Tag Archives: Grief

Strategies to Face the Unthinkable: When a Spouse is Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

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The moment a loved one receives the terrifying diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, difficult changes are on the horizon. I can think of nothing more daunting than to be a spouse facing these challenges. The supporting partner must navigate relationship changes, safety issues, as well as medical and financial decisions. At the same time, they are left to grieve the relationship they once knew.

Life will soon be inexplicably changed forever. The partner, now altered by this disease, will likely exhibit challenging behaviors and unpredictable personality changes. It is a difficult road full of unthinkable demands for the one providing care. A new reality requiring a tremendous amount of support. Following are suggestions for those facing this tragedy. Continue reading

Music: A Coping Mechanism During Bereavement

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Many of us know that experiencing the loss of someone in our life can be devastating.  Each one of us processes death differently and in our own time.  Finding tools to assist us in this process can be a miraculous thing.  Music can be an amazing catalyst to assist us in processing challenging emotions such as anger, sadness, guilt and anxiety that may occur in the bereavement process.  Songs can be amazing messengers in these challenging times that provide comfort and allow us to bring our feelings to the surface. As we begin to deal with our emotions, the healing process can begin.  Here are a few suggestions to utilize music as a coping mechanism during bereavement. Continue reading

7 Simple Reminders When Dealing With the Stress of Death

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You know it’s probably not a good thing when the phone rings at 1am.

My mom called me from the hospital and woke me with terrible news. My stepfather died from a massive heart attack. How can this happen to a “healthy” and vibrant person?  He was only 64 years old. She was in shock.

Most people aim to have a smooth, steady and orderly life. Stress is an invasion into that “peaceful” environment. The death of a loved one is #1 of the top 5 causes of stress.

The grief from a death is intense. It effects your emotions, body and overall life in many ways. A sudden death, like my stepfather’s, just feels unnatural and can challenge anyone’s confidence. An incident like this can turn your world upside down.

There are different stages of grief and it’s important to deal with the process. Don’t rely on alcohol and drugs; they only numb the pain temporarily and can prolong the recovery process of mourning. Mourning is the psychological process of healing and is different for everyone.

Here are 7 simple reminders to help deal with the stress of death and the grieving process: Continue reading

Seven Things You Can Do To Help Someone in Grief

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When it comes to grief many times those who love  and know someone experiencing loss want to offer assistance; however, they are unsure of just where to begin. There are things that one can do that are not only meaningful, but also needed.

About four years ago, I began to do research for my book, “A Widow’s Guide to Healing” and I interviewed widows from all different backgrounds about their experiences. The widows often reported that one of the most frustrating things about their grief was that others seemed to ignore them, and didn’t offer any help. It may be the case that some well- meaning people simply do not know what to do and instead of stepping in to ask how they can help, they just walk away.

Here are seven things you can do to help someone in grief: Continue reading

Gift to the Soul: The Space of Presence

Photo Credit: Kalliope Kokolis
Photo Credit: Kalliope Kokolis

For many of us this is a season when it feels that we are going faster and faster. Everything’s racing, through school semesters, wrapping up work commitments, entering the holidays; the currents of life are in full tilt.

Given the time of year, one student fell into a period of intense stress resulting from a cycle of classes, studying, working and little sleep. He didn’t realize how long he had neglected to write home until he received the following note:

 Dear Son,
Your mother and I enjoyed your last letter.
Of course, we were much younger then and more impressionable.
Love,
Dad

As you know, it’s not just students. Some months ago a friend described getting caught in this state busy-ness while trying to get her daughter to school. She was busy getting things ready while her daughter was trying to show her something. Every time her daughter would call her over she would say, “Just hang on a moment. I’ll be there in a second.” After several rounds of this, the little four-year old came out of her room tired of waiting. She said to her mother, hands on hips:

“Why are you always so busy? What’s your name? Is it President O’mama or something?”

Along with the speediness we have the sense that there is not enough time. It’s interesting to observe how often we are living with that perception. It is usually accompanied by a squeeze of anxiety:

“I’m not going to be prepared,” and a chain of insecurities. “There’s something around the corner that is going to be too much,” “I’m going to fall short,” “I won’t get something critical done.” There’s this sense that we’re on our way somewhere else and that what’s right here is not the time that matters. We’re trying to get to the point in the future when we’ve finally checked everything off our to-do list and we can rest. As long as this is our habit, we are racing toward the end of our life. We are skimming the surface, and unable to arrive in our life.

Thomas Merton describes the rush and pressure of modern life as a form of contemporary violence. He says:

“…to be surrendering to too many demands, too many concerns, is to succumb to the violence.”

