After experiencing grief or loss there can be a tendancy to submit to urges to become “unconscious;” to sleep, eat or drink alcohol more than usual. Of course we know that’s not the way to go and in the long term, there is no comfort to be sought in any of these over indulgences.
Firstly, it is important to really acknowledge the emotions you are experiencing. To allow, just for a short time the grief to engulf you and to simply surrender to it. Allow yourself to weep, to scream to curl into a ball and let your body work with your mind to acknowledge the pain.
By not acknowledging or allowing ourself to experience our emotions, they can become locked inside us, causing blockages over time which may well manifest as physical illness in our bodies.
But obviously, in time there will begin within us that desire to feel better; to pick ourselves up to that healthier state of mind once again.
It’s a very clichéd statement; but there is great truth in thestatement that time is the greatest healer… and in order to deal with the grief, we must first acknowledge it and then we are truly ready, and only then, can we begin to move on.
Cultivating gratitude is the first step to feeling better about a loss.
Rather than focusing on the void the loss has left within our lives, we shift our focus to the wonderful memories we have, the lessons we have learned, the laughter we have shared and so on with the person or situation of which we are grieving for. Writing these points of gratitude down in a journal or on your computer will give you even more focus to this exercise and also give you something to refer to and perhaps add to as you continue to work towards lifting your vibration and feeling better.
Take as much time to yourself as you can – when possible take yourself into nature and the outdoors and practice mindfulness exercises such as becoming aware of your steps, feeling a connection to the ground and to the earth beneath you. Focus on your breath; imagine breathing in healing and renewal as you take each breath.
The Zen master Ezra Bayda gives helpful instructions for using mindfulness meditation practices to work with the overwhelming feelings of grief and distress. He calls the steps of this practice: (1) awakening aspiration; (2) awakening curiosity; (3) awakening humour; and (4) awakening loving-kindness.
Finding a positive in the grief (NOT in the loss) using myself as an example:
Awakening aspiration: I allow myself to accept that grief and loss is a part of everyone’s path…my personal grief is an opportunity to deepen my own spiritual and therapy practices. I know that when I allow myself to wallow in my grief and see it as the enemy, it is because my view has narrowed, focusing only on myself. I aspire to befriend my grief as a step in developing compassion for others who are suffering and grieving. To be able to empathise more deeply with my clients.
Awakening curiosity: I ask “what is this?” and feel my grief in my body. My heart feels like it will break. I am in my direct experience, with nothing added. Feeling my pain rather than running away from it is my path to healing and wholeness.
Awakening humour: Humour allows us to gain a broader perspective and not take our loss personally. It is easy to wallow in self-pity, asking “why me?” However, that narrow ego perspective solidifies our feelings, making them claustrophobic and unworkable. Instead of asking “why me?”, try to broaden perspective with a new spontaneously created mantra: “Yes, everyone.” Everyone experiences the pain of grief, loss and life’s changes.
Awakening loving-kindness: With my awakened humour and broader perspective, I can find myself much more able to breathe in pain and heartbreak, and breathe out spaciousness and compassion for myself and all who are suffering. Loving-kindness starts with ourselves.. Treating myself with the loving-kindness I deserve, I am able to authentically feel what I am feeling. I was able to use my breath as a gift of aliveness and loving-kindness, and allow myself to feel the deep pain of my loss is a gift to myself and what Bayda calls “an opening to the universal pain of being human.”
This Buddhist story of grief helps to put it into perspective for me:
2500 years ago the Buddha used a performance-based technique to help a bereaved woman accept the reality of her child’s death. The woman’s child died not long after it could walk, and in a distressed state the woman wandered the streets for days with the child in her arms asking everyone for a medicine to save her child. The Buddha seeing her behaviour told her that he knew of a medicine to help her but first she had to collect a handful of mustard seeds, each one from a house that had not seen death. As she went from house to house unable to collect the seeds she realized that death, in general and the death of her child in particular, was a reality. Through insight she discarded her irrational behaviour.
In essence, as the lovely Michael Stipe once sang; “Everybody Hurts,” and they do but some people are able to deal with their hurt more effectively and overcome the pain we will all inevitably feel at some point in life; because they choose to.