It may seem strange to include a post about grief during Christmas week, but I think in particular this year we must honor the losses of this year even as we celebrate the holiday. Having a balance where we have space for both grief and joy brings us into a more authentic experience of life.
Grief and Self Care
Grief is something we all have to face on the human journey. Sometimes our grief is small and sometimes it is life changing, or extremely challenging to our identity, or overwhelming due to the magnitude of the loss. Whatever size or shape grief comes in we need to have ways of moving through it and integrating the experience so it does not permanently debilitate us or seriously impact our health.
Grief and the grieving process can move us beyond the rawness and pain to inner spaces where courage, strength and creativity can grow. We live in a world that all too often triggers strong emotion. Our spiritual nature can help in some ways but there are also very human ways that can help to develop the capacity to meet life experience in ways that do not collapse, numb or “rigidify” us.
Grief and Self care Require Honoring All Experience
It is tempting to sidestep our uncomfortable feelings but if our emotional responses to life are left incomplete they become an invisible source of stress. Incomplete emotional expression blocks and drains our energy. We end up feeling fragmented, disconnected, empty, separate or we simply have a sense of being out of kilter somehow without really knowing why.
It is healthy to be aware where we hurt and identify our feelings. This helps to define needs and create good boundaries. It can also help separate unhealthy reactivity from deeper, truer emotions that point to the doorway of our authentic selves. In order for this to happen there must be a space made, opened and honored so that all aspects of our experience are given form, healed and released.
Grief and Self Care: Having Tools to Manage
Here are some tips for managing grief whether large or small. It is best to not judge actually if some experience is large or small. The importance is whether it mattered to you and had an effect on you.
1. Honor your experience by speaking or writing it out. Telling your story, honestly stating how it is/was for you without laundering it into what you think is acceptable, is crucial. Experience needs to be claimed and witnessed in order to be processed and released. The witnessing, whether by yourself or with another, is best if it is nonjudgmental and compassionate!
2. Engage in a spiritual practice. Practices that help you connect with aspects larger than your ego self help make you feel that you CAN hold all your experience and not be shattered by it. Later you will realize that you can feel it AND let it go; this will give you more ability to feel what is there with courage because you can trust that you do not have to feel it forever.
Spiritual practice also helps you to not feel so empty or isolated. It can provide an infusion of loving, supportive energy that assists you and holds you up when you cannot do it all alone.
3. Seek out others who have been through similar situations. Sharing your experience, weaknesses and strengths is very healing. Both giving and receiving are a part of the natural flow of life. ..a core expression and rhythm of love.
4. Take breaks in your process. Especially if your grief is a large one, it is crucial to the process to give it both active and receptive attention. It is okay to let things rest and gestate for a time.
5. Provide an outlet for release of all thoughts, emotions and beliefs that have been stored up as a result of this loss for you. Create rituals, use intentions that help you to not only uncover and articulate but also for the letting go part.
6. Channel your energy into something positive. One family channeled grief about the loss of a child into a foundation that now raises money for research into childhood illnesses. Another family is honoring the memory of their child by funding a house for families to stay nearby when their sick children are hospitalized. These are two wonderful examples of turning grief into positive action to process the grief and honor the past while improving the situation for others.
7. See a professional grief counselor if you feel that your grieving process has gone on too long or you feel stuck. A professional can help you reclaim your Self.
Grief and self care go hand in hand for a healthy life. Even as you experience grief, know that you are OK… feel that fundamental OKness in spite of the pain! Allow yourself to feel the sadness, despair and loss even as you are aware of your deep inner core. Develop a ritual to experience letting it go when it is time, then purposefully move on. We are meant to grieve, but not forever!