When we’re speeding along, we violate our own natural rhythms in a way that prevents us from listening to our inner life and being in a resonant field with others. We get tight. We get small. We override our capacity to appreciate beauty, to celebrate, to serve from the heart.

Our mindfulness practice offers us the opportunity to pause and rediscover the space of presence. When we stop charging forward and open to what’s here, there’s a radical shift in our experience of being alive. As we touch into this space of Hereness, we access a wisdom, a love and a creativity that are not available when we’re on our way somewhere else.  We are home, in our aliveness and our spirit.

 © Tara Brach
Enjoy this video on: The Space of Presence

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Lessons from kayaking: Finding a Way to Be With Fear

Leaving the Marina with Morro Rock in the background and the MorMost of us spend a lot of our lives tensed up in fear, or pushing against fear.
The fear might be fear of:
  • Something going wrong
  • Not being good enough
  • Not being loved
  • Losing something or someone we hold dear
What fears do you live with?
The key to being with fear is in contacting what is here now, rather than trying to push it away. Here’s a story from the river that helps us understand that.  In kayaking, you learn about what is called a keeper hole. It’s a swirl in the river that catches a boat or a body and pulls it down under the water.  You can drown because you get stuck in that swirling current and you can’t get out of it.  If you get caught in a keeper hole, the only way out is actually to dive right into the center, down as far and deep as you can, toward the bottom, because if you get to the bottom you can swim out the side of the swirl.
So you do the opposite of what your instincts tell you to do.  Your instinct, of course, is to fight your way to the surface.  But it won’t work; you’ll keep getting pulled into the hole.  No, you have to dive down into the hole.
It’s like that with fear.  Our instincts are to pull away, to ignore the fear, or to distract ourselves.  We naturally want to escape the pull, the uncomfortable sensation, of fear.  But the skillful way of dealing with fear, just like the keeper hole, is to go into the center of it.
The training in facing fear is to directly contact it…to lean right in.  This is not something to do if your fear is from trauma.  It could be too overwhelming.  If you are dealing with trauma, you might need someone to work with you on that fear.  So you might try finding a thought that brings up fear,  a mild or moderate fear, and letting yourself feel the sensation.  Breathe right into the place you feel the fear, really letting yourself experience it for a moment.  On the out breath, let the fear disperse into the vastness of space around you, or the ocean you are part of.  See and feel the fear moving out into that larger space.
When you are kayaking on the ocean, or on a large lake, you can sense yourself as part of that spaciousness.  Allow the fear to disperse into the spaciousness.  You might find that it is possible to be with the fear, rather than push it away, when you are aware of your oceanness.
© Tara Brach
Enjoy this talk on Finding the Juice in Fear

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photos by: mikebaird & mikebaird

Absolute Cooperation with the Inevitable

Mystic Poppies.The modern-day mystic and Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello once said: “Enlightenment is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.” This statement struck a deep chord within me. It seems to me that what he meant was to be absolutely open to life as it is.

Think about the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean that flows from the tip of Florida up along the eastern seaboard. If you were to put a straw in the water, aligned with the Gulf Stream, it would move with the flow of water. The water moves through it and carries it along on the current. Everything is aligned; it’s total grace. Now, if it’s misaligned, and it’s not moving with the flow of water, it gets spun around and moves off course.

Aligning ourselves with the flow of aliveness is an essential part of our mindfulness practice. Like the straw, if we move out of alignment, we’re moving away, spinning about, in reaction…in some way unable to be one with the flow of grace. So we seek to stay aligned, letting the flow of life move through us.

What are some ways that we remove ourselves from the channel through which our life flows?

I noticed this happening the other day when I was driving home. I have my own accustomed speed, and the person in front of me was going much, much, much slower. You know what that is like, don’t you? Now, I wasn’t in a rush to get somewhere. I wasn’t on my way to the airport to catch a plane, but it didn’t matter. I was driving at a speed that felt really different from my preferred speed. I was experiencing impatience and anxiety, and it was building. Everything in me was leaning forward. I felt like I couldn’t be okay unless the situation changed.

So I paused, mentally. I recognized that I had a demand that something be different than it was at the moment, and I tried to let go of it. This example is a small thing, but this happens in many ways, some small and some much larger, in our human experience. We get caught in feeling that happiness is not possible unless things change. Consequently, we cause ourselves tremendous unhappiness, because we’re demanding that things be different.

It’s interesting to notice how this happens. I think it arises from our social conditioning about what brings happiness. We are led to believe that we need certain things to be happy: “If I can get this job,” “If I can earn this much money,” “If I can buy a house in that neighborhood,” then I will be happy. Or we might think, if only I were healthier, or thinner, or if my boss quit so I could have a different boss, or if I had a different spouse…and on and on.

