October 18, 2020

10 Things we Need to Know about the Nature of Grief (& How to Survive It).


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Most mornings, I start my day with yoga and/or a run, depending on how much time I’ve got.

I’m blessed to live near a massive, magical woods with some enormous old trees. Forest bathing on my front doorstep.

I have a preferred route with its weaves and turns, though, one day I ran a different path directly down the middle of the woods and found there was a huge spacious clearing where I got to see through the canopy of trees, noticing the big, bright blue sky with passing clouds above.

Since discovering that route, I often run it now, as that little open patch where the light gets through just feels so good energetically.

I often wondered curiously how such a dense woods could have a huge segment of open sky space. Did they miss a patch while planting? Did someone just decide that this was the central point of the woods where clear blue sky would beam through?

Then I walked through the path today slowly instead of my usual racing by and saw the remains of a huge ancient felled tree—its wide stump still laying on its side while its roots were reaching out into my eyeline as if screaming “Look at me!”

The realization hit me like a ton of bricks that the death of this giant godfather of a tree is what caused the clearing amongst the trees and grand opening up into the sky. The canopy of trees had light coming through only because this tree had died. It dawned on me that that was exactly what the death of my mother had done to me.

The uprooting and the gaping hole in my world that my mother’s death had caused me had also affected the ecosystem of my whole family’s growth and development. It left me reeling in darkness and the unknown for two decades, until I allowed myself to start to move toward the light and eventually allow it to shine through me—like the felled tree and that radiant open patch of sky it caused.

I can say with confidence now that the other side of the tunnel of grief is the illuminating light of love.

Dealing with grief is one of the hardest things one has to do on the human spectrum of complexities, and I do love how nature shows me every day the cycle of life and death all around us.

Here’s an easy list of ways to get yourself through the grieving process:

1.Understand that the cycle of grief is timeless and nonlinear.

The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Some days you may go up and down, round and round through the five stages, and some weeks you may feel like you’re just ebbing and flowing through one of the stages.

Grief is best thought of as waves rather than a straight line or process.

2. No fixing.

Know that you do not need to be fixed. Grieving is not bad. It’s absolutely normal and necessary. You cannot “fix” grief, as there is no opposite emotion.

3. Join or create a support group or a grief group to talk about your loss.

Even if it’s just with one friend or a stranger, talk about your loss and deeply acknowledge your loved one’s life and your relationship to them. Feel the feelings that arise without apologizing or trying to suppress them. Do this with people who are going through the same process and get what you’re feeling. Some friends may prove useless and totally unrelatable, so it’s best to join a support group.

4. Journal daily.

This is a huge source of help to process the deep well of emotions that can easily and often overwhelm us. Write it out. Make it a daily practice in the morning and carry a little notebook around throughout the day, tracking peak times for sadness; it’s a great way to know yourself more deeply.

5. Create a “Remembrance Day.”

Designate one day a month—in the first year, at least—where the deceased’s favorite music is played, favorite clothes are pulled out, or their best stories are retold. This one is a huge positive! Honoring them and their lives keeps them alive in your mind and heart.

6. Take deep, radical rest.

Go slower, ease off your commitments, say no more often, and take deep rest. Doing this in this day and age can sometimes appear to be quite radical. Allow yourself half or a full day off—a break from grieving. This may sound strange, as if grieving is even a choice, but this is quite a liberating possibility and practice.

7. Learn to distinguish grief from trauma.

If the manner of their death was complex or brutal, this may likely have caused trauma, though doesn’t always. Trauma therapy, especially EDMR, is highly useful to deal with recalled imagery of a traumatic situation. Do seek therapy to heal the pain present around the story; you could spiral down into depression if left unprocessed.

8. Exercise.

Even just half an hour a day will help—a walk in nature, a short run, or some grounding yoga exercises are highly useful for your body and mind in releasing good endorphins to lift your mood, as well as feeling a slight freedom in the body. This moves us away from the stagnation and stuck feelings that grief cause within the body.

9. Write out a timeline of grief.

Write it all out—backtracking and recording all the losses you’ve experienced throughout your life, including pets, jobs, relationships, and dreams. Take time to acknowledge this list and know that since you have previously survived all those losses, you will get through this one also. In time. Day by day, breath by breath.

10. Logically, the head can’t and won’t fix the heart.

So stop trying to force this. Know that going through grief and loss will transform you in time, leaving you with the deepest and most profound feeling and knowing of truly understanding love.

I sincerely hope that this list helps you understand, process, and eventually move through to the other side of grief—which is profound love.

If you need help with this process, do reach out.


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