If you have lost someone you love, you know what a difficult process navigating grief can be. You may feel as though you are in a dark place and that things will never get better. This is not the case at all; in fact, it’s more than possible that things will become easier, and there is certainly a light at the end of the tunnel. If you want to know what’s normal in the grieving process, read on to learn more.
Trying Not to Face the Pain
If you are grieving for someone, then you may try and avoid experiencing the pain that comes with your loss. You may try and ignore it or feel the need to move on as fast as possible. This is normal, but you have to understand that if you try and keep it from surfacing, this will only create more suffering in the long run. If you want to heal truly, you need to face your grief, and you need to actively deal with it as much as you can. As a society, it’s ingrained in us, since the time we were babies, to not cry. We are shushed from the day we are born if you think about it! So, whether we are in physical or emotional pain, the truth of the matter is: we need our tears. Tears are a natural bodily function of release.
On the flip side, many people think that if you do not cry, you are not sorry about the loss that you have experienced. Crying is a normal way for you to respond to sadness, but it is not the only way. It would be best not to avoid crying, but not feeling like you need to cry is also very normal. Just because you are not shedding tears like everyone else doesn’t mean that you are not taking the loss as hard. For some, the tears may not come for several weeks, months, or even years. Grief is funny like that; it’s often cumulative losses that build up in the soul that eventually cause a flood of emotion. And, if the grief isn’t expressed with tears, I would guarantee the grief is manifesting in many other ways.
In the early days after a loss, when you’re busy looking up information about cemetery grave markers, choosing a casket, and making all of the necessary arrangements, it’s normal to be in reactionary mode, not really being able to process the loss that occurred. Often, it’s after the funeral, when the guests have all left, and life settles back to normal for everyone else, where reality sets in – as does the pain.
Replacing the Loss
We are taught how to acquire things (or people), not what to do when we lose them. When we lose someone, something, or a pet, in time, we often find ourselves attempting to replace the loss. We so badly want to fill the void that the loss caused. Rather than addressing the pain associated with the loss instead, we have this belief that by having someone, something, or another pet to direct our love and attention to that we’ll feel better. And, we might – for a time. However, if we accepted that no one or thing we love so dearly could ever be replaced, we would be forced to deal with the pain, wouldn’t we? Because once we know this to be true, we can’t un-know it. It’s normal and natural with loss, but it certainly is far from helpful for our recovery.
I’m hard-wired for isolation; it’s truly a tendency to retreat when I’m feeling anxious, depressed, irritable, or overwhelmed by life. What I know about myself is that I do need time to be alone and reflect. I need to sit and stew in my emotions while I process them. I’m not a candidate for “talk therapy” for this reason, as many reading this can probably relate to. I’m also empathic, easily taking on other people’s energy and emotions, which makes it doubly hard when dealing with my own “stuff.” Also, when I attempted to speak up in the past, and the conversation became about the other person, it only reinforced the tendency to isolate myself in my grief.
Healthy isolation isn’t a problem if the intention is, as I mentioned, for time to reflect and process. However, if you find yourself isolating and drinking, and isolating and cutting, or isolating and watching porn/online shopping/Netflix-binging incessantly, then you may have an isolation issue. If you find yourself saying “No” to outings and invitations from friends or loved ones on a continual ongoing basis, you’re probably isolating yourself. And, if you aren’t talking to anyone about anything you’re experiencing, you’re probably working extra hard at isolating yourself.
Isolation adds to the gunk you’re already feeling. Because not allowing your pain to be seen or heard only makes you feel more alone. We do not heal on an island of one; we heal in community.
