Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. In my last post , I shared some Eastern wisdom from Sogyal Rinpoche’s great book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying . Grief Recovery Tools, finding love after death of spouse, and tips for recovering from the death of your spouse.
Welcome to those who find themselves members of a club they never wanted to join. You will make it through. My wife Deb died of cervical cancer in March of ’06, leaving me with a 2-year old son. Since then, I have read much and grieved much and shared much, and I’m now at the point where I can start to give back and help other widows and widowers. I really enjoyed reading it, if for no other reason than that it gave me an entirely new perspective on death. I find that Western grief books almost always tell you that grief is forever, that you will always be grieving to some degree.
In the Eastern tradition, however, the approach to grief is noticeably different — we can learn to let go of our dead spouse and go on with living. Tonight’s post will be about grieving a sudden death. Facing loss alone in our society is very different. And all the usual feelings of grief are magnified intensely in the case of a sudden death, or a suicide. It reinforces the sense that the bereaved is powerless in any way to help their loved one who is gone. It is very important for survivors of sudden death to go and see the body, otherwise it can be difficult to realize that death has actually happened.
If possible, people should sit quietly by the body, to say what they need to, express their love, and start to say goodbye. If this is not possible, bring out a photo of the person who has just died and begin the process of saying goodbye, completing the relationship, and letting go. Encourage those who have suffered the sudden death of a loved one to do this, and it will help them to accept the new, searing reality of death. Tell them too of these ways I’ve been describing of helping a dead person, simple ways they too can use, instead of sitting hopelessly going over again and again the moment of death in silent frustration and self-recrimination. Help them express that anger, because if it is held inside, sooner or later it will plunge them into a chronic depression. Help them to let go of the anger and uncover the depths of pain that hide behind it.
Then they can begin the painful but ultimately healing task of letting go. Help them to talk about their feelings of guilt, however irrational and crazy they may seem. Slowly these feelings will diminish, and they will come to forgive themselves and go on with their lives. I’ll finish up tonight’s post with another quick excerpt from the book, this time dealing with the perspective of grief as a gift.
All too often we experience grief as some terrible emotion that we just want to get rid of at all costs. Perhaps the following perspective can help you change this desire to run away from grief. You may even come to feel mysteriously grateful toward your suffering, because it gives you such an opportunity of working through it and transforming it. Without it you would never have been able to discover that hidden in the nature and depths of suffering is a treasure of bliss. The times when you are suffering can be those when you are most open, and where you are extremely vulnerable can be where your greatest strength really lies. Say to yourself then: “I am not going to run away from this suffering. I want to use it in the best and richest way I can, so that I can become more compassionate and more helpful to others.
Suffering, after all, can teach us about compassion. If you suffer you will know how it is when others suffer. And if you are in a position to help others, it is through your suffering that you will find the understanding and compassion to do so. However desperate you become, accept your pain as it is, because it is in fact trying to hand you a priceless gift: the chance of discovering, through spiritual practice, what lies behind sorrow. Grief,” Rumi wrote, “can be the garden of compassion.
If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. And don’t we know, only too well, that protection from pain doesn’t work, and that when we try to defend ourselves from suffering, we only suffer more and don’t learn what we can from the experience? In my grief work, I wanted to learn what grief had to show me, and I only wanted to learn it once! First time that I have read your blog, and how timely! Thanks for your blog, and I will put it in my list of favorites.
Some good thoughts on grief. I could not agree more. I’ll print this post to give to my friends and family because it so expresses my feelings. Eleven days ago, my husband dropped dead in the shower from an aneurysm, and I’ve been beating myself up ever since. I hope I can get to a better place some day. My husband died suddenly on May 20th, I still find myself reliving that day over and over, wanting it to be a different result. How can someone be here one minute and gone the next?