How To Deal With GriefGrief is difficult. There's the overwhelming big losses--death of a loved one, ending of a relationship, loss of abilities.
But there's also the accumulated little losses that weigh us down and zap our life force. This guide for how to deal with grief can provide you with some understanding and context for your grief, as well as offer a way to help you move through its pain.
The emotional pain of loss can block everything else out, and it can be very difficult to function at life's daily tasks. It can feel like everything comes to a standstill. Our minds numb and we feel heavy, overwhelmed.
Some Characteristics Of Grief
Heaviness is one of the physical characteristics of grief. Grief can also be wet, and the tears that come can bring some relief. But sometimes we find it hard to cry as it just seems better not to feel anything. Men in particular can have difficulty crying as they've been conditioned that it's not manly to cry or show emotions.
Grief likes darkness, small spaces, warmth, quiet. It has its own sense of time.
Part of the heaviness of grief can be felt in your lungs. We breathe differently, often emphasizing the exhale, the letting go of air.
A Grief Exercise:
Learning to breathe consciously like this can be very helpful. Sitting alone, bring your attention to your breathing without trying to change anything. Gradually focus on the exhale, letting yourself let go a little bit with each breath. Keep bringing your focus back to your breath when you realize your mind has wandered. Let your natural breathing settle your mind and heal your body in this way. Practice this for 5-15 minutes, once or twice a day.
At our retreats participants work through the pain of grief. Grief, when witnessed in love offers up its gifts. It's amazing to discover these gifts when there has been so much pain. Do you know someone who has had a lot of loss in their lives and managed to somehow get to the other side of grief? You may recognize in them some of these gifts. The gifts include:
- Wisdom-A clarity of mind and twinkle in the eyes
- Acceptance and Peace-an ease and lack of fear about other people's pain
- Grounding--being present with emotions
- Deep love
Grief Never Dances Alone
When we've experienced a deep loss, we experience a whole range of feelings. People are often surprised to find anger, anxiety, disbelief, numbness and other feelings. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross spoke of these as stages or phases of grief that many go through.
In my work with clients there is often a lot of unresolved anger that comes up as part of the grief journey. Anger at ourselves, at others, at the world. Anger can be difficult to work through on our own; We fear it and want to avoid it at all costs, partly because it doesn't feel safe.
We also fear grief, afraid we may drown in it and never make it through.
Your grief journey is your own–there is no set way of how to deal with grief. At our retreats we start by creating safety in a loving environment. Then. we help you navigate through your grief, helping you take the next step. Part of learning how to deal with grief is being able to recognize and work through its many faces.
Give yourself space to accept all your feelings. Allow yourself to gradually release self judgements. Breathe.
Ungrieved Grief, Unattended Sorrow
Deep grief at the loss of someone we love is hard enough. But when we grieve, all our past grieves come up into awareness too, compounding the pain. What may appear to be a little loss, such as the loss of old friends when we moved as a child to a new city, can arise along with the present loss, adding to the all consuming nature of grief.
Part of learning how to deal with grief is attending to these smaller losses. It's these smaller losses that can be part of a depressed mood or ongoing sadness that affect so many. This "unattended sorrow" using Stephen Levine's words, can be met with an open heart and loving awareness.
One type of unattended sorrow is grief over an un-lived or unfulfilled life. How many of us feel we did not do what we wanted to do...in our careers and relationships? How often do we say to ourselves things would be better if only we had done this or that?
You may also want to view these pages:
Explore the following pages to learn about the different faces of grief. And consider attending one of our Grief and Loss Retreats to help you learn how to handle grief.
Kubler Ross Stages of Grief
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