All Our Losses -- All Our Griefs
Living in the Shadow of COVID-19
Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions during and after a disaster and may compound the grief and disorientation surrounding the death of a loved one. You can begin your search for support with local hospice providers, which routinely offer individual and group bereavement support.,
A Memorial Service can be Postponed. Grief Can Not.
See How We Grieve https://www.rememberingalife.com/grief
Amidst the shattering of life, as you’ve known it, grief is more than “just a feeling” It encompasses our whole being: Body, Mind, Heart, and Spirit. Grief may involve dozens of feelings—sometimes contradictory feelings—that are a response to losing someone you love. Grief is more than just an emotion. It is a whole-body response with ailments, aches, and fatigue. Grief is an intellectual experience that asks a lot of hard questions about life, about faith, and about your relationships, what’s happened, and what’s next. Grief is also a spiritual experience that asks us the meaning and purpose of this suffering. Because grief is such a complex experience that is different for every person, it is important to find support and take good care of your emotional and physical needs. While grief is a normal, natural, and fully human response to loss, it can be cumulative and complicated, when denied or delayed. Mutual and self care is essential.
The National Funeral Director’s Association (NFDA) provides many helpful resources including:
When a Loved One Dies During the Coronavirus Pandemic https://www.rememberingalife.com/covid-19
NFDA recommends: If you’re unable to have a funeral for your loved one, or if it will be delayed, it may be difficult to accept that you will be unable to invite others to join with you in person to remember their life and support you in your time of loss. Here are some things you can do to practice self-care and stay connected with family and friends while you begin the grief journey.
Post A Notice of your loved one’s death on social media and invite your friends and family to post a memory and/or photo.
Write A Letter about your loved one and memories you have, make copies and mail them out to friends and family. Invite them to reply to you with memories of their own.
Reach Out to family and friends by phone. They’ll enjoy hearing from you and it’s an opportunity for you to share a memory of your loved one and for them to do the same.
Keep A Journal. As you are inspired to do so, write about memories of your loved one and how you are feeling about your grief. Share those memories with others as you are comfortable in doing so.
Prioritize Self-Care https://www.rememberingalife.com/after-the-funeral/self-care
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That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is GRIEF
Kessler writes about these STAGES: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.* These descriptive concepts are meant to serve as part of a FRAMEWORK which describe an ongoing process of learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us to name and re-frame what we may be feeling, as essential and integral parts of a natural human response to loss. But they are not steps carved in stone on some linear pathway through grief. Not everyone goes through all or in a prescribed order. Many may experience each expression multiple times in cyclic fashion or like layers of an onion un-peeling as we move deeper into our unique journey of grief. These “stages” have evolved since their introduction and they have often been very misunderstood. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into tidy packages, boxed away on the shelf. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is no one typical response to loss or time-line for grief, because there is no typical loss. Our experiences of grief can be cumulative and complicated, by the context and content of particular losses, in our individual journeys through our many griefs.
* Adapted from: https://grief.com/frequently-asked-questions-about-grief-grieving/
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For additional resources see: GRIEF.com https://grief.com/ or contact your local hospice about community-based Bereavement Support
Some find on-line grief support groups helpful. https://www.talkdeath.com/rise-popularity-online-grief-forums/
Learn more about the Journey of Grief from the Center For Loss and Transition: https://www.centerforloss.com/grief/six-needs-mourning/
Acknowledge The Reality Of The Death.
Embrace The Pain Of The Loss.
Remember The Person Who Died.
Develop A New Self-Identity.
Search For Meaning.
Receive Support From Others.
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Frank Ostaseski is the founder of the Metta Institute https://www.mettainstitute.org/ and cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project, where he helped care for hundreds of people dying from HIV-AIDS. More -recently Frank also survived a near-death heart attack, which brought his experience of supporting others in their dying process, into sharp focus. Out of this breadth of many journeys through life and the valley of death Ostaseski has written: The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully. https://fiveinvitations.com/
Ostaseski writes, Grieving The Death Of Someone We Love Is Like Being Thrown Into A River Raging With Powerful And Conflicting Emotions. It Pulls Us Down… beneath the surface of our lives to dark waters where we cannot breathe. Frantically we try to escape the whirling of this inner journey. Surrendering, we feel ourselves being carried forward to a new destination. Emerging, we step ashore with changed eyes and re-enter a bigger world.
To be a companion to our own grief…or the grief of another it can be helpful to know something of that territory. Yet there can be a problem with models and maps that present a linear path through grief.
