March 31, 2019
(Photo credit to: Mike Labrum on Unsplash)
Grief is an emotion we all experience -- at times intensely, at other times fleetingly, or sometimes intermittently. It is a complex emotion because it often calls up other emotions, such as fear or anger. May this Blog help you honor the experience of grief, discover new ways to work through grieving, find acceptance, peace and the energy to move on and to grow.
Grief is simply loss. The triggers for grief as we move through life are many, indeed. It could be loss of a loved one – husband, wife, partner, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, brother, sister, child, or pet. It might take shape as loss of health – either for yourself or a loved one. It might be a divorce or relationship breakup. The list goes on: loss of friendship; loss of your job; loss of financial stability; loss of a cherished dream or ambition; trauma; abuse.
In my opinion, everyone’s grief is unique -- one reason why I never say, “I know how you feel.” How could I possibly know how you feel? In addition, everyone’s grieving process is different and evolves – it is unique to you and the situation.
Grief and grieving is part of life. Learning to cope with grief, in all of its forms, is one of life’s biggest challenges. A popular saying is “Life is journey, not a destination.” However, when we move through the challenges of processing grief – there is a destination. And, that destination is acceptance – acceptance of the past, of what is, and peace in the present moment.
I am a coach, not a therapist. On Grief and Grieving is a reference list of resources which I have used over the years to process and work through grief and loss. This list changes over time and with the circumstances. I invite you to use these resources as a jumping off point to create or add to your personal list of what actions and processes are most helpful to you when life’s challenges arise – as they inevitably do -- for all of us. Please share your ideas and experiences with our community.
To start this deep conversation, I would like to begin with an excerpt from the chapter on A Meditation on Grief by Jack Kornfield, in The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace, page 58:
“Grief is one of the heart’s natural responses to loss. When we grieve we allow ourselves to feel the truth of our pain, the measure of betrayal or tragedy in our life. By our willingness to mourn, we slowly acknowledge, integrate, and accept the truth of our losses. Sometimes the best way to let go is to grieve.
It takes courage to grieve, to honor the pain we carry. We can grieve in tears or in meditative silence, in prayer or in song. In touching the pain of recent and long-held griefs, we come face to face with our genuine vulnerability, with helplessness and hopelessness. These are the storm clouds of the heart.
Most traditional societies offer ritual and communal support to help people move through grief and loss. We need to respect our tears. Without a wise way to grieve, we can only soldier on, armored and unfeeling, but our hearts cannot learn and grow from the sorrows of the past.”
After my husband passed a few years ago, I would read this passage out loud – almost every day. I did this because, personally, I wanted to give myself permission to grieve, in my own way and to acknowledge all the emotions which arise in the process of grieving.
So, how do we work through our grief, in whatever form or fashion it may arise?
In my experience, I have found meditation, journaling, singing, and dancing helpful to process and work through grief. Healing is a process that needs to address the mind-body connection and support us in healing -- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Meditation has been source of solace and inspiration for me. It is my “go-to” place to deal with grief. I understand it may not appeal to everyone. And yet, the healing potential of mediation is so profound and proven, I persist in encouraging people to experiment with the wide array of styles and types of meditation practices.
These meditations are all available on the free app, Insight Timer. I invite you to experiment and find a meditation that you will choose to become part of your healing journey.
Please note that these meditations are only available on your smart phone. The Insight Timer website on your computer is a placeholder for general information. For this reason, I show the actual link, rather than the more user friendly “button," so if you are reading the Blog on your computer, you can copy/paste the link to your mobile.
I have found journaling to be very important in getting me to focus on the question: What am I feeling in this moment? What are my emotions? For me, thinking about my emotions and having the discipline to write down and articulate, by name, my emotions are two very different disciplines. My feelings and emotions can be a jumble – afraid, searching, despairing, hopeful, angry, guilty, relieved, confused, or vulnerable. Spend a few moments to reflect and sort out both your feelings and your emotions.
Rather than talking about my journal, I want to do something that may inspire you to start your journal. Here is a selection of my favorite quotes on grief and grieving:
Please share with our community the quotes you read and write as you journal and process your grief. There is great healing power in writing and sharing and connecting.
Many of our rituals around grieving call on us to sing – to raise our voices in prayer and storytelling. This is a short list of some of the songs which touch my heart – and which, yes, bring tears to my eyes. Tears are a part of my healing process. And, I know that is true for some people – and not true for others. How we process grief is unique to us. I make no judgments and have no generalizations – only options which I offer for your consideration.
For my friends of the Jewish faith and tradition, I want to acknowledge your rich and deep prayers and songs, such as the “Mourners Kaddish.”
I also want to acknowledge that all cultures, wisdom traditions and religions have their hymns, chants, mantras and songs which serve people in times of grief and grieving.
Please help me and others in this community to open our eyes and ears to a broader range of healing sounds, songs and hymns.
Martha Graham has a beautiful saying, “The body says what words cannot.”
In this fourth process, dancing, I am thinking very broadly. It is about moving our body – dancing, running, walking in the woods, Yoga.
Let the timeless wisdom that is within our body and in nature move us -- and move through us -- to open our hearts and allow us to heal.
These last two sections on Singing and Dancing are relatively short because the most important point is for you to have your play list for singing and dancing.
We all know our strengths and where we can add value. For me, I believe meditation and journaling and quotes are places where my experience and research can add value. And, I will gratefully accept your input and support to expand my practices of healing through singing and dancing. I signed up for vocal lessons a couple of years ago. Maybe next year, I will look at dancing lessons. Who knows? Always growing. Always learning.
Honoring Grief ... In Community With Each Other
A key reason why I am attracted to this combination of meditation, journaling, singing, and dancing to help us move from grief and grieving to a place of acceptance, is because it addresses healing on all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
However you choose to process your grief – whether that be in the form of meditation, journaling, singing, dancing or reaching out to a support group or a professional therapist – let us do it in community. We are never alone --- we are never alone in our grief. We are always in community.
You are courageous. Choose to connect to your heart and to the heart of others and heal yourself. Choose to say YES to Life. Choose to say YES to Love.
In closing, I would like to dedicate On Grief and Grieving to my dear friend, Chris Galvin, who recently passed away. Chris has taught me so much. She has inspired me with her wit and wisdom, creativity and passion to serve our community, and her faith to serve God joyfully. On her retirement after serving as Area Director for United Way in Ottawa County, Ohio for 25 years, her new calling cards were inscribed: “Say YES!”
Till next time,
May you be happy now and always, Alison
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