Attempting to Stay Strong
You may also feel the need to be strong for others if you have experienced loss. Feeling scared, frightened, or even lonely can be a normal reaction if you have lost someone. You have to remember that crying doesn’t mean that you are weak. You don’t need to protect your family and friends by trying to put on a brave front. In fact, showing the way that you truly feel can help both them and you. Often, it takes someone to go first in sharing for others to feel as though it’s also safe and okay for them to share, too. Therefore, allowing your vulnerability to show will likely have an impact on those around you. Sure, there may be those who would prefer it if you would keep your mouth shut. However, as I mentioned, that is only causing more harm in the long run. Permit yourself to feel how you feel and express what you need to express. Grief shared is grief diminished. And, especially when a loss leaves children behind, I speak from experience when I say that having open and honest communication about death, dying, and grief can change how children process their grief well into adulthood. Avoiding those conversations with children while they’re young is a great disservice to their emotional health later in life. By shushing a child from expressing their grief and sadness only causes more harm. And, no one has to die for a child to experience grief. Whatever struggle a child is having, if they don’t feel like they have a safe space to talk, they will isolate just as many adults do. Isolating adults were once isolating children.
“Just take up a hobby,” someone may say to a griever (thinking this is helpful advice). Or, “I’m keeping myself busy by working overtime,” a griever may say.
Keeping busy doesn’t change what happened. Keeping busy doesn’t erase the feelings stuck within you either. And, keeping busy only helps pass the time, which only passes, too, by the way.
Keeping busy does nothing for healing and moving forward. You may think you’re doing great while you pour yourself into your work or jump headfirst from one hobby to the next. But all you’re really doing is preoccupying your mind from getting too quiet so you can hear your heart. It’s painful there, in your heart, feeling all the feels. I know this to be true like every other griever out there.
Getting quiet is the fastest way to getting beyond the stuck feelings, though. It’s the path of most resistance but reaps the greatest rewards when confronted in a guided, supported, self-serving and loving way.
You’re already busy going, going, going…you may as well be going in a positive direction, taking action for positive change rather than doing all the things in an attempt to avoid. Be like the buffalo that heads directly into the eye of the storm; they don’t run from or skirt around. No, they go straight through. That’s what it takes to get beyond the pain, too.
Feeling like the Grief Won’t End
It’s very normal for you to feel as though thegrief you are experiencing is never-ending. You may also feel as though you should be “over it” by now. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you have been grieving for well over a year or ten years. There’s no set time frame on how long you should be grieving, so make sure that you understand that this is normal and put yourself first.
Time passes; it doesn’t heal our wounds. It’s the action we take within time that helps us to process, work through, and emerge on the other empowered and feeling alive. We often feel like we don’t have choices in grief. I’ve read various shares on social media about how grief makes you feel isn’t a choice. That is correct. We don’t choose to feel how grief leaves us feeling. However, we do then have to choose if we want to remain in those feelings.
We have a choice if we continue to ruminate the story of what happened, replaying all of the details over and over in our minds.
We have a choice to be taken back to those excruciating, put-you-in-the-fetal-position feelings, or if we share from a place of love and compassion without the emotional dis-ease taking us back in time over and over and over again.
We do have choices in grief, and whether we’re taking action to move forward or ruminating – either is a choice we make each day that passes after a loss of any kind.
What is your takeaway from this post today?
Can you relate to any of these normal and natural responses to grief?
Death is an unavoidable part of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Fear of death, or thanatophobia, is something that afflicts millions of people worldwide. If you are experiencing it, it can be difficult to live with. Perhaps you are fearful of your own mortality, or maybe you are worried about the death of your loved ones. Either way, your fear can impact your own life in many negative ways. It could lead to intense feelings of anxiety, stress, or in some cases, depression.
But death comes to everyone, and you can’t let your fears overwhelm your life. Otherwise, you will spend your years fretting and panicking without making the most of your time in the present. Learning to accept death and see it as a positive part of life is the best way to overcome your phobia. You will not live in fear of mortality but rather come to live with it as a natural conclusion to a life well-lived. Just as grief seems to be a topic most people would rather avoid, so is death. And, I find it curious that these two things, so deeply intertwined, are practically taboo topics. And yet, they’re the most normal and natural part of the human experience. It is in talking about these things when we start to normalize them. And, it’s in talking about these things, where we start to look at our lives with renewed perspective and start to live into our desires in the present. So, to help you on the path to acceptance, here are four ways to overcome your fear of death.
