Dealing With Grief
Grief is a reaction to loss of any kind. Dealing with grief is different for all of us. By age 50 just about everyone has experienced some kind of loss, whether it’s the loss by death of a loved one or pet, loss of a friendship, loss of a job, loss of a home, loss of marriage through divorce, loss of our children when they go off to college…the list is endless. Loss is something we all go through and we need to find a way through the healing process after a loss. There is all kinds of help out there and things you can do for yourself, or for someone else in need, like grief counseling, individual or group therapy, meditation, medications, natural herbal supplements, etc. However, we will be focusing on a holistic approach to healing, here.
Stages of Grief
First, you must realize that when you have lost someone or something that you had an emotional attachment with, it will take time to process that loss. During that processing time, we go through 5 distinct stages:
Understanding the grief cycle holistically can help you if you are going through a loss yourself or if you are supporting a friend or a family member through a loss. The real danger is to get stuck at one stage of the process. Then there is no natural conclusion to grief and unresolved emotions have negative effects on our health.
It has been shown in various studies that grief can lower the immune system. It can cause a major decrease in the body’s ability to fight infection and other major illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. Grieving individuals are also more prone to colds and contracting minor illnesses. It is thought that this comes about as a result of stress, so it’s really important for the benefit of your health to reduce your stress as much as possible. Most of the holistic natural cures for grief focus on stress reduction through exercise, meditation, talking, etc. You can also boost your immune system by taking flower essences and other supplements.
Natural Remedies For Grief
We should remember that grief is natural, and it is the outcome of love and loss. When we are able to take a healing attitude to our grief, it becomes far less painful and we are grateful for the time we had with our loved one. It also makes integrating the loss and moving on to love again much easier. Many people get stuck in grief and become depressed as a result. Here is a list of some natural remedies for healing grief:
- Flower Essences
The way flower essences work is through raising our vibrational energy from the low energies of grief, sadness, anger, guilt and depression, to the higher energies of love, healing and gratitude. If you are already taking medication for grief, for example, an anti-depressant, you should not discontinue it. Try the flower remedies as well, and as you start to feel better, discuss tapering off the prescription medication with your doctor.
Meditation can be an important part of holistic grief healing. Practiced on a daily basis, meditation calms both body and mind. There are several reasons for this. Our brains produce different brain waves according to what we are doing and thinking. Meditation seems to shift our brain waves from beta (highly alert, concentrating, and working) to alpha (more relaxed and reflective). So if you are ruminating about grief, turning it over and over in your mind, then meditation can make you feel more relaxed and give you some peace of mind. Even looking at the beauty of nature can give you a taste of the profound sense of well being that meditation can bring about.
Breathing is one of simplest ways we can relieve stress, and create a feeling of relaxation in our bodies. It’s a fantastic natural cure for grief and depression as well. Research has shown that many depressed people breathe shallowly and therefore don’t get enough oxygen into their lungs to give vitality and energy. Breathing techniques increase oxygen saturation and also link the heart (feelings) and the brain (thoughts). There are many techniques for breathing. A simple one, which is taken from David Servan-Schreiber’s book, Healing without Freud or Prozac, is called the Heart Breath. Doing the Heart Breath is very simple and can be done as often as you need to. Take two or three really deep, slow breaths, focusing on the area of your heart itself. Some people place a hand on their chests to help with this. Imagine your heart as a child playing, perhaps in a paddling pool, having fun, being totally at ease with her surroundings. Give your heart this feeling of relaxation and nurture as you deeply and slowly take another five or six breaths. Your heartbeat should now be coherent, which will make you feel good. It also produces a steady flow of oxygenated blood to your brain, enabling you to think more clearly.
- Relaxation Therapy
If you are grieving, you may forget to relax. Being able to relax will bring many benefits, but two stand out. You will feel better and you will improve your health. Many studies have shown that widows, for example, who practiced progressive relaxation three or four times a day had increases in their immune cell activity. This is particularly important because we know that people who are going through the grief process are more susceptible to disease. The best place I’ve found to help with relaxation therapy, it on youtube. There are several great videos, there, demonstrating this style of therapy. Here are a couple links to videos you might find helpful in relaxing:
Without doubt, regular exercise is essential for health. It’s a particularly important natural cure for grief. It can be as simple as a brisk walk for half an hour every day. The important thing is to make a commitment to it and keep going long enough for it to become a habit. Having a set time of day for exercise is usually positive, as quite quickly you will find yourself looking forward to it. Choose something you enjoy, don’t force yourself to do something you hate. Try a number of different forms of exercise before you decide.
Yoga combines two important natural cures for grief – exercise and breathing. Many people become sedentary, especially when they are grieving. Alice Christensen, founder of the American Yoga Association recommends a couple yoga positions especially because they increase blood circulation, making it easier to overcome the physical effects of grief:
The Standing Sun
Stand straight, feet parallel, and breathe out to a count of three and then raise your arms to the sides in a semicircle and then overhead. Stretch and look up. Hold for a count of three, then breathe out to a count of three as you bend forward from the hips, keeping your head between your outstretched arms. Try to grasp your legs firmly with both hands. Relax.
