Monday Meditation:

“Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible–the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.”

-Virginia Satir

One aspect that may be missing from the grief experience is a feeling of being valued as a person who is grieving. Outsiders (society in general and grief supporters in particular) may forget that part of their job is to make grievers feel worthy. Most often any misstep or differences or miscommunication is treated as a reason to criticize and judge the griever, to prove how poorly the griever is doing their job of grieving, to prove that the griever has a “problem” and is broken.

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Monday Meditation: An Act of Creation

“The first thing I tried to do in the months after losing my mother was to write a poem. I found myself turning to poetry in the way so many people do–to make sense of losses. And I wrote pretty bad poems about it. But I did feel that the poem was the only place that could hold this grief.”

-Natasha Tretheway

We have been socially conditioned to see grief as something destructive and, by consequence, something to be feared. In seeing only destruction in loss, we are prevented from seeing in grief the power of creation. Destruction and creation are not opposing forces, they are the flip sides of the same coin.

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Sunday Meditation: “Supermarket Flowers” (Ed Sheeran)

Hallelujah

You were an angel in the shape of my mum

You got to see the person I have become

Spread your wings and I know

That when God took you back he said Hallelujah

You’re home

-Ed Sheeran, “Supermarket Flowers”

Ed Sheeran wrote “Supermarket Flowers” following the death of his grandmother. The song, written in the first person, reflects the perspective of Sheeran’s mother. I’ve posted his live version of the song below.

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Monday Meditation: To Move Forward, Act

“Never mistake motion for action.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Grievers are often encouraged to “move forward” after a loss. Such societal pressure may leave grievers feeling stalled and stuck if they don’t “move forward” quickly and surely. The result can be a sense of hopelessness, depression, or anxiety that takes root in the griever’s life.

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Monday Meditation: Strength in Vulnerability

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong in the broken places.”

Ernest Hemingway

Two of the greatest fallacies regarding brokenness, I think, are:

  • No one gets broken/hurt by the world–life is always perfect and fair
  • If we admit to being broken, we are weak–there is nothing to be gained from being broken or healing from that brokenness.

Both are bull.

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Monday Meditation: Make Room for the Funny

“Sometimes in the most tragic situation, something just profoundly funny happens.”

-David Hyde Pierce

There really isn’t anything funny about grieving…at first glance. In truth, however, life is absurd in all contexts, including loss.

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Meditation Monday: The Hole of Love

“Love is a hole in the heart.”

-Ben Hecht

We often think of love as something that fulfills us. We love friends, we love family, we love children, we love significant others, we love ourselves. We can even love inanimate objects or experiences. Whatever it is that we love, we assume that love will give us warmth and support for the rest of our days. Then there is grief….

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Monday Meditation: It’s Gonna Be Work

“Be real with yourself in whatever area of your life and your game that you need improvement on. Once you figure that out, you just have to go out and work on it. For me, it’s footwork. I constantly work  on it, and it’s a never-ending process.”

-Calvin Johnson (former wide-receiver for the Detroit Lions)

No one tells you that grief how much work grief is going to entail.

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Monday Meditation: Give me an “I”

“Improvement begins with I.”

-Arnold H. Glasow

Grief is overwhelming, and grievers may frequently turn to their grief supporters for help getting through the initial trauma of loss and then healing. Some grief supporters are really great at being there for the griever in their lives, others aren’t as helpful. While being surrounded by amazing support is important for grievers, even the best grief supporter cannot heal a griever.

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Six Years and Counting…

Today (at 10:36a.m.) marks six years since my mother’s death.

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Monday Meditation: Fight or Flight

“In boxing, they say it’s the punch you don’t see coming that knocks you out. In the wider world, the reality we ignore or deny is the one that weakens our most impassioned efforts toward improvement.”

-Katherine Dunn

Grief throws many things at you in fast succession; it is overwhelming. Grievers may barely get a break between one thing and the next. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe; reality can feel too real at times and it can be tempting to avoid it or numb ourselves to forget about it.

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Monday Meditation: Open With Loving-Kindness

“Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it.” 

