The last few weeks have been challenging for all of us with the sudden and unexpected deaths of many of our community, family and friends. Remaining mindful and compassionate in the face of such difficulties is a challenge for all of us. Grief is very painful and unexpected death reminds us of the fragility and preciousness of life. Over the many years of practicing as a psychologist I have worked with many people in their grief process. Each person has their own unique way of grieving and their own time frame. But what can be most helpful is the permission to speak about their loved one without judgement; to BE with their painful emotions so that life can have renewed meaning.
Throughout times of great change and suffering leaders both political and spiritual grow in importance as we turn our minds for guidance as to how to respond and behave. To understand and make sense of our personal reactions and the reactions of others. How to respond to someone who has lost a loved one and how to understand and accept the painful feelings of grief.
Everyone has their own way of grieving and there is not one right or wrong way. One way to understand grief is that it is a process that has its own beginning, middle and end. Ritual such as lighting of candles, prayers and practices all help us in our grief. A sense of continuity or purpose in the life of the person and in their death can also be helpful. Counseling can be very helpful as the counseling process enables the person to speak openly about their loved one without concern of being judged. The counseling process aims to bring comfort and acceptance to the process of grief.
As a psychologist and Buddhist practitioner I have received training on the care of the dying and the process of the dying. As a Mater trained nurse for more than 10 years I have also learned about death through the care of many who have faced death through accident, old age or sickness. My teacher Sogyal Rinpoche has written the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and in this book he shown many of his students how to live well and how to prepare for death. Others who have written and researched grief are Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who identified grief as a process of shock, disbelief, denial, sadness, bargaining, and anger before one can experience acceptance.
My own experience of the loss of loved ones has shown me that grief is very personal and painful but also mystical. The most painful aspect of grief is the realization that your loved one will not return. That their life is complete. The mystical is this sense that their something beyond the physical and the material.
My wish is that if you read this blog that you will be comforted to know that everyone will one day experience the loss of another and that grieving will happen. But that the grieving process will also come to an end. This does not mean that the person who has passed, loses meaning or importance to you but that the grief process is complete. Some people do find it helpful to seek counseling for their grief and others find comfort in engaging in spiritual practice others turn to meaningful activity such as travel or volunteer work. Others take on a whole new focus for their life.