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Healing In Grief: A Process Rather Than A State After One Has Experienced Loss


Grieving as a process takes its own time and each process grief in their way with many influencing factors on the responses to the loss and how the internal experience as well as the response to changed life circumstances is absorbed and reorganized.

Sandy Andrade, a Mindfulness & Presence Oriented Psychotherapist shares the process of grieving to deal with the loss. There is something fundamental that gets shifted in the process of grieving if the natural process is allowed and held. During the COVID pandemic, the Just Being Center for Mindfulness and Presence with Connecting Trust had run Mindfulness-based grief circles for several months for those experiencing grief and loss. Our learnings from these circles is how much a community-based experience where we can openly talk about the different feelings that we encounter, listen to other people’s experiences, and be allowed to have our feelings just the way it is, is so healing. When we allow these feelings without anyone trying to fix us to tell us to move through them faster than we can, the feelings open up to a deeper understanding of life, death, loss, the fundamental nature of impermanence, and allowing ourselves to come back to have a deeper, more meaningful engagement with life. Grief becomes a sacred process that touches into the heart of humanity, love, and deep connection.

Our understanding of grief for long has been shaped by the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in which she highlighted the stages of grief such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, more recent explorations have found that the grieving process is not linear. The Dual Process Model of Grief coined by Stroebe and Schut is more in line with the natural processes of grieving, whereby one oscillates between feelings of loss and restorative coping processes, where one is engaging in what is needed and the changes that are happening on account of the loss. Moving through both these loss orientation processes and restorative processes is a natural process of grieving. Many other factors influence the way we process grief, namely, our sources of support, our cultural and religious beliefs around loss and death, and our past experiences of loss and grief that haven’t been tended to.      

Some things to remember when we are grieving:  

• Each person has their way of grieving. We need to respect and allow the many ways it shows up and however, it shows up. Sometimes, it’s anger, denial, sadness, numbness. Grief is not just one emotion but a combination of emotions that include periods of feeling positive and feeling the loss.  

• Grief can be of all kinds. We usually speak about grief due to the loss of a loved one, but there can be grief and loss experienced when we lose our job, change cities or jobs, a relationship ends, or the `empty nest’ syndrome.

• Healing from grief does not have a timeline. It’s an ongoing process of integration.

• When we are in grief, we feel like it may never end, but like all things, it does change.

• The pain reduces and we feel like we can let other things and emotions in. This is a normal process of going in and out of grief and making more space for other experiences and feelings.

• We may feel the grief come up unexpectedly at times and we can allow for that as it shows up. It does not mean we haven’t healed from the grief. It is a part of the process and a slow assimilation of our deeply held feelings.  

 

• We expand our sources of support and care. Having spaces that allow us to have our grief in a non-judgmental and non-advisory way is healing. Grief circles or group therapy can be a good way to have this resource. 

• Behind this sense of grief, is a heart full of love. When we allow for our grief, we also allow for our love to flow.

• A healthy way is when we allow for our feelings of grief and also tend to the tasks that are needed in a changed scenario. This alternating from feeling grief and engaging in something restorative is found to be a normal healthy process.

 

• When we have experienced past trauma or previous losses that have not been adequately held, the current loss might bring up the grief of all previously held losses and it can feel overwhelming. We may need more support in addressing our grief. 

• The emotions we feel can be overwhelming, and it helps to bring our mindful attention to a sense of grounding by feeling our feet on the ground and having a hand on our heart, feeling the warmth of touch as a gesture of care.

Grief has a way of changing us. That is not necessarily a bad thing when we encounter our feelings with honesty and allow for that change to happen. There can therefore be periods of feeling quite lost as the ground on which we stood, our beliefs, and our sources of support become unhinged. This, is till the time when things slowly begin to open up in a new way, our deeply held connections with who or what we’ve lost always remaining in our hearts.



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