I recently subscribed to Living With Loss Magazine. I have always enjoyed magazines, and over the years my tastes have changed substantially. Nowadays, I find most magazines to be full of fluff, and void of the meaningful stuff of life. Considering this, I have been searching for a magazine that is full of heart, and full of wisdom. What drew me to Living With Loss Magazine is that one of my favourite “death and dying gurus” is a regular columnist – Alan Wolfelt. And, quite simply, it’s a magazine dedicated to the rawness of loss and life changing experiences. This is something I will never become tired of.
Living With Loss Magazine is a compilation of submissions from the general public and from professionals working with those who are bereaved. The magazine has been created with the intention to provide hope and healing to the mind, body and spirit, and all their articles reflect this. They rely on stories from their readers for columns like “The Gift of Experience,” to share stories among readers that may inspire others. They print moving poetry, that speaks directly to the heart. They even have a column called “Validations” that is created for those bereaved people who want to share stories of their connection with their loved one beyond death…a phenomenon that many people have experienced….
Regular contributors to the magazine include specialists in the fields of death, dying, loss and bereavement including: MDs, Ph.Ds, counsellors, spiritual directors, nurses and occasionally lawyers and insurance providers. The contributing columnists have such knowledge and wisdom to share – based on experience, science and the arts. Their dedication to serve those who are suffering is obvious, as their author biographies indicate many professional and personal endeavours into healing modalities for the mind, body and soul.
A yearly subscription for Canadians is about 50.00. I made my order and had my first issue mailed that same day. I am truley greatful the people at Bereavement Publications Inc. have dedicated their time and committed to creating a magazine that honours death, loss and bereavement – and creates an open forum for sharing and healing.
If you are interested in ordering an issue of the magazine, or to subscribe, you can do it here.
…and…stay tuned, I’m currently working on an article for submission about yoga as a healing modality for grief….maybe soon you’ll see it in print!
Our bodies are wise teachers – when we learn to listen.
Yoga provides a space where you begin to notice the links between the mind and body. When you become quiet and still – like in a yoga class or in meditation, the turbulent waters of your daily life begin to calm and the reality of your life calls from the deep. This can be an intense emotional experience, which is both the gift and the challenge of a yoga practice. A gift because in order to reconcile and heal your loss, you must move through the painful centre of your grief. A challenge because it takes great courage to open up to your pain and suffering.
The message, from a yogic perspective is to feel what you feel. This can be the hard part.
Yoga is about paying conscious attention to your moment to moment experience. This means you notice what happens in both your mind and your body as emotion or memory arises in your practice. You notice when your breath catches in your throat or when your hold your breath. You notice what came first – a thought into your mind, or the holding of your breath. You notice how certain thoughts in your mind can create tension in your neck and shoulders as they creep up by your ears. You feel the hollowness in your chest. You notice how you fight back tears, against all odds, by creating more tension in your face, throat and even in your arms and legs – fighting and clenching around the possibility of letting yourself cry. You notice that lump in your throat that feels like it’s choking you.
Once you notice your internal reactions, you learn how to feel what you feel. Tuning into the feeling behind the feeling versus the story behind the feeling. Another way of explaining that is to notice the sensation behind the feeling. Sense what emotion feels like as it arises – for example, tightening of the throat – perhaps you feel your throat narrow and close, becoming strained and tense. As tears well up you feel the wetness, as well as a rush of heat, and an internal need for release. Perhaps you feel your thigh muscles tighten and your weigh move forward as if you want to run. You feel the feeling of having tightness in the shoulders or heaviness of the limbs – you feel the density and thickness of your stressed and tired body. Perhaps you feel the smooth, silkiness of your breath as you sigh and at the same time feel the jaw bone turn to putty and your eyes soften. Your body melting into tenderness.
When you feel what you feel you open your heart to your experience. Having a quiet mind, you don’t get caught in the mental loop of your story, you only notice the sensations of your experience as they arise and move through you. Surrender to what is. Be open to allowing the sensations of life to move through you.
With consistency and dedication to practicing this way, you learn more about yourself and your journey. Your body, mind and emotions begin communicating with you in a more subtle way – where you pay attention to the signals because you respect their wisdom. This opens up a whole new road of choice when it comes to mourning authentically and expressing your grief outside yourself.
It all begins with feeling what you feel.
How do you define strength and compassion?
This is a TED Talk with Joan Halifax - Compassion and the true meaning of empathy.
Holidays can be especially difficult times when you are greiving the death of a loved one. This is a great article about grief, holidays and celebration: The Empty Spot
Misconception: a false or mistaken view, opinion, or attitude.
If you were to look directly in the face of your grief and loss experience, and ask yourself, “what causes me the most anxiety, stress and confusion as I try to live with my loss?” What would your answer be?
I know for myself, I would have answered, “telling everyone at work, everyday, that I was ‘fine’ when I wasn’t fine at all.” Or, hearing “you should be over it by now, it’s time to move on.” Looking back, these situations were all created from pretenses I had internalized about my grief and my ability to mourn. I had begun to believe some common misconceptions about grief, which were contrary to my experience of grief and my needs. When these ‘beliefs, or false notions’ create unnecessary and added stress or discord, it’s time to dispel those beliefs.
