If left unchecked or unprocessed, the accumulation of a lifetime of losses can weigh us down, keep us from spiritual maturity, and cut us off from love and wholeness. Grief asks us to honor loss and nurtures us to awaken to our truth. It’s a time for transformation, a cleansing of, and a return to our heart. By going through the grieving process, we can find clarification of what we truly value and what we need to bring into our lives to make us feel whole and complete.
Through grief, we learn it’s necessary to acknowledge what has happened to us. We realize we have to give ourselves empathy, compassion, and time to heal the emotional wounds we’ve stored in our heart and soul.
When grief remains buried and unexpressed, we become cut off from the natural rhythm of love in our heart. That rhythm is rendered unable to flow with the changes life brings. It becomes confused as to what we truly value and need to survive and grow.
Grief opens us up to the harsh reality that all things come and go but that we can continually summon the courage to find new things that bring increased amounts of love and joy into our lives. In doing so, we begin to have an overall reverence for the delicateness of life itself.
The way to return to joy is by going through pain. We must go through bitterness to find the sweet. We have to feel the pain and endure some suffering. If we refuse to grieve, the pain becomes disguised in coping mechanisms that ultimately keep us from experiencing a fuller life. In his book, “The Voice of The Heart,” Chip Dodd describes it this way: “If we choose wholeness, we choose to experience pain.”
In choosing to process grief, we learn we can tolerate pain. We discover how it can help us grow to new levels of compassion, kindness, and patience, not just for ourselves but also for others.We realize we all grieve; it’s our common bond.
We can use grief to inform us of what we need more of or less of. Grief can tell us also what we’re better off without. Grief guides us if we allow it, to a higher place, one for the benefit of our soul. In every way, grief teaches us to accept and to let go.
We let go of our story, of our pain, and of our resistance to experiencing a life full of love. We accept whatever situation is and seek to trust that life is exactly like it’s supposed to be at this moment. It’s the ultimate teacher of how to be reverent and grateful for the things that touch us so deeply that our heart is forever changed. But to grow from grief, first we need to process it.
Scientific studies show that distress or disease can be the result of unprocessed emotions. When we’re young, many of us never learn how to process our feelings in a safe and productive way. People who are used to numbing or avoiding pain may be forced into grieving by way of failing health, ulcers, heart issues, diseases, depression, anxiety disorders, addictions, misdirected rage, etc.
Grief that remains unresolved like this is like a poisonous toxin. Every new loss left unprocessed gets added on to the already existing pain of some past event, and the heart and soul become clouded, heavily burdened, and broken. This buildup can result in rageful outbursts or silent depression.
What we need is a way to have emotional purification of the heart. The clarity brought to us from grief is the way forward to a happier, more meaningful life. God made us so that we can endure pain and suffering.
Like Christ, we suffer on our path toward our destiny. And also like Him, we can learn to accept, forgive, not judge, and be connected to God’s Spirit who has unconditional love for us. When we’re connected and surrendered to a Higher Power, it helps us to balance our suffering. That, in turn, produces a peace and neutrality around every loss or situation, improving our life.
The Goals of Grief
A helpful exercise during grief is to set personal goals. During difficult times, I start with 10, so that I can visualize where the grief process may take me. I understand it can take a while to reach my goals, and that I will fall short of one or all of them along the way until one day I begin to feel better.
Here are 10 examples of goals you can set for yourself:
- You’ve healed from your grief when the intensity of your feelings are mainly love and gratitude.
- You will be able to accept loss and change along the way without being diminished by it. Life can be a series of enhancements after each loss. You will move from grief to ever increasing amounts of grace and glory.
- You will seek love, bonding, belonging, and support because you know these are all basic needs. Your sadness will let you know when you need more of these things, and you will find more ways to bring these into your life.
- You will be able to shift the focus from what was lost to what was gained inside of you.
- You will experience the power to fulfill yourself. You will bring yourself what you need to once again feel like yourself and have wholeness.
- One day at a time, using courage, you will let go of grieving and move forward into receiving what you gained from the lost love.
- You will make the choice to live again, going onward with a renewed and deeper experience of God, following His voice, and relying on His wisdom and strength.
