“Mourning is love that does not want to let go.”
Earl A. Grollman in live with loss
When pain hits your heart and you no longer see a way, or lose your orientation or the ability to read the compass, your entire being is affected. Much has been written about the emotional and physical aspects of grievance, but too often what happens to our spirit, that part of ourselves that feels grievance most intensely, whether we are religious or not, is not addressed.
What is meant by “spirituality”? According to José del Espiritu, writer on all things spiritual at Blogger.com, spirituality is described as follows:
“…spirituality is the quality of one’s sensitivity to things of the spirit. So, the basic meaning of spirituality is that it is a term that encompasses everything that we cannot see directly with our eyes, perceive directly through the other senses and know through our mother reason. That is spirituality in its basic meaning.”
I would add that spirituality is that which transcends ourselves and our world and gives it meaning. I am part of it, but it is much bigger than me. That part of us that cannot be seen or felt by the senses or known by “mere reason” is what we really are. We are not our name, our job, our education, our reputation, our possessions, our family, our physical features, our brainpower, or anything else we think makes us who we are. These are, in fact, aspects of our lives, but not our essence. It is this core self that bears the brunt of the loss.
How we deal with loss is informed by many things in our personal history, as well as our current spiritual reality. To get an idea of how one is likely to deal with the tort and loss, it can be determined by the answers to the following questions:
How have you overcome previous losses? Your past way of handling losses is a good indicator of how you will handle future ones.
What have they taught you about your spirit?About God or a Higher Power? Do you know how to tap into a Source greater than yourself or do you live only within the connections that your 5 senses can make? Those who understand that they are not just a body with a mind, but also a spirit, can attend to this often neglected part that feels the grievance most intensely.
As an impressionable child, what did you see your parents and other caregivers doing in times of loss? Did your parents model healthy grief by talking about the loss, crying at times, experiencing non-threatening anger at times, and allowing others to support them? Or did life go on as if nothing had happened and, in some cases, without ever talking about the loss? If you have witnessed healthy grief from important role models in your life, you may have a role model for grief. If you don’t, it’s not too late to consider how you’d like to grieve for your own sake, as well as the role model you’ll model for your children and other younger, impressionable people in your life. They are watching and learning from you.
What kind of sphere of personal contact do you inhabit? Is it one of compassion and support or are your personal connections mostly social or business oriented or just superficial? The biggest predictor of how one navigates loss is the quality of the support system they not only have, but trust. If you don’t have this, building a support system is a good place to start.
Contemplating your answers to these questions can give you insight into how you are coping (or will be coping) with the losses in your own life.
Some seem never to recover from the loss. Many of us know people who have experienced the death of a loved one, often sudden or traumatic, where lives seem to go on but those who grieve never experience the fullness of life again. Perhaps you have seen someone who seems to wither and become a shadow of their former self for the rest of their lives. How many times have you heard (when referring to the greatest loss), “after his son died, he was never the same again”. This depth of loss, this extreme and complicated place of hurt is often an inability or a refusal to accept what is. This is not a judgment or a character flaw or a personal failing; It’s a tragedy. It’s not your fault; there is little in Western culture that acknowledges, acknowledges, or supports grievance beyond the funeral or memorial service. Your history of personal loss, as well as some of these other personal characteristics, lends itself to the ability or inability to overcome the tort.
Accepting “what is” is one of the biggest obstacles to overcoming grievance. Grievance research has shown that almost everyone “accepts” the death of a loved one immediately, that there is not this long period of “denial” that has often been referred to as part of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ “grievance stages.” However, who among the bereaved (who are painfully aware of the reality of loss) has not experienced coming home to being buffeted by the absence of their loved one? It is not denial; it is trying to wrap your brain around the fact that what was is no more. It’s a transition between the love that’s here one moment and the love lost the next, and that doesn’t usually happen overnight. The heart still searches for the lost; some research has called this “longing” which speaks of the intense desire to reconnect with that love.
Most people move through grievance at their own unique pace and many eventually find peaceful acceptance. This does not mean that this terrible loss is “okay”, but rather that one is no longer fighting reality and has come to a place of acceptance of who is. Others get “stuck” and may reach a point of bitter resignation, which is very different from peaceful acceptance. A healthy spirituality does not protect one from loss; rather, it allows loss to be fully embraced and experienced and, ironically, often gives meaning to life itself. A healthy spirituality helps to ultimately accept the unacceptable and inevitable losses of life. Our relationship with God or our Higher Power can be a source of tenderness and compassion as we navigate the rocky terrain of grievance.
If your complaint has paralyzed you and alienated you from your Source of spiritual support, it may be time to seek support from your faith community, a chaplain, or a spiritual advisor. If he hasn’t explored his spirituality before, this may be a time to reflect on what gives his life meaning and power in light of this loss. If what he previously believed does not support you in this current grievance, perhaps this is an opportunity for further exploration. Whether you’re trusting faith, questioning it, despising it, reclaiming it, or waking up to it, it’s worth seeking out.
That the grievance impacts the total being is undeniable and cannot be exaggerated. Your spirit searches for meaning in loss; what sustains you in these difficult times can help you find that meaning.