Our hearts break, but our hearts also heal. The thread that pulls us from heartbreak to healing is love, says Judy Lief in this practice for working with grief.
Death is a natural part of life. From the beginning to the end, life is constant change and nothing stays fixed. And that gives life its vitality. But it also causes a certain heartbreak when we face the difficult truth of impermanence. Grief is a recognition of endings, but it’s also a birth and a beginning. We enter into a difficult and solitary journey and we come out transformed.
There’s nothing really to be said about grieving that doesn’t sound trite. There’s no simple way through it. It is extremely difficult to put the gravity or the force of grief into words. And there’s no one way to grieve. Neither is there a cure for our fragility and vulnerability. We have only one option, which is somehow to figure out a way to love and embrace it.
We don’t want to let go of anything, but through grief, we learn to love and appreciate what we’ve had and lost—friends, family, a way of life, a job, our youth, we grieve it all.
Every goodbye is a moment of connection. Grief teaches us how very attached we are to everything. We don’t want to let go of anything, but through grief, we learn to love and appreciate what we’ve had and lost—friends, family, a way of life, a job, our youth, we grieve it all. Grief is heavy, painful, difficult, and powerful. We need to touch into it at all levels, really acknowledge it, before we can release it.
A Meditation for Grief and Loss
- To begin, take a comfortable seat and rest. Slowly, breathe deeply, in and out. Relax and settle, coming into a present-moment experience. What is really happening to you here and now?
- Now bring to mind a personal loss. This could be the recent death of a friend or relative or a loved one; it could be a loss you’ve been carrying as a burden for a long time. It’s not something you’ve read about or something at a distance or abstract, but something personal, a person or experience or aspect of your life.
- Start with your body and your immediate somatic experience. What bodily sensations do you notice? Do you feel grounded? Spacey, tight, hollow, full, edgy, dull, squirmy? What do you notice? Don’t interpret, just feel. What is your body saying to you right now?
- Now, bring yourself to your heart, in the middle of your chest, and simply feel the heart holding the grief, being filled and heavied by that grief. Your raw, tender, loving, vulnerable, beating heart. And rest with that.
- Now rest in your throat center. So often the throat is connected with grief. And it wells up in tightness and has a kind of ache that can arise when we’re about to cry, when we’re shocked or have a sense of loss. Notice where else your grief is being held in your body—it could be your heart, your throat, your stomach. They all hold something, they are processing something— without words, without direction, naturally, the body knows.
- Then direct your attention to what emotions are arriving. Sorrow, anger, a quality of love, disappointment, there could be a sense of intensity or a sense of just being dull. Note what emotions are arising; don’t be embarrassed or afraid to feel whatever you’re feeling. Don’t judge what you’re feeling. Just feel. Let your emotions manifest. Welcome them. Don’t suppress them and also don’t feed them. Emotions are the energy of our grieving. And they change. They’re always changing, like life itself. Be gentle. If you start to feel overwhelmed, take a break, rest, breathe. Resettle. Allow yourself time to rest in your present-moment bodily emotional experience.
- Just rest, just feel, just be. Let grief do its work. Let it heal you. Don’t push. Don’t be impatient. Let yourself grieve. Process this change in your life. Let it teach you.
- Reflect on grief in your life, on the losses you’ve had and how your losses connect you with so many others. Just bringing your attention to that fact can be so healing. It happens to everyone. It’s hard to accept change. It’s hard to say goodbye. But when you stop fighting the inevitability of loss and change, a new and deeper love and appreciation is possible. We no longer take our friends, our loved ones, or our life all together for granted. We liberate our love, liberate our joy and appreciation in a very powerful way, through this difficult journey, through loss, through grief, through sorrow, with a vulnerable and tender heart.
After the loss of their son Thomas, Kristin Fitzgerald-Zita and her partner asked friends and family to do something kind in his honor. Today, this call for kindness has spread all over the world and continues to write Thomas’ story.