We wait for things to be different in order to feel okay with life. As long as we keep attaching our happiness to the external events of our lives, which are ever changing, we’ll always be left waiting for it.

What if we were to pause and align ourselves with the current?
What if we moved with the flow of what is?
What would that mean for you in your life, right now?

Aligning with what is here is a way of practicing presence. It allows us to respond to our world with creativity and compassion.

What is actually happening is that we’re opening to the universal intelligence, the universal love that can flow through us when we’re aligned. When the straw is aligned with the current, the Gulf Stream flows through it. When we’re aligned with the flow of our lives, there’s a universal wisdom and love that flows through us, which is our true nature.

© Tara Brach

Adapted from Radical Acceptance  (2003)

Enjoy this talk on: Absolute Cooperation with the Inevitable

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For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

photos by: hipea & h.koppdelaney

Lift Yourself Up with a Gesture of Kindness

almost mayThe next time you find yourself in a bad mood, take a moment to pause and ask yourself, “What is my attitude toward myself right now? Am I relating to myself with judgment … or with mindfulness, warmth, and respect?”

Typically, you’ll find that when you’re anxious, lonely, or depressed, you’re also down on yourself in some way, and that undercurrent of feeling deficient or unworthy is what’s keeping you cut off from your own aliveness, as well as your feeling of connection with others.

The way of healing and homecoming begins with what I call “a gesture of kindness.” You might for instance put your hand on your heart—letting the touch be tender—and send a message inwardly. It might be “It’s okay, sweetheart.” Or  “I care about this suffering.” Or, “I’m sorry and I love you.”  Often, it’s simply,  “This, too.”

Sometimes, this gesture of kindness includes saying “yes” to whatever’s going on—the yes meaning, “This is what’s happening, it’s how life is right now … it’s okay.”

If you’re really down on yourself, you can also say “Forgiven, forgiven.” Not because there’s something wrong to forgive, but because there’s some judgment to let go of.

As you offer yourself this gesture of kindness, take some moments to stay with yourself, to keep yourself company. Allow whatever most wants attention to surface, and sense that you are the loving presence that can include and embrace whatever’s arising.

Then, see if you can widen your attention, and notice what or who else is floating in your heart space. Perhaps you’ll intentionally offer a gesture of kindness to a friend who’s struggling with disappointment, a family member dealing with illness, or a teen caught in self-doubt.

As you continue to practice offering yourself and others this gesture of kindness, you will discover that this response to life becomes increasingly spontaneous and natural.  In time, you’ll recognize it as the most authentic expression of who you are.

—Tara Brach,  Labor Day Weekend, 2013

Enjoy this short talk on Dedicating to Kindness

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photo by: paul bica

The Whale Song: Ancient Healing for Primal Pain

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Sometimes your pain is primal.

Like a a spectrum of dark light that wants to fall on every aspect your being. Wordless turmoil churning inside you, threatening to explode into your life if you can’t contain it, or don’t escape it, or if you fail at keeping it far, far away. At times like this there’s a need for healing. But who can heal a darkness like this?

Who can reach into a darkness so intense that it is winning in those moments – holding you in a space impenetrable to light? In ancient wisdom traditions, for this there is whale song.

Not all saviors of the human condition come in human form. A darkness as primal and as ancient as ours can be met only with a force equally as primal and ancient. For this, there is whale song.

Listen.

They are communicators. Their song is a song of healing. It will dissolve darkness with its perfect frequencies of ancient knowing. You will cry. You will feel a gentle light washing over you. You will feel a restoration happening in your cells.

Gradually, you will feel saved. They are our ancient safe keepers. They are our primal guardians. They come to heal us. They sing for us to remember. For us to rest. For our love to be restored.

They hold the light in the most ancient of dark places. They will release you back to the light.

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Resources:

1. Modern researchers have successfully recorded whale song the world over.

The whale song is constant. We sometimes record song samples twenty four hours a day. The song rarely ceases. Do the whales create this soundscape to give solace to the newborn in the hours of darkness? In the dark of night, in the deep ocean, only the stars and the song bring hope for the dawn.The Ocean Project

2. Click here to play a recording of whale song shared by Sacred Swims & Communication with Humpback Whales on Soundcloud.

3. Try playing whalesong when anxiety surfaces in you. Have a hot shower or bath. Put on relaxing clothes. Light a candle. And lay still. Let the whale song play. Let it wash over you. If you can, let it play as you fall asleep overnight.

Repeat at least 3-4 times a week.

 

Photo credit: Facebook

Originally published on my website, The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spirituality

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