Understand Your Fear
Are you constantly worrying that your elderly relatives don’t have much time left? Do funerals fill you with a sense of dread? What is it about the idea of death that makes you feel afraid? Articulating your fears by writing them down in a journal or speaking them aloud will help them seem less scary. Letting your emotions and feelings out will prevent them from bottling up inside, and you may feel immediate relief. Identify the times when you feel the most afraid and see a common link between them. Perhaps there are certain triggers sparking anxiety that you can eradicate from your life.
Let Go of What You Can’t Control
A time may come when scientists devise a way of achieving immortality. However, for the time being, the death of the physical body is unavoidable. Yes, you can be careful and live a healthy life, but you will sooner or later have to accept that your life is limited. Worrying doesn’t change the simple fact of mortality; it just impedes your enjoyment of your life. Although you can’t harness death, you can take charge of your life and make the most of it. Try to challenge your negative thought cycle and occupy your mind with more wholesome hobbies and activities.
Consider That Consciousness Continues
The thought that there is life after death, in terms of our consciousness or spirit, definitely causes some eyebrows to go up and probably even some eye rolls. However, where science and death meet, there is a whole lot of grey. There is much that is still unknown and to be discovered. It’s not simply black and white, as I felt in my heart as a young child. Truth be told, after the passing of my father as a child, I saw him in the casket and be put in the ground. To me, he was dead, no longer in my life. I had zero context or information to believe differently as a child where death was neither talked about nor were feelings given the space for expression. So, who else to blame but God, as a child, right? A loving God doesn’t take daddy’s away from their innocent children.
The experiences and conversations (or lack thereof) about death in childhood are probably among the most significant, if not the most significant, indicators of how we view death as adults. Unless we challenge the beliefs we are either born into or the stories our minds concoct to believe as truth as a way to protect ourselves, we may keep ourselves from developing a spiritual connection that is greater than ourselves.
I believe we are all one and, we are all connected. We all are made up of energy and there is not one vibrational energy that doesn’t impact or interact with another. On a soul level, this energy, or spirit, where does that go when our physical bodies die? That is the study of after-life science. I find it fascinating. At the same time, I fully embrace the mystery of it all.
I guess one never knows until our time comes, right? But, what a comfort this belief can be to those left behind? To feel a sense of presence that is a comfort of being supported and guided. Reiki has definitely opened me up to this deeper connection we all have to one another, both on the physical plane and beyond. Reiki is neither a religion nor a belief system. Reiki is simply pure love and light energy channeled in a very specific way. As a reiki practitioner, I am the conduit of this energy. I have felt the reiki energy get stronger the longer I’ve been practicing as well. It’s been quite amazing! But, I can’t ignore the fact that the gift of Reiki is from a higher power. And, I can’t ignore the fact that I have had personal experiences of energy work and in meditations that have been transformative. And, I can’t ignore that things come up in reiki sessions that I should not know.
As a once upon a time skeptic, I am convinced there is more to life than just our physical bodies. And, there is something greater to look forward to.
Live Life To The Fullest
Rather than spending your time preoccupied with mortality, aim to fill your days with as much joy as possible. Spend time with friends and family, travel the world (when we can again without concern), get outside in nature, and make wonderful memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. The last thing you want when you’re on your deathbed is to regret not having enjoyed yourself. Make an effort to eat well and move your body to extend your life as long as possible, and tend to your emotional body, too. If we don’t address our emotional state, our bodies are left to do the job of being the processing plant of our emotions. This is where we see so much unexplained illness and physical manifestations. If you have unexplained symptoms, there’s a very good chance your energy body is suffering. This is where Reiki or Grief Recovery work would be helpful; to help clear away the emotional weight being carried within the body. When we feel lighter inside, we feel lighter (not to mention look lighter – more pep in our step) on the outside, too.
Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. – Norman Cousins
I have been reminded to live for today through podcast interviews with a hospice doctor and researcher of end-of-live experiences and a woman who’s lived 17 years with metastatic breast cancer. I was reminded again during an end-of-life doula training I completed recently. Through the work and study I have been doing lately, I’ve learned that, perhaps, one way to become less afraid of death is to be open to learning from others facing it. A year ago, I would have said that I wished to have a quick death and not know what hit me. However, after the training and conversations that I’ve had since, I found myself hoping for a heads up. Not necessarily a terminal illness, rather, the opportunity to curate the experience I have going out (i.e. end-of-life planning). And, the question that occurred to me as I’ve been writing this is this: What if we lived every day as if we’ve just been told we had a terminal illness? I have heard people use the “you have 3 months to live” as a “tool” for living. I suppose that works, too. Either way, what would you do if you knew the end was. near? What would your priorities be? What would you want to experience?
Saying goodbye can be one of the most important parts of the grieving process. Many people want to ensure that the way they say goodbye is as true to the loved one they are grieving as possible. This is usually done through funeral and memorial preparations. However, so many people around the world today are finding their traditions being squashed due to Covid-19. Many plans that were perhaps made in the family member’s preparation who planned their funeral ahead of time or by the bereaved in advance had to be changed.
Much like grief, Covid-19 has left many people feeling like they don’t have a choice. And, that has been the case – many haven’t been given a choice as to how they bury a loved one and celebrate a departed loved one’s life. Saying goodbye to a loved one making their transition has had to change during these times. The last connection that could have otherwise happened isn’t possible. Or, in the case of a grief recovery client of mine, they couldn’t even see their loved one before they were cremated because their loved one was Covid-positive. I don’t know if this is still the case now, but for this client, that left a void in the grief that only one last look could have soothed. It’s not as if seeing their loved one would have taken their sorrow away. Rather emotionally, it does something for the heart. It’s that one last look; an opportunity to say out loud, even if their loved one isn’t hearing them in the physical sense, but spiritually, too, it’s a soothing balm to a grievers heart.
Seeing a loved one’s physical body before burial, although painful, can soothe the grieving heart. And, you may not realize this until you’re not allowed to do so. Anything less than compounds the abruptness of the loss (even if you have time to prepare yourself like a terminal illness). This abruptness also adds to the conflicting feelings. In effect, it feels like there’s an incompleteness of the experience of the burial itself, which only adds to the already conflicting feelings grief brings.
How do we make the most of horrible situations such as these?
I don’t have all of the answers. Nobody does. But, if you’re able to follow the wishes of your loved one, that’s a little piece of comfort for doing your part in following a loved one’s dying wishes. Do you know what your loved one wants? Now is a good time to ask. It doesn’t have to take a loved one dying to have an open and honest conversation about what you would like for your arrangements. If you have children (this is especially important), who do you want to be in charge of their care if something happens to you or you and your spouse/significant other at the same time? Have you had that conversation with loved ones? Do you want to be cremated? Why or why not?
We’ve been accustomed to death-aversion. We’re afraid to talk about our mortality. In so doing, we’re acknowledging that we truly only have the promise of today. I recently had a conversation with a woman by the name of Anne Jacobs. You’ll want to catch her podcast episode when it goes live on May 18th, 2021. She’s been living with metastatic breast cancer for seventeen years. SEVENTEEN YEARS, friends! Talk about a rollercoaster ride of emotions. And, she’s not alone. She shared there’s a woman in her circle that’s lived with metastatic breast cancer for twenty-five years! That’s incredible! In listening to Anne, it’s as if it becomes a lifestyle. Almost like someone who becomes a vegan yogi, only it’s a daily practice of survival. I can’t even imagine. Seriously, I can’t wait to share her episode. If you want to hear a story of hope and the importance of living for today, it’s her story. So impactful!