-Harry Emerson Fosdick

It is easy to become angry and bitter after losing a loved one. Finding or feeling joy and hope seems impossible. We may even feel that the loss is somehow a punishment, an action taken by the universe to ruin our lives. We may even lash out at others, finding long-lasting comfort in the anger that comes with grief.

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Grief 101: Anger

The following series of posts outlines the traditional “stages” of grief as presented in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s On Death and Dying (1969). The stages are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. This post addresses anger.

Grief 101

Please see my post called The Five Stages of Grief” for a brief discussion of the five-stages.

Anger is perhaps the second most common emotion associated with grief (the first being sadness). Anger is one of those emotions that everyone understands: we are comfortable with it, we know how to express it, we know how to share it, we know how to recognize it. Grief is compromised of a lot of emotions we may or not fully understand and anger seems to be a catch all for the mish-mash of feelings we experience. Our emotional vulnerability when grieving can also contribute to anger, since are taught to view emotionality as a weakness.

Of anger, eCondolence.com writes:

  • “It would be better to see anger as a ‘state’ during the grieving process where the circumstances or conditions of life are such that anger might easily be the response.”
  • “Being angry is a way of releasing energy, of protesting a loss that does not make sense or seem fair.”

In other words, anger is a way of responding to circumstances of grief that allows us to expel energy and protest the unfairness of the loss we experience.

The anger experienced in grief can be directed at anyone: the griever (as an outlet of guilt), grief supporters, or even the deceased themselves. It is common for grievers to be angry at the fact that their loved one died but also to be angry at the loved one for dying.

Anger arises from the overwhelming and stressful nature of loss and grief. Grief-related stress can feed a griever’s anger as well, giving fuel to the fire that keeps them locked in a state of anger, preventing the chance to heal.

Despite the helpful aspect of anger, it has its downsides. Anger can lead to a griever’s isolation and cause them to seem unapproachable to their support network. It’s hard for grief supporters to reach out to a griever whose go-to response in conversations and/or when presented with suggestions or advice is to lash out in anger. Although we have familiarity with anger, we should remember that it does have its limits–both for the person experiencing it and for those receiving it.

What should we do with our anger as a griever? Feel it, don’t suppress it. Grief.com advises that a griever should “[b]e willing to feel…anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal.” Trying to avoid anger or masking it will only repress the anger. It will return and it could be more damaging the second time around as it has not been reduced but compounded by time and added stressors.

What else can we do to deal with anger that evolves from and during grief?

  • Cry if you need to. Tear are way for body to release stress.
  • Write an angry letter. Don’t send it! But helps get the emotions out.
  • Exercise helps reduce stress that can lead to anger.
  • Scream as loudly as you can (in a safe space–like your car)
  • Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or yoga.

To help reduce anger, Verywellmind.com suggests that when a griever:

  • try to calm your body (deep breathing, exercise, shift focus to distance self from the emotional trigger event),
  • identify the cause of the anger (sometimes we know the cause, sometimes we don’t, sometimes the anger has been building and the event was the last straw,
  • communicate the anger somehow (write in a journal, talk to a friend, see a therapist),
  • and plan a course of action (view the situation from another person’s perspective, reframe the situation from different angle, work on increasing emotional resilience).

As with all grief-related emotions, anger is cyclical–once it disappears it may return at a later point, in part influenced by other emotions within the griever (such as guilt). And while grievers should feel their anger and let it run its course, grievers should be sure to check their anger to make sure it doesn’t overwhelm them and/or isolate them from support. If anger becomes obsessive or uncontrollable, grievers should seek professional assistance.

In short: anger (no matter when it happens during grief) is an expected and normal part of the grief experience and reflects the reality of loss as a griever moves from denial or disbelief to the reality and permanence of the loved one’s absence.

Resources

Monday Meditation: Strength & Courage

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

-Lao Tzu

When we lose a loved one, we often lose the person who most believed in us, the person we leaned on when we needed to rest and gather ourselves. Once gone, we lack the support and encouragement that gives us strength when we need it. Being loved provides us strength.

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Monday Meditation: To Love, Listen

“The first duty of love is to listen.”

-Paul Tillich

Grief is a response to love lost and grief is the expression of deep love itself. As such, grievers must honor the love within grief, and listen to what it shares about their life, their memories, and their future.

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