Dealing With Grief in Tumultuous Times

We live in a culture where expressing grief is not honored in meaningful ways. We live in a society that’s awkward around the subject of death, dying, and grief. We have “bereavement leaves” in the workplace that last for three or four days. We use words like you need to “keep busy” and maintain a “stiff upper lip.” It’s almost as if we encourage each other to turn a blind eye and ear to our true feelings. So it’s no wonder that we call this grief “work.” It is indeed work to express our feelings, in a culture where we do not make it easy to do something that’s actually quite a natural process.

Having acknowledged that, I now would like to invite you to imagine with me what it would be like to live in a totally different culture, where expressing grief is encouraged and honored. I’ve been reading some material by a woman named Sobonfu Some — her name means “keeper of the rituals” — of West Africa whose tribe, the Dagara tribe in Burkina Faso, actually encourages their people to let go and grieve whatever no longer serves them. As a child, she remembers when a friend of hers died and she was asked the question, “Have you grieved, cried enough?” rather than “Aren’t you finished crying about that yet?” The belief among the Dagara Tribe is that hanging on to old pain makes it grow until it can smother our joy and creativity. So it’s always a good thing to be “letting go” and releasing. Doesn’t that feel liberating to imagine living in a place where you are encouraged to grieve?

I have heard it said that if all the women of the world could cry at once, the world would be healed. Certainly, if all of us who needed to cry, grieve and release “old stuff ” could do so when necessary, we probably wouldn’t be fighting each other so much. Rather, we might take more responsibility for our own pain and work on letting it go.

So, as we consider our grief and the memories of those we have loved, I want to invite you to grieve in any way that you can, today and in the days ahead! I want to invite you to be really good to yourselves in these grief-laden, intensely pain-filled days. May you find, and create time to be sad, to look at photographs of your loved one, even cry your eyes out if you need to. May you honor the things, people and places that your loved one loved, and do things that will help you to honor and remember them. May you find creative and safe ways that you can release your feelings of anger, rage, denial, sorrow and loneliness. Write in a journal, or go for long walks in the beauty of nature, to let Mother Earth know about your pain. Seek out a support group or a counselor, and really delve into and embrace your pain and sorrow.

One of the things I find myself doing as a bereavement counselor is giving people permission to grieve the way they need and want to. I’ll never forget a phone call I made years ago to a woman who had just lost someone very significant in her life. She said that her friends were urging her to get out with them and “do things.”But she said that all she wanted to do was to stay in bed and eat ice cream. I suggested to her that probably what she needed to do for the next little while, at least, was to stay in bed and eat ice cream! We all sometimes need this encouragement to follow the guidance that our intuition is already bringing us.

As you move through any “letting go” process, may you remember that all the struggles and trials of grief that you move through can be considered “compassion training.” As you go through these hard times of releasing a loved one or something that no longer serves you, you have the great potential to become a stronger person. As human beings, we will inevitably suffer pain and loss at some point in our lives.Walking through the unknown, the “adventure of grief,” has the potential to bring us deep growth and transformation.

One more thing I would encourage you to do when moving through your grief is to deepen your spiritual life. Whether you spend more time in nature, find a good way to pray, tune in, or talk with God/Spirit, it’s so important right now to allow your “Higher Power” to guide your way. If we don’t ask, it can’t happen; this is universal law.

I recently read a piece by Rev.Leo Booth in Unity’s Daily Word, which reminded me of Popeye and his spinach. When Popeye was in a fix, he would reach for a can of spinach, and thus, he was always able to overcome any obstacle that was in his way. The spinach is always there; we just need to remember to reach for it!