waiting may have the feel of being passive, but think of the caterpillar in the cocoon, the seed in the ground, or a mother bird sitting on her egg. Waiting in our lostness is sometimes vital for the journey into wholeness.

“Does that mean I’m going to become a butterfly?” Ruth asked excitedly.

“I think it does,” I replied, squeezing her hand.

I knew what she meant. We had often talked about the reality that this cancer would eventually kill her. She was talking about being set as free as a butterfly when she died.

Which she did, two months later.

Suddenly, I was the one in the cocoon. I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of my grief and I felt utterly lost and unsure of everything, including life itself. It took almost three years before I crawled out of the cocoon, my fragile, weak wings dewy with both tears and anticipation. And, finally, I started to fly.

I wasn’t the same as I was before; I was very different and there were times I longed to crawl back into the cocoon. But my new life was beautiful in a way that would not have occurred had I not allowed myself to cocoon and “wait in lostness”. The experience of grief filled me out and made me more of a whole person, able now to be with others in a healing way on their paths of grief.

Sometimes it’s easy to misinterpret your need for cocooning as being passive, the feeling of lostness as being undesirable. And yet, maybe those times are the very thing you need to be whole.

Be gentle with yourself when you find yourself lost and waiting. Perhaps you need that time to become the beautiful butterfly you were always meant to be.

Takeaway points: Although our culture promotes being action- and goal-oriented, there are times when lostness and cocooning are necessary for much-needed but unexpected growth.

Have you had times of cocooning in your life?

If you are feeling lost and unsure, I am happy to walk that path with you or have gentle, healing conversations within your cocoon. Call me at 650-529-9059 or email me for a counseling appointment.


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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.