Self-awareness. As adults, there’s no getting around it. You can try, of course, and many of us die trying. So it may be tempting to move speedily through this holiday season without pausing to consider the ins and outs of your intimate relationship with grief. There’s no crime in that if it works for you. Sometimes self-awareness is a matter of timing. Sometimes a grief-striking loss is so raw and present to you, there is little need to become more aware of your responses to it than you already are. But don’t let too much time get away without taking a closer look at your relationship with grief. Too often, we hold our grief at arm’s length until the eleventh hour – perhaps that’s why grief has become so synonymous with death.
Death and dying educator Richard Groves, who is co-author of The American Book of Living and Dying, focuses his life’s work on helping the dying and their families resolve grief with one another before a death takes place. Groves calls it “transforming spiritual pain.” He asserts that no matter how prepared you may be to face the reality of your death or that of a loved one, no one is immune from death-related spiritual pain in one form or another.
At one of Groves’ training sessions for care providers that I attended through The Sacred Art of Living Center, I was struck with a notion that completely changed my relationship with grief. As Groves shared one death story with us after another, it became apparent to me that the types of spiritual pain encountered in each death were rooted in the types of spiritual pain each person encountered long before death came to call. It suddenly dawned on me: If the grief of death is the grief of life, then we’d best get on with learning to resolve grief in our lives continually! The effort seems especially significant since some of us will never see death coming. Why save up the challenge of healing all of our grief for the last big hurrah?
My book Doing Grief in Real Life is filled with guided contemplations to help you become more aware of your grieving preferences and tendencies, and needs for healing. A few of these are offered as audio contemplations on the Readers Resources page here. Take a few moments to get to know yourself as a griever. The effort will be worth it, because no one will ever get to know you and your grief like you can. You are your own best healer for the grief that ails you. As Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
The grief you heal now is part of the peace you find then. That’s the deal.Shea Darian, Doing Grief in Real Life: A Soulful Guide to Navigate Loss, Death & Change