In one of my last articles I wrote on the subject of grief and loss. I was preparing myself, as if one ever could, for the loss of my beloved friend. Miraculously, unbelievably, joyously, I was blessed that he stayed on the earth plane enjoying life through summer and fall. He left his frail body very recently and made his transition home to The Other Side. It was a very beautiful and moving journey, including his transition day when time seemed frozen still. I was so very blessed to be right by his side for it. I am still in the process of grieving and acknowledging all the wondrous gifts of shared moments and lessons that his life brought me. Although a part of me would like to curl up and take many weeks and months to heal and be still – life just isn’t prepared to let me do that.
So, I am doing my best at gently folding my grieving into the batter of daily life, and easing myself back into what is undeniably a full time. I’m not alone in having to do this. Grieving parents face it, so do widows, widowers, adult children and many more. It has me thinking quite a lot about how our society has a very skewed perception on grief and healing. Companies offer policies proclaiming, one, two, and three day leaves for family deaths and funerals. Few offer decent time or compensation for grieving. I began to wonder what the hurry is? Perhaps somewhere along the way, someone got scared that if we let people actually take as long as they need to take to go through a life change, a loss, or grieving, that they might wind up never coming back to their ‘old’ way of being. So rather than embrace that change as something positive, policies were designed to contain or deny grief’s very existence.
What those policies fail to comprehend is that despite our best efforts at ‘normalcy’ and routines, the truth is that once we have lost someone we’ve loved, we are never the same. A bit of our innocence is lost, and the tapestry of ‘us’ is permanently altered whether we like it or not. Some of us will fold our grieving in, buck up, and move forward, quickly gathering up speed again. If we could press a fast forward button, we’d hasten through the uncomfortable parts completely. Those that do not or cannot choose the hastening model are sometimes viewed as ‘a wreck’, ‘a mess’ or worse. So for all our evolution, we are not exactly swimming in a plethora of choices when it comes to grief. And the process of grief can be extremely challenging, whether we ourselves are suffering, or we are standing by feeling helpless, watching those we love suffer.
Other cultures, species, and indigenous peoples embrace grief differently. Many consider grief a sacred phase of healing. Buddhists teach this as part of their lessons in impermanence. African cultures have grief and death rituals that can take weeks and months. Even wild elephants take time to stop and grieve when they come upon the bones of a long since deceased loved one in the wild. They stand around for hours, days, even weeks with visible tears falling from their eyes, as their trunks deeply breath in the smell of their dearly departed. And who amongst us hasn’t buried our faces in the clothing object of our beloved departed, hoping against all hope to smell their familiar ‘smell’ just one more time?
For all of our Western advances, grief is something a lot of folks don’t feel they have a handle on. Nor do they want to. After the services have been paid for and the out of town company has gone home we careen about our lives, rushing back to this and that – meeting obligations, and packing some of that understanding and compassion away until next time. We may even be frightened or frustrated by the grieving amongst us, as it brings up a level of discomfort we’d just as soon not slow down and face. It’s like we are superstitious in thinking it’s contagious: “hey, don’t ‘go there’ or you, too, may get some of what they’ve ‘got’.”
It’s time to encourage a new perspective–one that embraces grief with understanding and compassion. Let’s start by re-framing the concept of grief into something bigger and more important. Let’s embrace the concept of seeing grief as a sacred space… because out of it something really powerful and good does eventually come. Maybe in doing this we won’t continue missing where all the sacred synthesis happens. Grief is a journey. A very private and personal journey that takes as long as it takes. No two grief experiences are exactly the same. That’s because sacred synthesis is a God-made phenomenon, not a man made one. It won’t ‘just happen’ during that 2-3 day leave your company provides. It will in all likelihood take a whole lot longer. Synthesis means allowing ourselves (or our grieving loved ones) to go through the stages of grief, the self-realizations, the reordering of our lives, the remeasuring of time (before X. was here, after X. was gone) and learning to understand the ’empty spaces between the spaces’ that you somehow never noticed before.
Sacred space is a time when our guides, God, deceased loved ones, and angels draw in even closer and do their best to comfort and console us. For some, it can be a precious opportunity to grow spiritually, and to strengthen their bond with The Source, God. It takes time for the natural stages of earthly grief, be it the emotional toll, the physical loss, or just waiting for Life, in It’s Infinite Wisdom, to reorganize the vibrational shift so that the loss of a loved one is not so acutely sharp. It takes time to adjust to the communication shift, and for the physical loss to heal. Yet ironically, as an’ advanced’ Western society, time is something we seem to have very little of. Patience is not something that is understood or embraced. We hurry about our days, beeping our horns, impatiently waiting our turn on hold, and wishing the microwave didn’t take so darn long… but if we can’t even sit through a commercial, how will we ever tolerate ‘sitting’ through grief? The simple answer remains: compassion.
Scientists have been studying grief and have recently reached two distinct conclusions: First, that the emotional effects of grief cause actual physical pain in the body that can be both measured and seen; Second, that the loss of anyone we’ve loved is equally significant, whether they had two legs or four – the effects of grief are exactly the same. This is something new to our ‘civilized’ society, and it means expanding our already inadequate grief model. It means, you guessed it, more compassion.
My own best advice for dealing with a sacred time of grief is this: Focus on staying present, and relishing this sacred space for what it is. Get outside each day and breath in the fresh air. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Spend a few moments watching the clouds or the stars. Don’t rush the people you love who are grieving through their sacred process. Respect it. Have compassion for it. Try to understand it. Don’t quantify it (remember the scientist’s conclusions), encourage those in grief not to censor themselves. Just be. The sky won’t fall open and swallow you up. Offer to listen. Cry with them if you like. Don’t take offense at their process. Just because there appear to be some ‘good’ days, doesn’t mean there won’t be any more challenging moments or rough days. Grief is a lot like the stock market, it is not a linear thing. It’s a lot more like the graphs of the stock market (yikes), spiking up and down with every breeze. Those who are able to be present, be it physically, emotionally, spiritually, or psychically–despite their fears–do bring comfort. They do help to expand our inadequate grief model. And they become part of the sacred journey of healing and help God to spread grace around all of our hearts. ~ Laura Scott