Grief can be a lonely place. When everything around you reminds you of a great loss, you might be finding it hard to imagine a time when you will ever feel happy again. It seems like no-one else could possibly understand what you're going through. But the truth is that they do - all too well!
There is a Buddhist story about a grieving woman who, having carried her dead son around for days, asked the Buddha to administer a cure to bring her dead son back to life. The Buddha told her that in order to do this he would need a mustard seed received from a household which had not borne the death of a loved one.
Of course, grief does not have to be about death. Grief is experienced when you lose something or someone that/who has played an important and meaningful role in your life.
However, death usually presents you with the most difficult grieving periods in your life. If it involves the loss of a child, parent or life partner it can become debilitating for a while. But the devastation you feel at these times need not become a permanent fixture in your life.
The woman in the story was delighted by the Buddha's promise and set off to find her seed. For days she went from house to house asking for a mustard seed. Many took pity on her and were willing to give her one, but whenever she asked the question "Has your family ever known death?" the response was always "yes". Every home she visited had lost a family member.
Eventually the woman realised how impossible her task was, and returned to the Buddha. She acknowledged the universality of death and its associated grief.
There are two important things to remember at a time of grieving:
No matter how lonely you might feel right now,you are not alone.There is in fact a vast network of people out there who can empathise with you, help you to move through your grief and begin to look forward again with hope.
This too will pass.Everything we experience in life is temporary. Life itself is temporary. And so is grief.
We really and truly can get over anything, even the unimaginable. People do it every day.
It is a process though, and it does take time. Here are three steps to help you.
1. Want to move forwards!
The difference between someone who moves through grief and someone who gets stuck in it is making the decision to let go of your loss and to look for a way to move forwards.
Yes, I am aware that this is much easier said than done. If you are feeling stuck ask yourself how is this grief serving you? If your grief is related to a death, is this what your loved one would want for you?
The Buddha said to the grieving woman:
"Your sorrow accomplished nothing for your son. Be prepared, for you will suffer many other deaths in your time, and some day your own."
In this story, what helped the woman to let go of her grief was hearing the stories of others and realising that her experience, while devastating to her in that moment, was a normal part of mortal life, and shared by all.
When you share your grief with others, listen to their own stories, and learn how they came through their own tragedies, it can restore your courage and strength and give you hope for the future.
What you need to do here is quite simple and very powerful:decide to reach outand connect with others who can help you.
2. Identify all the people you could potentially talk to about your loss.
Friends or family members?
Someone who has been in a similar situation who can empathise with what you're going through?
Support groups you could join?
Once you have as full a list as possible of all the people youcouldconnect with, decide who youwillconnect with. It doesn't have to be everyone on your list. As you look it over, where does your heart lean towards?
Choose one or two people (or groups) and write down what you need to do to practically make that connection. It might be as simple as picking up the phone and ringing your best friend. Or it may involve an online search for bereavement counselling services in your area.
Whatever it is,write it down.This increases your commitment to taking the action.
Then take a deep breath, and do it.
3. Remind yourself - often - that"this too will pass".
When you're ready to embrace it, something new and wonderful will come into your life to fill the space that's been created. The woman in the story became a disciple of the Buddha and found inner peace.
You may not be able to (or even want to) imagine that for yourself right now. But the possibility of experiencing joy is open to us each and every day of our lives. Remember the Buddha's words. Your suffering accomplishes nothing for your dear departed. And wouldn't they choose joy, happiness and inner peace for you instead?