Healing Grief and Loss

In human nature, change and impermanence are the only constant, and so is the presence of grief.
Grief is the natural response to loss, and often accompanies change. Death is the most extreme loss, but grief comes up with divorces, illnesses, aging, unemployment, and all kinds of disappointments and endings. Certain anniversaries, and possibly the holiday season, may intensify grief, fresh and old. We may think that “time heals all wounds.” Over time we learn that time alone does not heal grief, since unattended sorrow stays buried in our bodies, and will be surely activated when more changes and losses come our way.

Grief work requires self-respect, patience, and a certain imagination to see the world opening trusting that ‘being with our suffering’ in a non-judgmental way is at the core of the healing process. Grief work is not about curing nor removing the pain, but cultivating a different kind of relationship with loss, change and pain. This prepares us to face life courageously, not defending ourselves from potential losses, but with the wisdom of surrendering what we don’t control, and having a choice over the only thing we can choose, which is our attitude. We learn to take care of ourselves, not by fixing anything, but as an act of self-compassion and self-love.

In this area of work, senti-pensante programs invite participations to see working through grief as the opportunity to cultivate life-skills, to better prepare ourselves with the inevitable losses and suffering that are part of the human experience. Since the grief journey is unique for each person, this is an invitation for self-discovery. Learning the life lessons that change, death and loss have to teach us is a life-skill which helps us to develop resiliency, the capacity to face adversity in a positive way. This involves supporting oneself, supporting others, and asking for and receiving support.

Supporting oneself includes a delicate balance between self-care skills, knowing and doing what you can to heal yourself, and knowing when to reach out for support. It asks us to listen to our wounds without judgment, nor wanting to get rid of them anytime soon. Everybody’s grieving has its own time and rhythm, and we learn that only when we are able to be with ourselves in a compassionate way, unconditionally loving ourselves no matter what, our suffering can loosen its grip and be transformed in self-awareness, self-knowledge, resiliency, and connection.

Asking for and receiving support is not easy, especially in a culture that praises a do-it-by-yourself attitude. When it comes to the difficult times in our lives, a truth that works best is that “you have to do it by yourself, and you can not do it alone.”

Supporting others is not an easy task either. Many times we are afraid of “reminding the person or their loss and making them cry,” or we are simply afraid or uncomfortable seeing a loved one suffer “without being able to do anything.” We choose not to say anything, ignoring the whole person altogether: what happened to them, what they might be going through, how we might help.

We are invited to embrace the vulnerability of our human condition, not as a sign of weakness, but as a path of cultivating resilience, the inner strength that enables us to overcome adversity and thrive in life. Thus, we grow out of our comfort zone and limited self-image and find a bigger truth, where there can be healing, transformation, growth and lessons learned. Taking care of ourselves is a gift we can give ourselves on the alchemical path of transforming grief into resilience, reconnecting with and recovering the love that has been there all alone. This is inner work in community. Like Martin Ruttle said, “You have to do it by yourself, but you can’t doing it alone.”