Being Present While Grieving
Finding out a loved one has died is like a detonated bomb that damages the boundaries of presence.
You have a sharp moment when you are present (finding out the person died). It creates a pain so big and powerful that your mind and soul cannot contain it. That pain explodes, creating heartbreak.
You are then thrown into the past with the shouldas, couldas, and wouldas. You cling to the memories, almost as if losing your loved one risks losing the memories as well. Thinking of the past becomes so stressful that your mind then runs away from the stress into the future. You then imagine what the future will look like without that loved one in your life. The thought of that is also stressful; so your mind runs away back to the past, and then back and forth you go.
During the moments when you are in the present, the pain is still strong and palpable. The present moment = this person you love is not here. Your mind tries to reduce the pain as much as possible. You distract yourself with work, fun, or a task that requires your undivided attention. If you don’t, your mind continues to run away to the past and future.
Grief is the frequency and force with which you switch between the past and future in response to the pain of the present. How long grief lasts depends on how long it takes to repair the damage to the boundaries that help you live in the present moment.
I don’t have a solution to grief, because the pain is different with each loss. But being aware of what is happening in response to each loss will make it easier to get through it. Being aware makes it easier to know when I need a bit of extra care and comfort so that I can seek it out. My loved one would want that for me.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
One night during my third year of college, some friends knocked on my dorm room door proclaiming, "We're going country line dancing! Let's go!" In which reality would you see a Jamaican going country line dancing in the middle of Connecticut? Apparently, in the one where your friends offer to pay for everything.
Human beings are social by nature. There isn't a person on Earth whose thoughts, emotions, actions, and beliefs are not impacted in one way or another by people. Faced with that reality, one of the best forms of self-care is creating for yourself a network of people who make us feel loved, safe, and supported at all times: your tribe.
If you've been ignored, dismissed, berated, taken advantage of, belittled, or underestimated, you may have felt like a waste of space, subhuman, unloved, or like a doormat. But, if you were to remove your culturally-created self, the part of you that identifies with everything you've been told you are by your parents, relatives, coworkers, the entertainment industry, government, religion, news media, what would you be left with?
You would be left with your authentic self, the part of you that is kind, smart, brave, loving, dependable, powerful, protective, loyal, adventurous, and open-minded. The part of you that was manifested on Earth as beautifully as the trees, mountains, butterflies, and dolphins. The natural not-messed-around-with you is pure and lovely. You know it's true.
So, commit to forgive those who try to create doubt in you about your worth. Because most likely, they are doing it to offset the same doubts they have about themselves.
Many say that the most powerful word amongst all the languages of the world is Love. But not enough energy, education, and appreciation has been given to its first runner-up, NO.
NO packs quite a punch. It can break hearts, deplete self-esteem, and start all-out war. However, when used for good with grace and without fear, NO is one of the most powerful tools in self-care. It is a shield against the people who will suck you dry. You know who they are.
Intention of the Day
Whenever I decide to make gumbo, Bolognese meat sauce, or oxtails, it's after I build myself up physically and mentally for the process and remind myself the results are worth it.
By building myself up, I mean thinking through all I need to do throughout the process and commit to it. Commit to setting aside time to buy the ingredients, clean and season meat, clean and chop vegetables, combine the ingredients in the right order to get the best out of them, and let them simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours. I then just take a deep breath and get to it. As I leave the pot to simmer, the smell of the food wafts throughout my home, letting me know the fruit of my labor is almost at hand; but, I still have to clean up the kitchen, wash dishes, take out the trash, etc. Then, when the food is cooked and I take my first bite, I'm reminded it is all worth it.
The process is the same for going after anything that you feel is your life purpose or makes your heart sing. Creating a fulfilling life involves grueling work when preparing and taking action. Regardless of what you choose to strive for, the journey will be littered with doubts and moments that fuel your passion. So, if what you really want is truly worth it, accept the process for all it is and get to it.
Intention of the Day
I hate to break it to you; but, our lives are built on failure. You wouldn't have known how to walk without falling on your diapered baby bum a few times first. So, if failure is required to learn the basic human function of walking, why is failure considered a bad thing?
Thomas Edison failed ~1200 times to create the light bulb; but eventually, he and his team created one that worked and brightened billions of human lives from flashlights to photocopiers to the screens of our smartphones.
Failures become successes when you see each one as a learning opportunity and are open to the possibility of successes greater or different from the ones you imagined:
What does success look and feel like?
Why did this not work?
What have we not tried so far?
Who can help?
When is the better time to act?
Where can we get what we need?
How will this change create success?
When your work performance takes a plunge, the seam you stitch on that pillowcase is not straight, or you do not pass a test, remind yourself that you've failed many times before, and those failures eventually led to a success. Look at the situation as a learning experience, and you may achieve a greater success than you bargained for.
Intention of the Day
There are no two people who are exactly the same physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Your soul is unique and far reaching, affecting more souls than you know in more ways than you can imagine. Your impact can be the care you gave, the words you spoke, the smiles you shared, and the words you wrote.
A hug you gave may have soothed someone's weary soul, stearing them from a deep depression. Your achievements, no matter how small, may have inspired a perseverance in others that drove them to successful careers. Sharing stories about yourself may have helped someone who can relate to them feel less alone in this giant world. Offering a child a piece of candy may have been the first moment they realized they truly matter. The things we do that seem simple or insignificant can have a majestic impact on another's life.
So, if someone doesn't understand your grief, that is fine. It simply means the impact of that lost soul was meant specifically for you. That departed soul had a meaningful purpose to fulfill in your life's journey. They fulfilled that purpose, and your grief is a painful yet pure, non-discriminating, and boundless appreciation for what that departed soul made possible for you.
Kelly Nembhard is a certified health coach, Reiki therapist, and aromatherapist with experience as a clinical research professional and developmental biologist. She currently lives in Durham, NC.
Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice. You should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.