Happy holidays? Well, maybe.
The holidays are a difficult time of year for many people. This holiday season is sure to be like one we have never experienced before. No matter how merry and bright we make November and December’s cold winter days, they will likely be touched with sadness and uncertainty.
2020 brought rapid loss to our doorsteps. We are adjusting to a new way of being in this world. Some are celebrating change, others mourning it. No matter how we feel about our current global and national situation, we are all grieving. We grieve an era that, for better or worse, is gone. As we determine what normalcy means in a COVID-19 aware world, we can’t help but recall what the world was like before. This winter, we are miss what seemed unthinkable just one year ago: being in the physical presence of other humans.
There are no short-cuts to grieving.
Grief brings with it a host of complicated, sometimes conflicting emotions: fear, sadness, anger, resentment…. Our culture tends to hurry the grieving process, but grief has a timeline of its own that must be played out. We can do so consciously or unconsciously, but the work of grieving must be done. How we choose to participate in our own grieving process is up to us.
At times we pathologize grief. A beloved companion died six months ago and we think there is something wrong with us because we cry when we forget their gone and send them a text message. The grief feels like it is taking too long. The truth is, grief simply takes as long as it need to take. Part of grieving is accepting that some losses will always be recalled with a touch of sadness.
Grief and the spiritual path.
Believe it or not, there is a good deal of shaming done in some spiritual circles with regards to grief. Practitioners feel guilty for grieving. They believe that if they are sad, scared, or, perhaps most spiritually stigmatized, angry, they will invite more things to grieve into their life! Some even assume that if one is grieving or experiencing a so-called negative emotion, they must not be doing their spiritual practice.
Grief is part of what it means to be human. Shiva was inconsolable after the death of his first wife Sati. He spent years in meditation as he mourned her loss. When the Buddha lost a beloved friend, one of his disciples challenged him, “If you are enlightened, why are you crying?” The Buddha simply replied, “Because I am sad.” Perhaps one of the most profound statements in the New Testament was made at Lazarus’ tomb: Jesus wept.
Finding our power in the midst of grief.
The truth is, we don’t know why bad things happen. Sure, the law of attraction provides an arbitrary sense of control, but it also contributes to unnecessary feelings of guilt and shame. In all likelihood, we do not attract the loss of a job, death of a loved one, or living with chronic and sometimes fatal disease. Our power is not in how we create challenging circumstances for ourselves, but rather in what we choose to do when they show up at our doorstep.
The grieving process need not be hurried. We can allow grief to occur by feeling all of our complex and varied feelings. We can take care of ourselves as we grieve. It may help to maintain a sense of routine, but with the awareness that we won’t always be able to stick to it. It is okay not to be okay for a while.
It may be helpful to be balance needed time alone with the company of supportive loved ones. In some situations, support groups can be helpful. Therapists and other mental health professionals can also help us navigate grief and integrate loss into our lives.
It may be tempting to close our hearts when we are grieving. As difficult as it may be, we must do our best to keep our hearts open. After all, yoga means union. In the face of adversity, we are always innately connected to others, the world, and Source.
Keeping our hearts open: Ustrasana (Camel Pose).
- Begin kneeling. Bring knees and feet together.
- Inhale: Firm the buttocks. Extend the tailbone downward while simultaneously lifting the sternum upward.
- Place the hands at the lower back towards the upper buttocks flesh.
- Exhale: Draw the shoulder blades in on the back. Lift the chest. If there is no strain in the neck, take the head back.
- The hands may stay at the lower back, or extend arms and hold heels with hands.
- Take about five to eight breaths in the pose, as able.
- Inhale to release hands and come up.
- Come to downward facing dog pose or table top for five to eight breaths to steady the spine.
- Optional: Child’s pose as a counter-pose.