Just to set the stage. True that this note begins with death and grief. It also gives the hope in the end for one way to help ease the suffering. My goal is to be respectful and not to set expectations or promises. My hope is that we may open a window to possibilities. May the view from this window offer peace and ease.
Acknowledging death of someone, especially close, takes courage. We know this, don’t we? It is tough to explain to those who have not yet experienced. It takes radical acceptance of what is. The fact of death stays. Our desire to change such fact may be strong, perhaps especially so in the beginning. So are our inner understanding that a new knowing is added to our experiences and life is now this way. Thoughts appear continuously. They carry us through movies in our heads, scenarios, “what if”s.
There is a helpful practice to accompany us during especially tough times. It is self compassion, as well as compassion towards others. Compassion is important for our and others’ well being. It opens the space so that grief and life work may become more nourishing rather than depleting. It carries us through. Being gentle with our experience of grief is what we can give ourselves as a gift.
It may sound strange to offer kindness to self. Or that it can help. There is a different kind of healing in compassion. We may notice that it eases burdens that we place on our being. I could have said on our shoulders. We often begin with the burden of being “left behind”. That is a much heavier burden on our whole self than just the shoulders. Moving through this sense of heaviness is a process in and of itself. Moving through the processing of grief may be even bigger. It depends on each situation. Is it really this confusing without a clear path, then?
Death is both simple and complex. As birth, it is the other certain end of this puzzle of life. Yet, it is so overlooked, hidden, pushed aside in our Western minded culture. A clear path to include death and grief in our wholeness is therefore not guaranteed for most of us who are “left behind”. I am not suggesting by any means that there should be a prescriptive way to experience grief or help others to do it. What I am saying is that we often instead get faced with starting from scratch to learn to “deal” with it. This learning is repeated more often than may be beneficial and effective for the whole society’s healing from such profound experiences. Especially since they are bound to happen to all of us at least once or more in our lives. If birth is treated in more prescriptively healing and inclusive ways, so could death, too.
Some of us are formulating in our minds what more readily available support structures may be. In parallel, those of us grieving are formulating our own practices to help us in our own ways. My suggestion is always, always, to include compassion. It is easier to feel compassion towards another person, to feel together with them what they are going through. It even feels more natural. It is even assumed that compassion is something we extend to another.
The good news is that we can absolutely experience compassion towards ourselves. We can feel with love and understanding our experiences. We can allow our emotions and thoughts to come through. We can allow ourselves to experience our grief in our own way. We can allow the time that it takes to process this experience. We can love our core being for what it is or who it is. We can listen to our inner guidance if and when it emerges. We can start trusting that there is an inner guidance that may know what is best for us at any given time. We can respect our needs rather than trying to please anyone else. We can stand in our grief in an authentic way that honors our experience. We can accept that healing is available to us and that we are deserving of it. And so much more.
Compassion gives us the gift to honor the process that has occurred to our loved one(s) and us. May we notice our need for it. May we give ourselves the freedom to experience it.
With love and kindness.