Our society isn’t comfortable with death, grief, mourning and pain, and therefore it becomes more socially acceptable to not demonstrate mourning behavior – talking about your loved one, crying, and expressing your feelings. Well-meaning friends, family, co-workers and even strangers attempt to pull you out of your pain by encouraging you to “get over it,” and “move on.” Unfortunately this a viscious circle. With no perceived safety in your ability to mourn, and little or no social support to be with your pain, your grief begins to feel abnormal, and you begin to feel more isolated in your pain…this creates confusion, anxiety and even a sense that you are “going crazy.” The day after the funeral, you are thinking, “why aren’t I over it by now?” This creates a really deep void between our natural and ongoing response to loss, and the pressures we feel to resolve our pain ASAP and get back to normal….both of which are impossible orders to fill.
By it’s nature, grief is a natural, normal, organic internal reaction to loss. Mourning authentically is the real challenge – bringing your grief outside yourself, despite the misconceptions of grief and mourning that tend to shape and influence your experience. As you read the misconceptions below, see if they have unknowingly shaped your experience, created unrealistic expectations of yourself, or affected your need and security to mourn your losses genuinely.
Misconception #1: Grief and mourning are the same thing
Many people use the terms grief and mourning interchangeably. Grief is the internal thoughts and feelings created from experiencing a loss in your life. Grief is the container within yourself that holds all aspects of how your loss affects you, and the meaning your loss holds for you. Mourning is how you express your internalized feelings of grief outside yourself. Mourning creates situations where you can express your feelings about your loss – verbally, or through an artistic medium, talking about your loved one, and crying. Grief naturally arises within you – mourning takes work. It’s essential to find safe spaces and understanding people who you can express yourself to. As you mourn, you acknowledge the reality of the death to both yourself and those around you. Over-time, to mourn is to heal.
Misconception #2: Grief and mourning progress in predictable orderly stages
In 1969 a guru of death and dying, Elizabeth Kubler Ross developed the concept of “stages” of grief, as a result of noticing what terminally ill patients she worked with went through as they coped with their illness. These stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It was never meant to become a rigid, linear perscription of the complex process of grief. However, over the years, this is what has happened, and now it is a common belief that as you move through grief you move through predictable, orderly stages, eventually arising at acceptance. This is not the case. Our grief is not predicable or orderly. Its messy, disorganized, with ebbs and flows. It’s stormy and even calm. Placing your grief in a linear box does nothing to prepare you for it’s volatily. Instead, practice to just be where you are, without trying to fit your experiene into how things should be (and really, who defines should?). Just be where you are.
Misconceptions #3: You should move away from grief, not toward it
It is a strongly held belief in our society that grief should be moved away from. That pain should be avoided. This constant expectation to repress your heartache creates a slippery slope for the bereaved. What you resist, persists. In reality, you need to move towards your grief – straight into the center of your pain in order to heal yourself and integrate the loss into your lives. You need to feel to heal. In this way, grief is experienced rather than overcome.
Misconception #4: Tears are a sign of weakness
Many people think that tears are a sign of weakness, and that crying should be avoided. Wouldn’t it be nice if people believe that tears are a sign of strength? Your body is wise, and you cry for a reason. It releases internal tension, and communicates a need to be comforted by those around you. Notice how you feel after a good cry. Notice the release of tension from the face and throat, and the change in the brightness of your eyes. To cry is to heal.
Misconception #5: When someone dies you grieve and mourn only for the physcial loss of the person
Outwardly, the physical loss of the person is the most obvious loss, but within you there is an entire array of losses you can feel. It’s like tossing a stone into a pond, the water ripples outward in concentric circles – this is how loss permeates your life. Not only do you feel the physical loss of the person, but you can also feel loss in the following ways:
Anniversaries and holidays can be especially difficult times for the bereaved as these important days hold a whole host of memories and even expectations about how the day should transpire. Often times, as anniversaries or holidays draw near, we instinctively begin to remember. Notice how your heart and soul nudge you to remember…and also notice how well-intentioned friends and family try to draw you away from remembering by keeping busy or cramming the day so full that there is no time to reflect and remember. Instead of trying to not think of your loved one, acknowledging your loved one and even doing something on the day in their memory as a way of commemorating them.
Misconception #7: After someone you love dies, your goal should be to get over your grief as soon as possible
As a human being, with the capacity to love and the capacity to remember, you never “get over” your grief. The language of “getting over” suggests that at some point you will forget the loss, forget your pain, and return to a level of normalcy that was present before your loved one died. Your grief changes over time in intensity and urgency, but your losses are woven into the tapestry of your life – forever impacting how you choose to live. You learn to live with your grief, and eventually by moving to the heart of your grief and doing the work of mourning you find new energy to live, and you develop a new relationship with your loss that you can relate to with less emotion and a renewed sense of hope. You reconcile your grief in your life but your don’t “get over it.”
Misconception: a false or mistaken view, opinion, or attitude
“We have to find ways to unlearn those things that screen us from the perception of profound truth.” -Thomas Moore
….be your truth…