Tag: grief

Finding Light After Loss

The blog this week deals with devastation, loss, and ways to cope and recover.  After the horrific damage caused by this year’s hurricane season, many find their homes ravaged or completely destroyed, pets lost or knee deep in wreckage that may take years to repair. How do we cope with such loss?  How do we go on?   

Grief is inevitable with loss of any kind and it comes in hundreds of colors, shapes and sizes and looks different on everyone. One thing that may help is the concept of impermanence.  In Buddhism, (you don’t have to be Buddhist to embrace this), everything both happy and sad are malleable.  As a good friend of mine has said to me, “one thing we can count on is change.”  When going through bereavement, knowing that you won’t always feel this horrible, or helpless, does help…eventually.  It takes time to heal and it is important to your recovery to acknowledge your feelings.

Allow yourself time to collect your thoughts, try not to make any hasty decisions until after the fog has lifted.  When you are in the throes of emotions, you may feel like running away or starting over somewhere far away, unfortunately your feelings will follow you.  Wait to make life-changing decisions until you feel stronger and clear to exam the pros and cons. Give yourself permission to put things on the back burner and focus on what is essential in the moment.

Start slow and chunk out tasks.  If you have to start over from a natural disaster, you may begin to feel the light poking through as soon as essentials are dealt with. Don’t take on everything at once.  Prioritize, what you need first and foremost, then work from there.  In other words, don’t put all of your worries and concerns in the same basket, it will be way too heavy a burden.  Take care of your basic needs for shelter, food, safety first. Everything else can wait. Take help when it is offered, people often want to contribute in some way, be it bringing meals or watching your children.  Let them.

Know when you are incapable of dealing with the loss and ask for help.  If you find yourself unable to function or to get out of bed, reach out to a professional.  There is a huge difference between profound depression and grief.  The latter is temporary and may simply need time to fade the other requires treatment.  If you are prone to depression, a significant loss may trigger symptoms, reach out to those around you, tell them your true feelings and get help.

Understand though that in reality, you need to give grief time and space to dissipate. You may begin to notice less sadness in three months, but don’t be surprised if you’re still glum, at least some of the time, months after your loss. For most of us, it takes about a year before we have consistent grief free days.  

Let the light of laughter in when it shows up.  Although there may be a string of dismal days allow the curtains to open and set aside your worries.  Perhaps a laugh with friends over funny memories or a dinner you’ve been invited to.  It is okay to give your grief a time out, to find joy again.


Dealing with Loss

Well, everyone can master a grief, but he who has one. – William Shakespeare

We have all been there, a loss of one kind or another; the death of a friend or family member, the passing of a beloved pet, an unexpected tragedy such as a flood or hurricane  that alters our journey forever.  You may be experiencing a divorce or the end of a long term relationship.   Whatever the loss, it can be downright torturous to get on with living.  Most of us veer towards the familiar and when you experience a demise, change crashes in on your life uninvited.  But there are tools that can help you navigate through the painful terrain of grieving and dealing with loss.

First and foremost, don’t deny your feelings, otherwise they will end up somewhere in your body and wreak havoc.  It is normal to feel a profound sadness, to cry or wail, and to experience a sense of hopelessness. You don’t have to make excuses for your emotions, they are uniquely yours and everyone copes with loss differently.  You may feel utterly overwhelmed, angry or unequivocally fearful. When a person or family pet or companion passes it can flood you with memories and the void can feel physical.  Or the ending of a marriage or partnership can produce tremendous grief.  Acknowledge the surge of emotions with the same empathy you would give others who have experienced loss.  This is not the time to be stoic and keep a stiff upper lip.

When you are ready, share your feelings, talk to friends and other family members who are good at listening.  What you don’t need is a list of things you ‘should’ do.  Open up to people who can actively listen, that means they’re not the ones talking. Stave off those who try to cram unwanted advice down your throat, although they may have your best interest at heart, they are not you, they have not walked your path.  Now is the time to be present with what you are experiencing.  Facing your feelings helps you to come to terms with them, to put them in perspective, to shake hands with them and realize they are part of the process and part of you.      

If we bottle up our feelings they fester and eventually, like bad wine, turn sour and are that much harder to swallow.  Open the door to your heart, let the contents spill out to those you feel emotionally safe confiding in. Get out of your thinking mind and into your feelings.  The mind tries to rationalize or distract you or even judge you, which will not help your progress towards wholeness.  Perhaps write how you’re feeling down or pen a letter to the deceased or journal your experience without censoring your words.  Let the paper absorb your sadness or resentment then either keep it or burn it, depending on what will honor your emotional well-being.

