2007-10-26 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Good Grief
Commentary By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES Autumn is a time when we watch nature divest herself of her heavy leaves. She surrenders to the wind and allows the winds to carry them off of Her. We rake up the dead leaves and use them as compost for our gardens. Earth returning to Earth. Right passage. We remember that this time is only a part of the whole cycle of seasons. We all will prepare ourselves for winter, shed our heaviness, go inside to hibernate and then return in spring, renewed and refreshed, bursting into full glory and abundance throughout the summer, and back into autumn.

It is the fullness of the Whole that we tend to forget when someone we love leaves us. This month, in our beloved Rockaway, a wonderful woman beloved to all, left us. Barbara Eisenstadt created beauty and culture for us all here on the peninsula. She brought us music, art and literature. The gardens that she tended will be the mark of remembrance as each season unfolds. Barbara brought us kindness. This is what I will remember as her legacy. Quiet, graceful, kindness. The Book of Proverbs describes Barbara in the way in which I will always hold her in my heart.

Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies….Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own work praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:10,31). And let us all say Amen.

The way in which we experience grief is unique to each of us. One way that is common practice is to hold it in. Death is painful to process and it seems that when there is pain present, denial accompanies it. The response is to keep "a stiff upper lip," or "bite your tongue". So, where do the pain and the feelings of loss go?

In my experience, whatever we feel very strongly in our emotions is also felt in our bodies. When we are free to express our happiness, we laugh. When we are free to express our sadness, we cry. When we are not allowed to express our emotions, we push them down into whichever area of our bodies we choose. These unfelt emotions become the pains we then live with on a daily basis. The free floating anxieties, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, stomach troubles, heart issues, insomnia.

Good grief implies taking the time to listen to your feelings and to express them. Most religions and cultures have prescribed rituals for grieving. After these ceremonies, if you still have feelings, you must express them. There is no time limit for grieving. Loss is a definite experience. It needs to be acknowledged. When there are unresolved issues, it is even more important to take the time to grieve. Healing relationships can be accomplished even after the person has passed through this earthly plane of existence. In fact, often it is easier to communicate when we are unencumbered with the situations this lifetime presented.

Good grieving is a process. One should set aside no more than 15 minutes a day. Prepare a place that you go to each day, preferably at the same time each day. Set it up with the things of comfort. Include a small table to resemble an altar, where you can place a candle, a bowl of water, prayer books, pictures, a pen and paper and any objects that remind you of the person you wish to grieve for.

Good grieving involves the full expression of all the feelings you have for this person, both good and bad. As you enter your sacred grieving place, dip your fingers into the water. Place them over your eyes, ears, mouth and heart. As you do so, be mindful of clearing your senses and allowing your heart to be free.

Picture the person in your mind and speak your truth. You can yell, cry, scream, hit pillows or write them a letter. This is your sacred place and it is only for 15 minutes. If you choose to write a letter, you can keep it on your altar or in a journal. If you wish to destroy it afterwards, you can burn it safely and scatter the ashes. After 15 minutes, cleanse your senses again and leave the room with no regrets. Do not bring anything back with you into the rest of your day. If something arises that you want to say or do, make a note to do it the next day at your "good grief" session.

Repeat this good grieving each day and as the seasons pass, so will your sorrow. As layers of grief are experienced and expressed, joy will surface. New growth will appear as understanding and compassion are nurtured. Out of the ashes will come new life and a courage born of inner knowing. No fear.

Why do you fear, my children? You have nothing to fear except your own fear. What is death but a sleeping and very often a forgetting of earthly life; an awakening to a life more radiant and more harmonious. (The Source of all Our Strength. Sayings of White Eagle.)

May The Blessings Be!

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