Going back to our loved ones’ wishes, a good friend of mine shared that a loved one had put money down on a bar tab before they died because they didn’t want everyone eating food and being sad and mopey. They wanted everyone to laugh and have a good time. Granted, over a year ago, I would’ve jumped all over that idea. Still, considering I’ve given up alcohol and I have a better understanding of how we often turn to alcohol to cope with our lives or situation, that’s not high on my list like it once was. A fun idea, though! It’s more my speed that everyone plants a tree, to be honest. I love trees. I’m especially fond of streets where the trees are so old and grown that they meet high above the road and cover the street, creating this canopy of color in the fall. That’s the kind of street I’d love to live on, too. Anyway, I digress.
If the person you love has always had a strong set of environmental principles, perhaps some of these suggestions may resonate. Of course, these suggestions are likely only possible if Covid restrictions have lessened in your part of the world/country. I hope that leadership comes to understand the importance of a proper (and desired) burial for the bereaved. Much like the kids need to be in school to obtain their education, I feel that with proper measures and the quick testing available now, that funerals can happen safely – and like they used to. It’s so important in the grieving process for people who didn’t get to be there for their loved one in the healthcare facility that they at least get to be with them in the way of a proper burial and celebration of life.
In places where restrictions have lessened, here are some suggestions – including some eco-friendly ones. I kind of like the coffin turning into a tree idea (see above). 😉 Although, that may look a bit strange in a church cemetery.
Choosing an Eco-Friendly Burial
Your loved one may not have liked the idea of a traditional burial for a lot of reasons. For one, they may not approve of setting aside a piece of land solely for themselves when they’re not conscious of using it. As such, you might want to look into more eco-friendly methods of burial. For instance, woodland burial sites are available and can be used with biodegradable coffins to help return them to the earth in the truest sense. Eco-pods that turn into trees have also been growing popular in some locations.
Another option that is even less wasteful is foregoing a burial with a traditional casket and choosing cremation instead. Until recently, I didn’t realize that viewing was an option before cremation. Loved ones can say their goodbyes with the loved one in a casket, and later, the body is cremated. Optionally, to traditional cremation practices, you can also then return the remains of your loved one to the earth with the help of options like biodegradable wood cremation urns. This way, you can end up with no waste at all or, even if it’s not biodegradable, you can make sure it is at least made with renewable materials.
Following the Departed’s Lifestyle Choices
In the few days following the death of a loved one, you may choose to host a wake or a similar gathering if it fits with the deceased’s traditions. While wakes are mostly for the living, you may choose to make sure that it fits the principles of your loved one. If they, for instance, chose not to eat meat in life due to environmental and ethical concerns, then you may want to ensure that the wake is meat-free as well. This can also go for any meals served as part of the memorial.
Help in Their Name
Grief can be many things and take many forms, but one truth you will find almost universally is that grief is a motivator. It can particularly motivate people to act in the ways that their lost loved ones would have wanted. For instance, you can take the opportunity to arrange a donation drive or even a volunteer effort towards a local environmentally-friendly cause in the name of your loved one. This can be a wonderful memorial to go alongside a relatively cost and waste-free service, making sure that any money spent will be for a good cause.
Planting a Tree
You may want to have a memorial beside a gravestone or an urn to help you remember the person you loved. If they have touched their community’s lives, it’s not uncommon to arrange for a placard or a bench to be put up in their honor. However, it may better fit an environmentally-conscious loved one’s desires and aims to plant a tree in their honor instead (this is my wish). This way, they can contribute in some small way to creating a greener world.
If you have been left as the executor of the deceased’s last wishes, first of all – bless your heart. That is not a job for the faint of heart. And, if you’ve been chosen, it’s for a good reason. Your first job may be to see that their assets go to those that they rightfully go to. You have to follow the will of the deceased, where it can be found and, where it can’t, you may have to follow the law. However, if there are no next of kin to which you can pass their belongings, you can instead make sure that it is either reused and donated or disposed of in the most environmentally conscious of ways.
It’s important to balance the departed wishes with what is feasible and sensitive to those who are saying goodbye. You can take steps to make sure you are respectful of the one you have lost, but be sure that it does not place an undue burden on yourself. Loss, no matter if you have time to prepare or you don’t, in the end, feels abrupt. One day they’re here; the next, they are not. So, even having time in advance to sort out burial wishes and wills, and so forth, doesn’t change the fact that the grief is there. However, planning offers a great reprieve and eases the burden of making some of the most difficult decisions loved ones have to make at one of the most emotionally charged moments in their life.
