Grief is the normal response to loss, all losses.
Grief takes place throughout the body, mind and spirit. The complex response is integrated in the limbic system, a series of interconnected structures deep within the brain.
After our initial shock, grief can initiate apathy, confusion, fear and intense sadness. Physically, we experience symptoms including low energy, increased physical pain (especially in the mid-back and the pectoral or chest muscles) and altered circadian or daily rhythms (specifically the breathing, circulatory and sleeping patterns).
Grief is a human reaction to any loss, even though it is more often acknowledged and understood when we grieve the loss of a dear one due to death. We may feel awkward grieving the loss of a ring. The truth is that the body-mind reacts with grief to the loss of many things or ideas: a pet, a job, a train, a dream or youth. If that ring is the one our dear grandfather left us and we’ve been wearing it at all of life’s important occasions, then it has even deeper meaning.
New grief triggers old; every time we face a new loss, we are confronted with the grief of previous loss, in our own life as well as the grief we carry as a family, community and even a species.
From the yogic view, all suffering comes from our attachment, and detachment is a necessary part of releasing the suffering of grief. There is a misconception that detachment means not loving, or a lack of caring. At its purest level, detachment is the acceptance that everything is impermanent: at one level or another, everything must end. It is one of the laws of the universe or Sat. When we accept this, understand it, we can access an even deeper sense of love without clinging. When we acknowledge that something will not be with us forever, we can enjoy it even more when it is available to us. In my experience, the process of eventual detachment is better accomplished in two stages. The first is detached attachment, when you are still bonded with the object, person or idea yet you know that it will disappear; secondly, true detachment occurs.
In the midst of the emotional shock and trauma of acute grief, it takes time for the understanding of this transformation to occur. There is not one set formula to overcome grief, it is generally accepted that we experience stages of grief. These include accepting the loss and working through the pain of grief to eventually reinvest the love energy.
We identify ourselves through the persons and things we are attached to, and when we lose them, we lose part of who we are. Yet, we continue being, only that in a way that is not known to us. The process of finding out through transforming grief is three folded and it involves:
- Taking care of the symptoms of grief, particularly the physical ones
- Facilitating the grieving process, by promoting the healthy transition through all four tasks of mourning
- Re-identifying, now based not on pre-learned survival mechanisms, but instead, on one’s true essence
What my program offers is not a “retreat” from grief, nor a “release” from grief, but simply some relief from grief. For that to happen, we must work. The sadhana I’ve developed offers a practice—the foundation for the work we must do—and along the way reap the benefits we are after.