This blog post was written by Kristen Peairs, Nutritionist and Meditation Guru at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivati platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here.
In a world where grief is viewed in black and white, I’m here to say that grief is so much more interesting when viewed in technicolor.
Growing up, I knew black and white grief—sadness, crying, dark clothes, drizzly days, death, and funerals were par for the course. Input from people, books, and media constantly affirmed the gray gloom I saw and experienced, so I had no reason to consider anything different.
Nothing shifted about how I perceived grief until I met the right person. That person, for me, was a grief coach. With her help, a whole new grief experience—a technicolor experience—entered my reality. Compassionately, she held space as I processed what I’d lost. Gently, she invited me to open to gifts of life right now. Curiously, she sparked me to imagine beauty on the horizon of life yet to come.
During that short session, I felt as if I was riding on the back of a dolphin. Together, we dove deep into the cold dark ocean of memories and swam up toward the light of life’s gifts. Just as I thought we couldn’t go any further, we leaped out of the water and glimpsed bright life calling from afar. Again and again, my coach asked questions to help me explore the depth of what I’d lost as well as the warmth of life calling from the future.
I will never forget that experience. The light helped me navigate the dark. The warmth kept me mobile in the cold. The heaviness of loss lessened, and healing integration occurred. With the integration, grief’s gloom was no longer dominating my every thought and more strength, confidence, and resilience began showing up in all areas of life. Needless to say, what I thought I knew about healing from grief and what I actually knew about healing from grief were vastly different.
I venture to believe that for everyone, the unraveling of the stories, the feelings, and the experiences from the past—not to mention the hopes and dreams for the future—all play a part in the marvel that is the grief experience. I learned that having a person who is both an anchor and light was so helpful in finding my way through healing from grief.
Grief is Natural and Normal
Because it is useful to hear it said, I say to you:
Grief is natural and normal. We all go through it.
Losing a job, a relationship, a loved one, a belief, or a place can precipitate entry into grieving. For some of us, grieving includes tears and sadness. For others, it contains depression, anger, or rage.
Why are there so many different reactions?
The uniqueness of each situation and the distinctiveness of our personalities combined with how we process feelings and emotions sets a tone for grieving that is all ours. No one else gets to have an experience like the one we are going through.
Healing from Grief
Regardless of whether we are the person grieving or supporting someone who is grieving, it’s hard to know what is right to say and do. What helps? What hurts? Whom do we talk to about this subject?
It may be useful to know that there isn’t necessarily a right way to grieve or to support someone who is grieving. Much of how we handle grief we’ve learned from our cultures and families. To fill in the blanks in our knowledge, television, movies, articles, books, and social media provide plenty of content. Neither families nor media nor anything else in between can fully reflect what is happening inside us as we grieve.
The experts talk about there being stages of grief. Some say there are five stages, while others say there are seven. While it’s nice to know this information, the stages feel empty without content. It’s the content, composed of the meaning, feelings, hopes, dreams, and wishes of the one in the grief experience that make it real. The richness is on the inside. The content that makes the grief rich is so highly personal that those outside cannot truly know what is occurring for the griever. No two grief experiences are the same.
What makes this situation even more challenging is that the grief may leave us feeling disconnected from life as we mistakenly believe that since no one can know our pain, no one can help us.
Of course, we can be helped. The help just needs to be from the right individuals with the right skills. Some grievers need compassionate silence, while others crave conversational distraction. Many people have no idea what would benefit them, so exploration is necessary.
Strategies for Coping with Grief
Nothing allows us to learn more about the strategies for coping with grief than being the one in the grieving space. Once we’re there, allowing ourselves to go through the process of healing from grief, as opposed to trying to shut it down or skip over grief, is important. Keeping in mind that we are aiming for technicolor grief, my three suggestions are as follows.
1. Invite Support
Inviting support is a good place to start. As I shared earlier, I know the richness of the grieving space. I also know that inviting support and guidance helped speed up my healing.
- Grief Support: Whether you choose to lean toward a grief coach, a grief counselor, a clergy member, or a friend, find someone who can compassionately listen while remaining firmly anchored in the light of life right now. Choose someone whose questions make you pause and breathe a little deeper.
During your journey of healing, it’s possible that you will choose to release one level of support in favor of another. That’s normal and good.
2. Engage with Mindful Practices
Mindful practices help create a space of stillness and order within big emotions. While nearly any activity can be transformed into a mindful practice, two of my favorite practices are journaling and meditation.
- Journaling: Documenting thoughts and feelings helps get the information out of our heads and onto paper. To get the most benefit, try journalling by hand rather than using an electronic device.
- Meditation: Meditation, a practice that supports the mind and body by training attention and awareness, can be calming and rejuvenating. It can help us receive new insights during a time when we may feel swamped with thoughts of times already past and things we cannot change.
3. Explore Creative Expression
Remembering that we’re aiming for the technicolor experience of grief, exploring creative expression related to our grief is essential. Creative expression comes in many forms. Dancing, drawing, painting, sewing, and gardening can all be used to process our grief by making it visible and tactile. We don’t have to be skilled in the medium through which we choose to express ourselves. It is the act of thinking about, feeling through, and doing the activity that provides the benefit.
- Dancing: Choosing music that goes with your emotions and then letting your body be moved by the music is a full-body way of exploring your grief. Try it. See what happens. Note how you feel afterward.
- Drawing, painting, sewing, and gardening: Choose colors, materials, and/or plants that connect to the feelings and thoughts you’re currently experiencing. Without concern for how the finished product looks, put colors on paper, paint on canvas, fabric to a machine, or plants to dirt to create something that reflects where you’re at. See what shows up.
Grief is a Journey
Grief is a journey. Let yourself go through it. Invite support. Stay as mindful as you can. Explore creative ways to express your grief and use the strategies that most resonate with you. Explore the dark of the loss while never forgetting the light. This is grief in technicolor. For more on grief, check out this article.
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