Advice and Suggestions
Grief and Loss
Thank you to Ganga Daryanani, RSW, a therapist and holistic counsellor in Toronto, who wrote this article for us on grief and loss.
“While the journey must be taken alone, it need not be lonely”
Loving and leaving are just part of living —and hurt deeply. Whether we expect it, or it sneaks up from behind and rips the rug out from under us, no one is really emotionally prepared for the loss of someone we love. Our world will never be the same.
We feel dazed, numb, angry, or scared, and a million emotions flood our body. Feeling overwhelmed is an understatement. People are chattering around us, but nothing is sinking in. We’d give anything just to wake up from this nightmare, and have our life just like it was. Unfortunately, that isn’t our reality.
So many things we should have said...
The hard, cold fact is that now things are different…drastically different. And we deeply need to heal and be comforted.
How can we heal when we feel so guilty? So many things we should have said, but didn’t. And now it’s too late. Our mind torments us with a never ending list of regrets: ‘If only...’ followed by the guilt ridden ‘I should have…’ You dare not say it, but yes, you are so angry: angry with yourself, even worse—angry with them for dying. You feel so gut wrenchingly alone.
How do we cope?
In this emotionally fragile state, it becomes obvious how much we depended on our loved one. Life will be so different without them. How do we cope? Heal? Where do we begin?
Grief works its way through four normal stages. These are denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. We all experience these feelings; and they hurt. So how do we heal from this? You’re likely already experiencing the initial steps of healing by working through the grieving process at your own pace.
There is a positive side to grieving, although this is difficult to believe. This is going to be a time of transformation and deep personal growth for you. For example, we are forced to think about our own life expectancy. Knowing first-hand how difficult grief can be, wouldn’t the loving thing for us to do be to prepare for our own passing? We plan for our future so why not our legacy? Are your affairs in order? Some procrastinate and find themselves near the end of life without the strength or focus to complete their estate plans. So once your planning is done, file it away. Enjoy the time you have—creating wonderful, happy memories with others. Your friends and family will reflect on these times of how blessed they were to have known you.
Nature is the greatest proponent of change. The changing seasons reflect that there is no such thing as permanent death of anything. There is a change of form and then a new life comes forward every spring.
Change can be empowering and inspiring. It can be a bridge allowing you to cross over to another place that you would not necessarily have chosen. We cannot shield ourselves from the natural cycle of life and death. Embrace it. Otherwise, your life shrinks into endless repetition and shallowness.
In our Western culture, we simply don’t discuss death. It’s taboo. Whereas in Buddhism, they remind themselves constantly about life and death, believing this is the only way to live a happy, healthy, wholesome life.
We’ve come a long way in our technological society, but we’re still looking for inner peace and happiness. We have more anxiety and inner suffering than a person from a primitive, yet spiritually advanced village in Asia or Africa. Why is that?
The Buddhist answer is awareness of impermanence and death. Through this awareness we lose attachments to meaningless endeavours and gain a deeper sense of our humanity, enabling us to see the humanity of others.
What if you or a loved one receives a negative medical prognosis? The stages of grief on receipt of such news are basically the same. You’re going to go through these stages along with your family and friends. You’re going to want to see or do the things you have been putting off doing.
As in all grieving stages, allow everyone to express their emotions. This will allow the family to go through a phase of preparatory grief, just like the dying person. The more this grief can be expressed before death, the less unbearable it becomes afterwards.
The most difficult time is the final phase, when the patient is slowly detaching himself from his world. It’s most important to recognize that the patient is not rejecting you, but needs to detach, to let go, to be ready to die.
Children need to mourn as well. If parents reprimand kids for showing grief, they will hold their grief inside, setting the stage later for emotional and physical ill health. Allow them to vent and you listen; be prepared for the guilt, anger and sadness. Share your feelings too, and work through them.
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