If there is no one that can help you unburden your emotions, seek out a support group or a counselor.  In fact, there is an array of bereavement groups that could help you with your specific loss and even those with a plethora of family and friends can benefit from the solidarity of those who have suffered similar experiences (although let me be clear every situation is different and don’t compare your grief response to another).  Find the right one for you, one you can feel comfortable in expressing yourself honestly and without judgement.

Keep some semblance of a routine. If you like to walk in the morning or evening, perhaps try to keep that healthy habit up.  Or maybe you love to water your flowers every morning or make coffee and read a book or listen to the news or watch the squirrels dart in the trees.  Whatever it is, by sticking to a few simple constants, you will create a sense of stability that not everything is lost, not everything has changed.

Try to eat as healthy as you can and stay rested.  If you have lost your appetite try eating smaller meals more frequently, foods that are easily digested.  Get a little exercise to help you sleep, ask a friend to walk with you or perhaps cycling helps clear your mind. If you have a yoga practice, this can be very soothing during times of duress.  Taking little measures to maintain your health, will help you cope with the loss. It is okay to step away from the sadness for a bit and indulge yourself in an activity that quiets the pain, if even temporarily. This is not the same as ignoring or escaping your feelings, it is rather an attempt to bring your life back to balance. Throughout the day we experience a gamut of emotions, allow yourself a reprieve from the painful ones.

Breathe, and give yourself time to grieve, be kind to yourself.  Try to not self-impose deadlines for when you should feel better.  Know that it is a process, just like learning how to be a parent or how to keep your relationship healthy, grieving a loss takes time. Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”  Allow the wounds of loss their proper healing time and eventually the pain will subside.


A Holistic Approach to Grieving

NPR ran a story about Veterans with PTSD. A client sent me this line from it, “ … all people have the ability to reason, unless they’re grieving. So oftentimes I ask the veterans, “If you can’t reason, what is it you’re grieving?”

We often believe that relationships are to be permanent, yet loss and grieving is a theme in our lives. Somewhere along our path someone dies or will be left behind. Loss of a relationship plays a significant part in all of our lives. As many of us define ourselves by our relationships, we may believe something is wrong with us if we do not keep our friends for life.

What I have learned is that relationships come and go from our lives. When someone dies, leaves us, moves away or becomes estranged, it may be a double loss: the loss of the relationship itself, and the loss of the relationship as a source of our identity, of who we think we are.

If you have been the dependent partner in a relationship you will find yourself after the loss of a relationship, through divorce or death, forced to undertake tasks that you never dreamed of. It is through these tasks that a new sense of self will evolve. You may have a new career or the education you always wanted but did not have time for.

Whenever we are forced to let go of something or someone a psychological death occurs and we need to grieve for our loss. Death comes in many forms; it may be an aspect of ourselves, our youthful qualities, our health, or a dream that is no more. Or it may be a relationship that is ended.

With every death or mini-death a rebirth occurs; something of value is growing inside us. Through acceptance and allowing ourselves to grieve the loss, we can grow and develop wisdom. How we react to the constant changes that occur in our lives is probably the only aspect of any relationship that we have choice over.

Allowing ourselves time to grieve without justifying or judging our reason for grieving is vital for healing our wounds. Recognizing that you may experience grief very differently than other people is often key to allowing ourselves to grieve. When we try to grieve the way we ‘think we are supposed to’ or ‘the way we have seen others grieve’, we are in judgment of ourselves and this will stop us from grieving and healing.

Elizabeth Kübler Ross lists 5 stages of grieving Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Whether we like it or not, we humans will go through each of these stages in our healing process. To stop them is to stop ourselves from healing.

An exercise I often recommend for grieving is the following:

  • Once a day for 21 minutes, sit quietly. Light a candle that you have purchased for this exercise. During the 21 minutes watch the candle and allow your thoughts to focus on what you are grieving.
  • Do this everyday for 21 days, and then discard what remains of the candle.

Express Your Feelings Today

I have invited Yaz Headley of http://thecompletelife.com from the UK to guest blog on my blog for your pleasure:

We can have so many joys and regrets in our lives.

Bronnie Ware wrote a book on “The top five regrets of the dying”. One of the regrets she found was that they often wished they had the courage to express their feelings. So often we bottle up our feelings and think we can maybe, fully express ourselves another day. Will that day ever arise or are we meant to seize the day today, everyday.

Expressing a feeling does not have to be hurtful or painful to another. Expressing feelings can be kind, generous and simply practical. Expressing a feeling helps us to understand how we ourselves feel, something we so often forget to do.

If you do anything today, express at least one feeling not just to yourself but to another. Expressing your feelings is about living and savouring your interpretation of the life you are living. The other four regrets she found were wishing they had chosen to be happier, work less, being more authentic and stayed in touch with friends.

Ware, B., 2012. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, Hay House UK.

©2012 Yaz.