Grief is part of the human condition. It affects us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As long as we love, we will grieve, because we will experience loss along our journey in life.
And we do love. We love those near and dear to us, we love our fur kids, our homes and our jobs. The extent of our grief is really the extent of our love – although this may not be the case all the time. If we have made peace with the idea that we lose what we love in life, our experience of grief may be very different than if there is an unexpected loss.
How we experience grief also depends on our nurture – our upbringing, our culture, our religion or spirituality. If loss and death is something discussed and perceived as normal, then we may have a very different experience of grief compared to a society that believes a month of bereavement is sufficient and thereafter we can just ‘move on and get on with life’.
Grief is a normal expression of love.
There are two aspects here:
- that grief is normal, and
- that grief is an outcome or part of love.
Grief is a normal capacity of the human condition. Some cultures prefer for us not to talk about grief, or to witness our grief, whereas some cultures are comfortable with the expression of grief.
You may want to consider some aspects of yourself. What is your background to grief? When did you first witness grief yourself? When did you first experience it? Did anyone speak to you about it, or did you have the opportunity to talk to someone about it? How did you cope with the experience? How did the people around you act?
Understanding that grief is normal gives us some headway into accepting that something so overwhelming and shattering has occurred.
The combined effects of our losses, big and small, major and minor, accumulate in our bodies. The judgment that some losses are trivial, and are therefore unimportant to consider, can exacerbate feelings of confusion, isolation, and shame.Antonio Sausys. “Yoga for Grief Relief”.
Take a read of the blog post below to see how yoga helps you when experiencing grief and loss.
The second aspect of grief is that it is part of love. This grief doesn’t have to arise from the bereavement of a loved one. People grieve when they lose their job, or when their childhood home is sold off, or when their favourite TV show has been cancelled. When we love someone or something, there is grief when their existence ends.
Our life has a myriad of experiences, and one of these that practically everyone seeks is love. But another aspect of our life is that nothing stays the same. Everything changes. The person you were when you woke up this morning may not be the same person you are as you read this. The sun has travelled the sky, the traffic may be heavier or lighter, food has transformed in your body into energy (or stored energy i.e. fat), nothing remains the same.
Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
Maybe you had an argument with someone along the day, so that relationship has changed. Maybe you did something that disappointed yourself, and now your relationship with yourself has changed as well. Everything changes, everything transforms, and things end.
And because everything changes, and things end, we have the rich experience of life. Love is one aspect of life that has many facets, many experiences; it transforms, it changes, and love also can end, just like the physical existence of someone we love.
It is such an honour and privilege to love and be loved. Grief is part of this.
Grief never leaves you…
But the experience of grief can change over time. Bereavement can be debilitating and devastating, especially in cases of sudden loss. But, because all things change, even our grief will change as we navigate through the journey.
Even now, as I think of the passing of my father, the journey I have had with grief from the moment he was hospitalised, to the moment of his passing, to the point of interment of ashes, right up to now, the grief has changed – even on a day-to-day basis.
Sometimes – even now – I am grumpy, and sometimes I am full of gratitude, sometimes I get melancholy – and this is grief. It is the normal, natural response to grief, and there is no fixed deadline when grief leaves us.
The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler.
Yoga can help us through movement and meditation to introspect and even witness the journey of grief, even form a friendly relationship with it. With yoga, as grief rears up, I notice it almost like I would notice a younger sibling who needs comfort and solace, or security.
This “noticing” capacity or “witnessing” capacity takes time to cultivate. However, it has helped many during times of bereavement or trouble. It breathes a sense of clarity and compassion into our grief and loss.
And it helps us notice how grief reveals us.
Grief reveals us.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed the five stages of grief in her 1969 book, ‘On Death and Dying.‘
The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost.Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler.
To call these experiences ‘stages’ perhaps wasn’t a good idea. As humans, we thought, ‘Oh, now we know we will first deny, then be angry, then bargain… etc”. Later, Kübler-Ross stated that the stages are not linear, or a predictable progressive journey. It was said that she regretted writing them in a way that was misunderstood.
All this notwithstanding, we do experience denial, anger, depression and experience perhaps bargaining during the journey of grief. Perhaps, more so in the initial stages. These emotions aren’t sequential or phases, and there is no time limit as to when we ever stop experiencing them.
Being with our grief and tasting these phases can be an extremely harrowing, turbulent endeavour. We may even prefer to avoid experiencing them, because of how gut-wrenching the process may feel. If you aren’t really a yoga practitioner, you may just want to breathe a little, if you need some respite.
If you are already steeped in yoga practice, you may be familiar with the Rasas, the nine dancing ‘tastes’ or ’emotions’, symbolised as nine goddesses. We identify the taste, or emotion, and watch them dance on the stage of our life, and allow them to exit (read this blog post to learn more).
Of course, during the initial stage of grief, this yoga practice – used to help us distance ourselves from the emotion – may not be a viable practice. However, if we are already practising this, and we experience grief, the practice may automatically pop up now and then, helping us gain some clarity and self-compassion in our grief.
Whatever we feel – anger, depression, denial etc. – is valid and okay. Just know that these are natural and normal processes of grief. Grief reveals that we are human and that we love.
Grief transforms us.
When my father passed away, I was filled with thankfulness from the point my father was admitted into hospital a month before he passed. All the relatives and friends who came to support us, to show us their love for him (and for us) made me step into each day with. a sense of almost overwhelming gratitude.
This gratitude has remained with me, up to today. But there are other emotions that I experience – even up to today – that makes me wonder how ‘good’ a person I am. Like constant grumpiness throughout the day.
But all this gives me the opportunity to reflect and introspect, journal and consider the person I am. Who am I, apart from being the son of my father?
Grief presents us with tremendous duality. We grieve both uniquely, according to our life’s variables, and universally, as all humans do.Antonio Sausys. “Yoga for Grief Relief”.
The thing is, we grieve as all humans do, and yet our experience of grief is unique to us. Yoga teaches us this, our oneness and our uniqueness, joined and yet separate. This is quite a breathtaking consideration.
Whatever it is, grief transforms us whether we want it to happen or not. We consider our place within our own sphere, within the community, and maybe even within the world. We consider our own peace with our selves. This happens whether we are aware of it or not, exhibited through our behaviour.
What yoga can help us with is having the awareness of the transformation, and delving deeper into exploring ourself. Through yoga, we can perhaps gain clarity and compassion in our journey in grief.
Different days, different experiences.
Grief brings to us different experiences daily, especially when in the initial stages of loss. Later on, we may experience Sudden Temporary Upsurge of Grief (STUG), also called “waves of grief“.
It is perfectly okay to be with the grief, sit with the grief. Yoga helps us explore the grief, gain clarity in our grief, and perhaps find some peace and compassion for ourselves and others who grieve with us.
I hope this helps you in your journey in grief. If there is any way I can help, just contact me here.
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