All of us can do our loved ones a favor and put our wishes in writing in advance. We can have open and honest conversations with our loved ones about what we want. Again, putting it in writing is the best step forward in ensuring that your wishes are met.
End-of-Life Doula Service Coming Soon!
Stay tuned for more posts like this. Next month, I will be completing an End-of-Life Doula certification. What’s an End-of-Life Doula, you ask? An end-of-life doula is a non-medical professional trained to care for a terminally ill person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs during the death process. While you may never have heard of this position in the healthcare field, “death doulas,” as they’re often called, are a fantastic resource for those dying and their loved ones to fill the gap of hospice care. Also, given my background as an advanced certified grief recovery specialist and Reiki Master, I feel as though I can add a level of support not found anywhere else in my region. And, living in a rural area, access to services is often at the forefront of loved one’s minds. I can’t wait to offer this service to my region. Stay tuned for more on this! And, if you know you’re already interested in this service for your loved one, please reach out via the contact form.
Love + light to you if this week’s blog post feels just a bit too timely. 💛
Do you believe that you are forever going to feel sad, isolated, or in your current circumstances?
Do you believe that others have their lives figured out and don’t understand how you feel?
Does it feel true that who you thought you were has been upheaved and that you’ve been shaken at your foundation?
Six years ago, I embarked on a path of some deep excavation. It’s often been painful, but I have found that the excavating hasn’t been nearly as painful as the emotional dis-ease I had been feeling. With each passing year, I’ve learned how to be more conscious of my thought process, actions, and it’s gotten a lot easier to recognize when I start down an emotional tailspin. It’s gotten so much easier to snap out of it, too. Whereas, years ago, circumstances and my internal emotional climate would have derailed me for weeks. When you’ve had your entire life to form your beliefs and behaviors through experience and circumstances, it becomes a project of rewiring your brain and creating new connections.
I held those beliefs I shared previously. I felt I was destined to feel crazy for the rest of my life. Back then, it was a program that helped me snap out of it. In 2014, I discovered Tony Robbins. Through his work and the inner-work, I started to get sick of my own self. I started to learn new ways of BE-ING. I started to ask myself deeper (and better) questions.
Finding our way to our best selves, the heart of who we’ve always been isn’t a complicated process. But, it does take time, and it does take commitment to yourself. When I say it takes time, you don’t have to spend hours a day every day of the week. Starting small is still a start. Whether you incorporate one thing into your daily life, such as journaling, meditation, yoga, a daily walk (to think and let your mind go or listen to insightful/inspiring podcasts), or a simple breathing practice (which is actually more challenging than meditation for me), another option is to add in a regular Reiki Guided Healing Meditation session (followed by receiving reiki). This is a powerful session (60 or 90 minutes) that takes you to a depth of self that you have likely never experienced. And, after next weekend, I’ll be able to offer an even more elevated Reiki session after I complete my Usui Karuna Holy Fire Certification.
If you’d like to dig into the depths of heart even more deeply (and with an end date of the work you’ll do that is proven to provide results), we can work together online. You may feel that grief recovery isn’t for you. However, ask yourself how many losses you’ve had.
Do you want to discover losses that may be holding you back in your life? Below, I have a questionnaire that will help you discover what may be keeping you tied to the past. I provided this document at speaking events, and it helps understand how grief isn’t just about death. You’ll receive the download immediately!
Grief isn't just about death. This questionnaire helps you discover the losses you may have long buried or have attempted to forget.
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I want you to feel hope, more than anything. For years, I had lost it, and I know the impact that had on my spirit. There is help, and there are resources out there. Know that you are worth the investment in yourself.
What is emotional freedom, feeling aligned inside, and having a deeper understanding of your past, so the same beliefs and behavior patterns don’t repeat themselves – worth to you?
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