At this time of transformation and ascension, loss and grief come to us all. They are inevitable. They are part of the cycle of life. Ignoring or stuffing our grief can have disastrous physical, emotional and spiritual repercussions.
Yet, how do we deal with loss without losing ourselves in pain? How do we remain positive and hopeful when things come crashing down around our ears, when we face the deaths of people we love and lose things we care about?
When we feel loss, our natural tendency is to run away to avoid the pain. We stuff ourselves with food or alcohol, medicate, ignore, stay extraordinarily busy, compartmentalize our lives, or excessively indulge in pleasureÂ – addictively reading novels, playing computer games, social networking, consuming sweets, watching television, gambling, It’s what we’ve been taught to do, isn’t it? We’ve watched our parents, family, friends, and celebrities model such behaviors.
What I share here is not just theoretical. For the past ten months I’ve been fighting in the trenches to learn coping skills in order to survive and thrive. In addition to the economic turmoil, weather craziness and natural disasters that have affected us all, I’ve had devastating personal losses: my son committed suicide, my brother-in-law died of ALS, and my father died of old age – all after they suffered heart-breaking declines. I’ve also been fired from a job I loved, and shunned by members of my spiritual community.
Steps to deal with loss and remain positive:
- Be Genuine – Don’t ignore or cover up how you’re feeling. Acknowledge the loss and feel what is real. Let your tears flow. Seek nonviolent ways to vent your anger. Let yourself have bathrobe days.
- Seek Healing Support – Spend time with friends who are good listeners and are comfortable with you crying.
Find support groups to help you process your grief. I joined Idisi, a women’s healing chorus. I helped start a weekly Divine Mother’s Group. I attended a Grief Workshop that was profoundly healing, sponsored by Living Waters Market and led by Dagara Elder Teri Leigh.
- Nourish Your Body – Exercise daily. Eat nutritious food. Spend time in nature. Take naps. Allow yourself to sleep in or stay up late. Reduce your work load and schedule your life around your current energy level.
- Look for Beauty – Beauty can help us rediscover the will to live, reassure us when we’re feeling scared, and let us know that life is worth living. Beauty can heal our deepest wounds, and help us forget our problems. At least for a while.
Beauty is found in nature or art, in a person as inner beauty, in common objects, or in an act of courage or kindness. A crucial aspect is to let ourselves be surprised– vulnerable, expecting nothing, and holding no preconceived idea of what is beautiful and what is not.
When we perceive beauty, we are free from worry, regret or discontentment. Our fears and expectations loosen their grip. We feel happy at that moment.
The Navaho language uses the word hozo, which means health, beauty, goodness, harmony and happiness, all at once. With no distinction between humans and nature, Navaho culture encourages people to walk continually amid beauty, speak in beauty, act in beauty and live in beauty. That is an example we may wish to emulate.
- Use Imagination and Divine Love – Here’s an exercise from the University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism newsletter: Feel and imagine that your loss is like a pebble that is being dropped into an ocean. When you hold a pebble in your hands, it feels strong and hard. When this pebble falls into the ocean, it disappears and it is no longer what you focus on.
Feel the feelings of the grief, loss or sadness and put them in a larger container that can hold them with comfort: the container of Divine Love. Allow the Divine Love in and all the way through so the emotions dissolve. Then you aren’t ignoring or bypassing. Instead, you are giving the emotions the attention they are due, but no more. That’s the key.
God’s container of love is the ocean that can truly hold the grief in its right size.
Carol McCormick is leading “Harvesting Peace: A Fall Equinox Celebration” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at Living Waters Market in Minnetonka.