The Knee Squeeze
Lying flat on your back with your arms at your sides, breathe in to a count of three as you raise your right knee to your chest. Make sure your lungs are full, wrap your arms around your knee, and hold your breath in for a count of three as you squeeze your knee to your chest. Repeat with your left leg. Then rest a moment, breathing gently. You can repeat this three times.
- Take up something new
Many people who go through the cycle of grief want to mark the end of the active mourning phase by taking up something new. Although this is not recommended for people who are still in shock or depression following a loss, it is an excellent natural cure for later stages of grief as it leads a person back into the stream of life.
Creativity is one of the best natural cures for grief. Not only does it help us by encouraging us to focus on something outside of ourselves, there is usually a good result as well. Creativity can come in many forms: writing, painting, sketching, building something, gardening, etc.
Talking is one of the oldest of the natural cures for grief. You may find comfort in talking with a friend or you might want to find a bereavement counselor. These are counselors who are specially trained in talking to people who are going through the grief process. They are trained in listening skills and can skilfully help you to move through the stages of grieving.
- Energy Healing
One form of natural cure for grief is energy healing. The essence of energy healing is understanding that we are all vibration fields of energy. The faster energies seem more associated with positive states 0f mind. So if a healer intervenes and raises our energy level we will probably notice that we feel mentally clearer and happier. What happens in the mind tends to be reflected in the body and so usually physical health improves as well. Reiki is an example of energy healing.
Whatever approach you choose or feel comfortable with, the end goal should always be the same…that you can reach acceptance and are able to move forward with your own life. Not long ago, I found myself stuck in the depression stage following the suicide of my ex-husband. I was totally consumed by grief and sadness. I was finally able to pull myself out of it through meditation, yoga, writing and talking about it. I already knew the powers of meditation and yoga, but I was really surprised with the therapeutic relief I felt from writing about my experience during that time. I am sharing a short essay I wrote about the scene at the hospital, right after his death, I hope it helps you in some way:
The True End
The last event I shared with Mark was hosted by Judge Dezso held at the county courthouse. After a bumpy ride down, the dented silver elevator door sputtered open to the first floor. The scent of a million old documents instantly hijacked the olfactories.
And, there he was, perfect posture in check. Fresh haircut, crisp dress shirt, slightly crooked tie and pressed brown pants. I noticed he was sporting the brown dress shoes, with the tassels on top, that I remembered buying a lifetime earlier. Ironically, the original purchase was for our simple wedding day. But, that was all finished this day and, I was certain those papers we had just signed meant, “the end”. I was so wrong.
The true end presented itself 4 years later. It waited for my viewing displeasure beyond a different elevator door. A freshly painted and painfully silent elevator door glided open with Star Trek precision. A sanitized glass floor paved the way down an endless hallway that led to the true end. It resided in the second to last gloom doom room on the left. The hike down to the second to last room on the left took days. Or seemed to, as my cement shoes followed the glass floor, leading me by rooms filled with sobbing families as they slumped over motionless lumps in sterile sheets. Life support machines beeped and ventilators willed chests to rise and fall. And, there was the soft squeaking of the nurses rubber soles on the glass floor as they slipped in and out of each room.
Then, finally, I was there. The second to last gloom doom room on the left. And, there he lay, a motionless lump in sterile sheets. The life support machine stood quietly next to the bed, awaiting orders. There were no rhythmic beeps or controlled rise and fall of the chest. He was, literally, in Savasana, or corpse pose. Arms limp at his sides, legs relaxed with feet pointing slightly out. His mouth was agape, exposing nubby tobacco teeth. Funny, I had seen him like that 1000 times, passed out on the couch at 3:00 in the afternoon. I half expected his Molsen glazed eyes to flutter open, seek me out and scold me with that cold accusing stare. I noticed the familiar jagged scar on his forehead, the result of a drunken tumble down our stairs. His meaty palms were stained with black ink. Apparently, surviving family members are presented with hand prints of the dearly departed these days. Who knew? Surprisingly, there were no obvious bruises from where he had wrapped the extension cord around his surprisingly fragile neck.
The finality struck me when my trembling right hand involuntarily found its way to rest on his chest. There was nothing. No beating heart, no lung expansion, nothing. I stood there frozen for a moment before reaching for a nearby chair. My legs had turned to rubber and were unable to bear my weight. As I eased myself into the chair, I slowly closed my eyes. A reservoir of tears spilled out, coursing down my cheeks and dripped from my quivering chin. I was overcome, as they say, with grief. I had never known such heartache. THIS was the true end.
I truly hope you found something useful here. Please feel free to leave your comments below, including any special way you’ve used to deal with any grief you may have had in your life.