Tag: death

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.

Life and Loss

Most of us believe that relationships are supposed to be permanent, yet loss and grieving is a theme in our lives. Inevitably along our path someone dies or will be left behind. Loss of a relationship plays a significant part in all of our lives, as it is part of life.

Often we define ourselves by our relationships; we 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 throughout our lives. When someone dies, leaves us, moves away or becomes estranged, it can feel confusing, sad, overwhelming, we might feel a bit lost for a time. The loss of the relationship is an opportunity for us to grow and get in touch with our authentic selves; to learn and understand that we are not our relationships.

In all relationships there is some degree of dependency. Whether it is your relationship with your life-partner, mother, father, sibling, friend. When a relationship ends, you will find yourself forced to undertake tasks that the other person used to do; or perhaps you will be taking care of their will. In all cases with loss comes new experiences, some enjoyable some scary, some just a nuisance. What is wonderful is that it is through these tasks that a new sense of self will evolve.

Whenever we let go of someone a psychological death occurs and we want to allow ourselves 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 by death or distance.

With every death there is rebirth; something of value is growing inside us. How we react to the constant changes that occur in our lives through our relationships is probably the only aspect of a relationship that we have choice about.


A Thought for New Parents

When I work with new parents the issue of mortality always comes up. It is interesting how until we have children we rarely, if ever think about dying and once we have them we do. Some people become frightened by their own mortality, others fear that their children will die and some fear both.

The reality is that when/if/how we die or the fact that we will die has not changed at all. Having children triggers our reptilian brains and we want to protect our young. As there is no certainty to our futures, we as parents are challenged by this uncertainty and confuse it with a fear of mortality.