Sitting with Your Grief
As I am writing this blog, Hurricane Lee is swirling around in the area that I live. The wind is blowing the leaves and branches off my trees, and the rainwater is puddling in the ditch. I still have power, unlike some of my friends and family. I have my storm chips (it’s a Nova Scotia tradition) and chocolate, extra wood and kindling stocked up beside my woodstove, nonperishable food in the house, extra water, flashlights, candles, matches, blankets, a crank radio, and a go bag (with pet supplies) prepared. I am safe in my house, sheltered from the weather. My cat is sitting in her cat tree looking out the window. We are both calm and centered, and that got me reflecting about how important it is to be prepared and to take care of myself.
Nurturing oneself is also important when one journeys through the grief process. The word “bereaved” means “to be torn apart” and “to have special needs”. The consequences of not taking care of yourself in grief can be harsh. This means, in a nutshell, to do what you need to do to create conditions that allow you to integrate the death of someone you loved into your heart and soul.
In his book, Understanding Your Grief Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart, the author Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. describes the importance of nurturing yourself in five important realms.
1. The Physical Realm- Amongst the most common physical responses to loss are troubles with sleeping and low energy. I’ve blogged previously about how grief lives in the body and invite you to check out that post for further insights.
2. The Emotional Realm-The important thing to remember is that we honour our emotions when we give attention to them. Previous blogs of mine discuss this aspect in more detail.
3. The Cognitive Realm- Your mind is in a state of disorientation and confusion after a loss. The two most important questions to get answers to survive the months after a loss revolve around “What do I want? And What is wanted of me? I have previously blogged about grief and anxiety and invite you to refer to those posts for further information.
4. The Social Realm- It is so important to nurture the link to family, friends, and community. This is vital to your sense of well-being and belonging. Recognizing that your friendships will probably change is necessary. I have blogged about how to support mourners and how mourners need to express the support they need.
5. The Spiritual Realm- Loss tears us apart and causes us to question everything. We might feel like life isn’t worth living again.
By the spiritual realm, the author is not limiting it to your relationship with God or any other holy name from the various religions. “Spirituality can be found in simple things: a sunrise or sunset, the unexpected kindness of a stranger, the rustle of the wind in the trees.” (page 119). Nurturing this spiritual life allows you to connect with nature, but more importantly with the people around you with the end goal of becoming kinder, gentler and more forgiving of others as well as yourself.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) is what Jesus promised in theory, not in real time. It’s more like an assurance that the present state of things with all its sorrow and inequity isn’t final. However, He didn’t explain how that would happen. So, we start with ourselves.
The author suggests a few things to help you care for your spiritual self.
1. Create a sacred mourning space.
2. Start each day with a meditation or prayer.
3. Organize a tree planting.
4. Visit the great outdoors.
In conclusion, I ask you to reflect on this thought- Grief teaches us the importance of living fully in the present, to remember our past and to embrace our future. If we can care for ourselves in all five realms, we can find our journey through the grief landscape to be much more tolerable. What is your first step on this journey? Death doulas have a non-medical, non-funeral and non-legal scope of practice. We are fully versed in dealing with all aspects of death and dying, while remaining non-judgmental and open. Please reach out to us to help you on your death-related journey and be good to yourself.
Sources and recommended reading
Understanding Your Grief Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart by
Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.