WE ALL HAVE EXPERIENCED a sense of grief in our lives. Whether from losing a loved one, a job or a relationship, it can be a very intense and emotional process. In some cases we go through it and it passes, in others it may stay with us in some form or another for a life time. I believe these kinds of life experiences are what our spirituality is best suited to help us navigate.
Elizabeth Kübler Ross wrote many years ago about five stages of grief. While she later stated that this work was over-simplified and that grief was much more complicated than what she originally stated, some of those stages are a good starting point when trying to deal with any major loss. My mother passed on in June and I have spent a lot of time dealing with the emotions surrounding my sense of grief and loss. I have come to rely on my spiritual training and background to move forward again in my life.
When we lose a loved one, it is common to feel anger and depression, to try to bargain with God, to deny in some way what is or has happened and to feel anxious about the future. Applying spiritual principles to these emotions and situations can be very helpful. For my own loss, I had a very hard time applying anything other than raw emotional reactions for some time. My mother was ill for quite a while and needed a lot of care and help dealing with her living situation, finances and life in general. These times in a person’s life can be all-consuming and leave little energy for anything, especially prayer, meditation or contemplation. But even with all of that, I still had a sense of at least knowing I had tools to fall back on even if I couldn’t use them much at the time. There was a comfort in knowing they were there.
As things progressed and my mother’s passing was upon us, I took comfort in what I believe about the afterlife. That everything is energy and she was just passing on to another room, as it were. That she was moving on, out of this dimension and into another. When I found myself in denial or feeling angry, I prayed. Even if I couldn’t feel terribly connected while I did it, I knew in my heart it was helping. And I always felt better. I also practiced living in the present moment and taking on only what was before me at the moment. Admittedly, I needed to be reminded of that daily. Thank God for my friends and family for helping me with that by talking me “off the ledge” frequently.
Depression is a large part of grief, and I experienced that deeply for the first time in my life with her passing. What’s helped the most with this and with the anxiety that often goes along with it is practicing compassion — true and loving patience and compassion for myself and this process, knowing that there is no right or wrong way to do this and loving myself no matter what my grief looks like today. I have come to realize that compassion is the hallmark of all spirituality. Coming from the heart, nurturing your heart, and allowing yourself to feel cradled in the heart of God or Spirit creates true healing and comfort in times of distress.
There are quite a few other things that can help while you are grieving, such as yoga, journaling, going to get energy work, spending time outside in nature, and talking to friends or a counselor. There is no one way or one path to healing your heart after losing someone you love. All of these paths are spiritual in that they bolster your heart and help you feel connected to something loving and larger than you and your grief. That, I have found, is the most healing thing of all.