It certainly wasn’t my intention to write two posts about Grief back to back, but I am left reeling after hearing about the sudden death of a young girl in my church community.This news has me reflecting on the times I’ve been faced with the death of a friend or loved one, and it’s a hard truth.
We know that not one of us will get out of life alive, but we always assume we have more time with the people we love.
When we suddenly lose somebody important to us, we’re often left with the dangling ends of words unspoken, situations unresolved, actions undone. That means that on top of being ensconced in crippling grief, we must forgive ourselves for these very human omissions.
At difficult and trying times like these, it’s helpful to fall back on the knowledge that we are not alone.
Across time and culture, feelings of loss and grief are something that each of us living in community experiences. It might be helpful to consider that millions of people are struggling with the same sadness that you feel right now.
A Tonglen Meditation might be helpful to practice right now. This is a Buddhist meditation technique of giving and receiving. In this practice, you sit quietly and breathe in the total of your loss, sadness, and devastation.
Pause for a moment at the top of your inhale and consider all the other living beings who also grieve right now.
As you exhale, send relief to all others grieving their loved ones. Imagine that with each exhale, everyone who suffers as you do feels just a tiny pat of solace.
This is a challenging practice! You might only be able to sit with a Tonglen meditation for a few minutes at a time, and that is okay.
Each minute that you sit for others who are also bearing the heavy burden of grief is weaving an energetic system of support for all beings suffering on the planet.
Find a moving practice. Your new routine might be taking a walk in the early morning light. Perhaps it’s simply moving through a sun salutation or three, or maybe it’s swimming.
Creating a routine like this is a form of moving meditation. The movement you introduce will keep your body from getting stagnant and storing your grief. By linking your breath with your movement, you are using your mind-body connection to soothe your frayed emotions.
A Roadmap Through
Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote about the 5 Stages of Grief that are part of the human experience. Knowing these stages doesn’t make your sadness any less profound, but it is helpful to know the gloomy landscape you are walking.
It’s important to note that these stages of grief have no special order. In fact, you might experience more than one at a time. What is helpful is feeling the connection to the human experience and understanding that what you are feeling is completely normal.
Denial – Most everyone starts here. You hear the news of death and want to think that it is not true. Your mind is attempting to protect you here and, by denying the fact, helps ease you into the sad reality.
Anger – If you are raging at life and the universe for dealing you this awful hand, it might be a small solace to know that is a completely normal feeling. You might feel anger at God for taking away a person that you love, or anger at that person for leaving you, or anger at others for minimizing or trying to relate to your grief. You might even feel anger at yourself.
Anger is a hot emotion that holds a lot of power. Allow yourself to feel this anger, but find healthy outlet like an intense workout or a place to go alone where you can rage without harming yourself or others.
Bargaining – Similar to denial, Bargaining occurs when you try to make deals with Spirit to undo the fact of death.
Depression – This one is sticky. It’s important to allow yourself the space to feel the deep sadness that precedes accepting your loss, but you don’t want to get mired in the depression – especially if you have a past history of getting stuck in this stage.
Helpful tips include:
- Give yourself a set amount of time each day to sit with your depression. Use a prayer or a mantra to recite to yourself when depressing thoughts come to you outside of your set time.
- Write – poetry, music, letters.
- Find a support group – helping others move through their grief helps you as well.
- Connect with a grief counselor. Sometimes, we need to walk each other home. Be strong enough to take somebody’s hand to help you through this very challenging time.
Acceptance – Here you have the freedom to move forward. You will not lose sadness nor the love you felt for this person, but you have worked through the blackest part of grief and are now on the other side of the forest.
What’s important is to allow yourself the space to feel exactly what you’re feeling. You won’t get anywhere by pretending that everything is alright, because clearly, something huge has shifted. Reach out to the resources that will support you during this time – part of living in community is lifting each other up. Give yourself the gift of leaning on others right now.