Grief has its own schedule. And, grief has a unique rhythm and texture in each of us. For many it is a deep slow process of the soul. It cannot be rushed.
We need to allow for the full range of expressions of grief, from the numbness and absence of expression to the most wild and out of control displays. That sort of almost deranged expressions of grief are rarely allowed in bereavement support groups.
Grief is an experience of the body. Sensing the body, the physical pain, the dullness, the contractions, the nausea, the myriad of sensations is a way of becoming familiar with the grief. It gives us greater access to our emotional state and this an important part of the healing.
Grief challenges our notions of control. It cracks our defensive shell of invulnerability. It exposes the ways we hide from the truth of our human frailty.
Grief asks us to acknowledge what has always been here but was unrecognized. Everyone we love will die. Resistance to the truth creates more suffering. Acceptance of this truth leads us toward appreciation and gratitude and making the most of our relationships.
My hope is to encourage you to step into the direct and immediate and personal experience of grief.
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In Grief a Path to Wholeness https://fiveinvitations.com/grief-a-path-to-wholeness/ Ostaseski explains, most often we think of grief as an overwhelming response to a singular event, usually the death of someone we love. However, when we look “behind the curtain,” we see that grief has been a companion through a good part of our life. Sometimes our grief is about what we have had and lost… and sometimes it’s about what we never got to have.
Our tendency for self-protection leads us to store these experiences in some dark cramped corner of our minds. But every loss triggers the memory of another. In the intense grief arising from the loss of someone we love we rediscover the pool of grief that we have always carried. The ordinary, everyday grief that inhabits our lives – our responses to the multiple losses, to the little deaths, that occur almost daily. It’s those moments of not being recognized, the times when our expectations weren’t met. Our everyday grief arises when we remember how the carelessness of our actions has caused harm to others. It’s when we recognize how we have turned away from our own pain. Sometimes our grief is about what we’ve had and lost, and sometimes it’s about what we never got to have.
Faces of Grief
Sadness is just one of the many faces of grief. Maybe it’s useful to understand grief as a constellation of responses, an ever-changing process. The author C.S. Lewis, after the death of his wife, wrote, “No one told me grief felt so much like fear.” Our grief manifests as anger, self-judgment, as regret or guilt. There’s loneliness and relief, blame and shame, periods of numbness when we feel like we’re walking through molasses. The sense of isolation can be beyond words.
We’re rarely prepared for the intense feelings that engulf when someone we love dies. A friend of mine who was a long-time meditator and a master gardener and a lover of nature, experienced the death of both of her parents in about a year’s time. Her father’s death was unexpected and particularly painful for her. Her grief was like this all-consuming rage. Not long after her father’s death, an environmental group invited her to speak at a rally to save the old growth redwoods. She shouted, “My father has died. There are no trees.”
Grief is unpredictable, uncontrollable. It comes in waves. You can be going along having a great day and then a memory is triggered and you find yourself overwhelmed by grief. Intense emotions hit you when you least expect them. Another friend said that it happened to her in the cereal aisle of a local supermarket. She said, “I just lost it, right there, between the Cheerios and the Raisin Bran.”
Our fear of this lack of control lead us to ideas about managing our grief or getting over our grief. It’s curious to me that we never speak about managing our joy or getting over our happiness. Grief is like a stream running through our life and it’s important to understand that it doesn’t do away. Our grief lasts a lifetime. Our relationship to our grief changes. It won’t always have the same intensity or the same expression, but the grief.
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Ostaseski invites us to Find a Place to Rest in the Middle https://fiveinvitations.com/thought-catalog-5-things-death-can-teach-us-about-living-life-to-the-fullest/
We often think of RESTING as something we‘ll do, when can get around to it, when everything else is over. Like when we go on a holiday, or when our work is done, or to do list completed. We imagine that we can only find rest, by changing the external conditions of our life. But in accompanying people who are dying, we have to find this place of rest, sometimes right in the middle of chaos and despair. This rest—can be experienced, when we can pause even momentarily and bring our full attention, without avoidance or distraction, to this moment, this movement, this activity, this breath.
This place of rest is always there for us. Adele found it. And even though the conditions of her life remained the same, her breathing hadn’t changed, she was still dying, and yet she found this place of rest. This place of rest is always there. It’s always available. We need only turn toward it. With sincere practice, after some time, we can know this spaciousness regularly in our life. It’s an aspect of us that’s never sick, is not born, and does not die.
So let us find ways to practice, finding a place of rest in the middle.
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