How to deal with grief?
The loss of a loved one is never easy. It rattles your life upside-down and leaves one with a deep void within. You can feel damaged, disoriented, and disillusioned. Crippling emptiness, loneliness overshadows you and life may seem to be holding no meaning to you. You don’t know how to move on in life, where to find peace and solace. The air of shock, anger, denial, despair, grief, fear, and uncertainty engulfs you.
Here I am reminded of a parable of Lord Gautam Buddha. A lady came to Lord Buddha whose only son experienced an untimely death. She was completely shattered. With some residual hope in her heart, she went to Lord Buddha and pleaded with him to bring her son back to life. He listened to her tragic story and then instructed that lady to go back to her village and gather mustard seeds from the households where no one had died. In return, he promised that he would create medicine to bring her son back to life. The lady wiped her tears dry and knocked on the door of every house in the village. People said, “We can give mustard seeds, but my family is already touched by the death of so many people”. She started to lose hope and by evening she was without a single seed of mustard. This whole process made her realize the fact of the universality of death and that everyone at some point in their life loses a loved one to death. With this new understanding, her grief was calmed, and she finally decided to bury her son in the forest. In the end, she became a disciple of Lord Buddha.
If we reflect on this story, we gather a few facts;
The lady had forgotten that death is a universal fact and that death is inseparable from life.
She had a strong sense of attachment and ownership for her son. She couldn’t realize that her son was on his own journey.
Like that lady, we also strive to avoid the pain of losing something and someone and look for happiness throughout. We forget that we don’t control life, instead, life controls us. Many unforeseen forces may work for us as well as against us.
How to make peace with the death of a loved one and move forward?
The grief felt by people varies from person to person and so does the coping process. It largely depends on the type of loss, the mental strength of the griever, family support, beliefs, faith in God, and most importantly how one perceives the concept of life and death. Acceptance of loss is the only way to overcome grief. This acceptance can be developed by creating new thought patterns. Someone has rightly said -
’If you know better you do better. If you change your mind you can change your life.‘’
Here are a few realizations and healthy perspectives which you can utilize to cope with grief-
You are not alone
For the griever, it is a reminder that you are never truly alone in your experience. Life has been like that for centuries. Others have also faced and felt the same way, and yet they found a way through. So you are not alone my friend! Gather the courage, trust, and the will to find a way out of your misery.
Accept what you cannot change
You must actively and consciously choose to focus on what you can change, and accept what you can’t. This means mentally, emotionally, and spiritually accepting the reality of your loss and letting go of the past that you cannot bring back.
Develop and elevated perception of death
One must realize that life is a fragile happening which includes a series of inhalation and exhalation. In every inhalation, we are born and in every exhalation, we die. One day we might not exhale. It is a scary thought, isn't it? If living is an ongoing process so is death. The dying process is already on. The only thing we willfully ignore is to this extent that the use of the word death is prohibited in our discussions of daily life. We must understand mortality is the fundamental reality of our existence. Death is certain, rest is not certain. Unfortunately, we think vice versa. We can't defy reality. If we don’t come to terms with this nature of existence, the pain that comes along with it will become unbearable. The truth is like any other thing in the universe human beings also have to break and merge with nature. Human beings are not above death. We have to play the role assigned to us by nature. Be aware that this drama will come to an end and one has to go back to its original nature. We should train ourselves to welcome the new players in the drama as well as say goodbye to the people whose role has come to an end. We are not here forever, and neither is anybody we love. Our family friends are not our possession, everybody is on their own journey.
Expand your perception of life
Normally our life revolves around ourselves, our home, family, possession of wealth, job, social image, etc. So, whenever we lose any of these, we get too shaken within. However, if we expand our goal of life, divide our attention and love to the whole creation, we would be able to absorb the shock more easily. Larger involvement with life will lessen your grief.
Your life is your choice
What life throws at us is not our choice, but how we make out of it is 100% our choice. We must exercise this choice. This is the power that makes a human being different from others. As human beings, we must decide whether we want solace or a solution in life.
Time is the universal healer
Be patient with yourself. If happiness is not permanent, so is sadness. As soon as a person dies, life forces automatically start filling the vacuum created by death. No one can stop the flow of life. Give yourself time to accept what has happened. There is no schedule for when you should feel certain emotions or be over with them. However, how you have to move ahead is your choice. Choose to stand up for yourself and move on. Accept your feelings and know that grieving is a process.
Find the reason to live
Another way to move forward is to focus on all the reasons you need to return to become the person you were before the loss. You can take up a new hobby or change your routine. Get back to the activities that bring you joy. Exercise regularly, eat well, and get enough sleep to stay healthy and energized. It is only when you care for yourself physically that you can process your losses emotionally and spiritually.
Own your new reality
Remember, life doesn’t stop just because that person is not alive. Ask yourself if your loved one would really want you to stop your life because they’re no longer alive. Live in the moment forgetting the past or future. Breathe in reality and breathe out the past.
Allow your grief to be a reason for self-growth
Grief and tragedy are usually so intense that they provide opportunities for self-reflection and growth. Great lessons can be learned from tragedy and grief. Grief may bring out the authentic you.
Observe how other people managed to overcome
Once you muster the courage, talk to your friends, relatives, and well-wishers who have gone through similar situations and found the way out. If possible, join support groups. Don't isolate yourself, rather connect with your loved ones and allow them to help you.
Talk to a counselor or a psychologist if necessary
The psychological effects of the death of a loved one may have a traumatizing effect on you. Grief is very personal, and you may feel something different every time. You may need several weeks or years to get over it. But prolonged feelings of sadness and hopelessness may cause depression. In depression, one finds difficulty in performing everyday activities and feels purposeless, desireless, and suicidal. In that case, one may consult a counselor or a doctor for medication and learn how to face this fundamental reality of life. A counselor will help you to accept the death of a loved one and educate you with appropriate coping strategies.
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