Meeting grief

Meeting grief

I’ve noticed that related life events often come in droves, grouped together, one after the other, almost as if the lesson within is demanding to be seen, heard and acknowledged. I’ve come to see that it’s more than pattern recognition or coincidence. It’s as though life says, “Look here human, come hell or high water, you better listen up. Now.” It appears that the lessons I’m supposed to be aware of right now surround death.

Within the past month, two family members have passed away. Three weeks ago, I witnessed the aftermath of a fatal car crash and yesterday, a man was shot on the street opposite my family home. My eyes have now laid upon four lifeless human bodies in under one month. I feel as though I have no choice but to meet grief face to face.

But, what does that even mean and how do I do that?

Over my 28 years of living, grief is not a process that I’ve become familiar with as I have not lost anyone within my inner circle of family or friends (people who I interact with daily). Because of this, I feel as if I’m in some sort of middle ground where sadness is there but not fully. I feel the weight of it the most once I imagine what it must be like for my family who are experiencing this loss directly and viscerally. I’m trying to give myself that space to feel while also figuring out what I can do to help.

On my morning walk today, I listened to Tim Ferriss in conversation with Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist teacher. They spoke on anxiety and how we can begin to cope with it. I found the approaches helpful and thought I could try approaching grief in the same way. Here are some practices adapted and taken from the episode’s show notes:

  1. Acknowledge that grief is entirely human and to name it by saying, “Oh, this is grief. It feels this way in my body. I see you. I feel you.”
  2. The next thing I can say is, “Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for reminding me to appreciate those around me wholeheartedly. Thank you for bringing me back to the real essence of life which dwells in the relationships that we form with others. Thank you for bring me back to the present moment. Thank you for trying to protect me. Thank you.”
  3. Know that there’s something called the wisdom of insecurity, that it’s actually okay to be insecure. Get comfortable with uncertainty. When you realize that you can’t know, you come back into the present moment.
  4. Ground your senses. Feel your feet on the floor or maybe go out in nature, stand there with a tree. Feel the roots of the tree and imagine your own feet as roots into the Earth. Notice the wind comes and the storms and all those things happen but the tree is rooted and it can stay there, and you can be the same. You can let the storms of thoughts and fears and so forth arise.
  5. Question your thoughts. “What if that thought isn’t true? How can you know that thought is true?” If you look deeply, you can’t know it. You get to a place of realizing that your thoughts are tentative, they’re creation. You say, Thank you, thank you for trying to protect me.” Again, you become the witness of those thoughts.

I also find comfort in this passage by Jeff Foster. I remember including a printout of it in sympathy cards that I made for customers in the past because I hoped it would ease their pain, even if just for a moment.

When a loved one passes, do not worry. Weep, wail, scream, yes, honour their memory, but do not worry. They haven’t gone anywhere, strictly speaking. They have simply lost location and time. You can no longer pin them down, say ‘there they are’, find them in their materiality, seek them in your personal world. But you see, they were never tied to their bodies in the first place. Their arms, their legs, their brain, their fingers, their blood, their kidneys – these were not the things that defined them. You loved the physical, yes, you were attached to it, you expected it to continue, but it was not all of your love. You are being called now to remember a deeper love, a universal love, a love that is not attached to form, a love that knows no bounds. A love that does not flee into past and future, but remains so very present as you go about your days. A love that does not depend on word nor place, that follows you wherever you go, that is inseparable from your very own presence, that whispers in your ear late at night… I AM HERE. Do not search for your loved one in time nor space, friend, do not reach for them and find them absent. They are closer than all that. It will take a while to readjust to their formlessness, of course. You will be called to let go of dreams, yes, and there will be much pain to be felt, much grief to explore with courage and willingness. Get ready to break open for love! But, oh, the joy of discovering your loved one right where you left them! And the excitement of a relationship shattering open into the Infinite! Know they cannot leave you! Know they never will! For they are in your presence, and you in theirs! — Jeff Foster

For now, I’m being more mindful and intentional with how I spend my time and trying to open up more to grief. It’s so easy these days to allow myself to be distracted instead of being present. I’m still engaging in the activities that light me up: forming a community of like-minded individuals, building my business by working through my first offer, going back to engaging on social media, but only if I truly feel that I want to do those things in the moment. I’m prioritising family time and just cherishing the beauty of the people around me.

To grief, I say, “Thank you for introducing yourself. What have you got to teach me?”