- You will know how to let go of control and to trust and surrender to the Will of God.
- You will find and learn to honor a deep unconditional love located in your heart.
- You will understand that everyone grieves, which increases compassion for all of humanity.
The Bible says that God’s Light dispels (or makes disappear) any darkness. When we turn the Light and Love of Christ in our heart toward the darkness (grief, depression, anger, sadness, etc.), our feelings tend to lighten up. If we keep shining God’s compassionate and healing Light on our pain and suffering, they, too, eventually disappear.
We allow the darkness and actually turn toward it. We surrender our pain and grief to the Light, Life, and Love of Christ. Our heart becomes pure once again. Like Jesus promises, “Blessed are those with a pure heart for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8) God is everything good. Grief can deliver us to a broader perspective that there’s indeed goodness in the world and inside of us.
Practices for Processing Grief
In an effort to help you and to share how I learned to process my grief or feelings, I’ve adapted some of the practices taught to me by GuruMeher, author of “Emotional Liberation: Life Beyond Triggers and Trauma.” Some of the practices also come from what I learned from years of psychotherapy.
In all of these practices, I invite you to find a quiet place, alone, where you can dedicate some time to the feelings that will lead you to your truth. Have tissues and a journal nearby. You can light a candle or play soft music. Breathe deep and slow. Close or keep your eyes open.
How to Experience, Accept, Allow, and Release Feelings: Emotional Clarity and Purification
Identify the feeling that’s the strongest. Is it fear, anger, grief, guilt, shame, shock, or overwhelm? Or is it all of the feelings at once?
Get interested in the emotions. Allow them and feel the accompanying bodily sensations. Sit with the discomfort or turbulence while discovering that you can handle being with them.
Ask the feelings as you would a good friend or therapist, “Why are you here?” “What do I need to know?” “What went or is going wrong to disturb my peace?” Ask your soul to reveal the truth.
Then sit and wait. You may hear the answer right away, or you may feel a sense of where you need to go or what you need to do. Listen for the subtle truth of your soul and God’s Spirit.
If your mind steps in to judge or analyze, take a deep breath in, directing it to your heart. Control the mind and return to the heart where God’s wisdom is found.
Continue to ask, “What’s going on here?” “What or who’s disrupting my peace?” Trust what you hear. God’s Spirit is The Revealer.
Once you can identify what’s causing the disruption, ask for counsel. “What must I know, say, do, let go of?” “What can I do to take care of my feelings so I can return to peace?” “What will it take to help me feel good again?”
Learn to hear God’s quiet voice. He is the Helper and the Counselor. Continue this practice until the messages are clear.
Even if you did not hear anything the first time, take the time to pray and thank God for being the Revealer, Helper, and Counselor. Thank Him for returning you to peace. Thank yourself for taking the time to listen to your soul and seek more wisdom.
Write down what you learned. What you heard. What was good or hard about the experience? If you have a hard time answering, know you will get better at hearing the answers as you learn to consistently seek God’s guidance.
Welcoming Grief and Opening Up to Compassion
Let yourself feel sad, heavy, defeated, helpless, and powerless. Imagine and feel your chest as a huge dark space that’s empty. Let your body be however it wants. Perhaps it needs to lie down. Or drooped and listless.
Let all previous and past losses that you can recall come into your mind. Was there something you had and lost? Was there something you wanted but didn’t get? Was there betrayal or abuse?
Breathe deeply and slowly, and take great interest in your feelings. Be curious about how your body is feeling and, at the same time, keep as still as you can. Relax and surrender to the feelings. Realize it is OK to feel. You’re capable of tolerating the emotions in your soul.
Trust that allowing your feelings is the pathway to releasing them. Let any pain or suffering pass in and out of your heart, washing it with compassion, kindness, gentleness, and love.
Realize that you’re safe. Let God handle your pain. Ask yourself: “What does my pain reveal to me?” “What does my heart say?” What’s the source of these feelings?” “What went away?” “What remains?” “What do I miss?” “What did I need and didn’t get?”
Listen deeply to your soul. It longs to be seen, heard, and valued. Wrap your feelings in compassion. You’re suffering and in pain, but you can handle it by showing yourself love. Be patient. Linger here. Cry if you need to. Abide with the unconditional love of Christ. He understands you. He sees your pain. He desires to bring you back to wholeness. Let Him heal you.
Say a prayer. Thank you, God, for healing my pain. Thank you for your love and compassion. Thank you for reminding me that I have a strong heart, and I can tolerate my feelings without needing to react or to escape them.
Using Memories to Show Yourself What You Love
Often our first response to loss is to stay close to the memories associated with the situation. Memory can activate the same pleasures and pains you once felt.
Here’s an exercise: Go back into the memories of the situation. Notice the pain associated with it. What are the qualities in your body? Do you feel heavy, foggy, agitated, or sad? Sit and observe how you feel, what you’re thinking, and what you’re desiring. It may be overwhelming, but allow yourself this time to experience what’s alive and true inside of your body and soul. Let your mind be free to wish or to want, to yell or to ponder.
Feel the pain. Where is it in your body? Is your throat tight? Does your body ache? Which memory brings up the most pain? Where were you? What did you feel? What did you do? Recall specifics and let the memory bring up any emotions.
If the emotions are strong and hard to handle, find a place of love and compassion in your heart and say to yourself, “I’m suffering. This makes me sad (or angry, depressed, or fearful). Sit in this space of loving kindness toward your suffering.
Now, identify what it is you love that may no longer be there. What was lost that you loved? Was it a piece or part of you? Was it a person or situation? Was it a dream or a hope? Remember the pleasurable feelings and memories that this person or thing, now lost, brought to you. Then grieve the loss. Let tears flow.
Understand Nothing Is Ever Lost
Access your feelings by way of thoughts and memories of the loss. Allow them to flow with no judgment. Let bodily sensations rise and fall and come and go.
Feel your way through the pain to the longing for pleasurable and loving feelings. Look for the positive qualities of the situation. Look for the positive feelings and experiences that you miss.
Allow yourself to feel these positives that your heart is seeking. Let the memories of these pleasurable feelings awaken in you once again. Realize that these feelings are still here. That they will live forever inside your heart.
What are the feelings? What does your heart desire? As you answer, open your heart. Let these feelings flow throughout your body. Feel how the love that was once generated by a situation or person now expands out of your heart and into your body, perhaps even out into the room. Let your heart overflow.
To continue bringing more of these feelings into your life now, pray to God for new opportunities to capture these feelings again. Be open to finding new sources for getting your heart what it needs and desires.
With time, focus, work, and guidance from God, grief can lead you back to heal your past and current wounds so you can move forward, restore your broken heart, and return to a place of peace and joy.
Eventually, you will learn that you can endure the pain of the loss. As you do, your grief will begin to give you guidance about what you need to add to your life to make you feel whole again. As you give that gift to yourself, the pain recedes. You realize you don’t have to live without positive or pleasurable feelings. However, you also realize it’s by experiencing the pain that truth is revealed about what will continue to bring you joy.
Your feelings can awaken you to that which is good and is still inside of you, forever. You understand your soul better, what you value and care about. This can empower you to make conscious choices for bringing more of those things into your life. You can envision new sources, and ask friends, family, and God for opportunities to bring more of these meaningful experiences into your life. Over time, you can turn your loss into a net positive gain somehow — when your heart is open to living again.
If you would like to learn more about how to improve your life through an approach of feeding the whole person, body, soul, and spirit, follow me on my blog, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and Medium. If you would like to work with me, schedule a session today.
Tonyah Dee has studied the Bible and wisdom traditions of the world for the last 30 years and teaches about finding ways to increase inner strength, stability, and confidence through practicing spiritual disciplines and healthy habits daily. Tonyah is a nutritionist, registered dietitian (R.D.), and earned her B.S. from Loma Linda University. She also holds certifications in Christ-centered life coaching, equine therapy, and meditation. Tonyah has been published in Scary Mommy, MSN, The Mighty, Mantra Wellness, CoveyClub, Thrive Global. Follow Tonyah on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Medium.