In our digital and intellectual world we can often unknowingly over focus on thoughts and ideas and bypass, if you will, the rest of our being. Humans are a complex dynamic that includes physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental elements. Each of these four domains must be attended to if our expression of grief is to be healthy and complete.
Grief is so personal and unique it is challenging to provide a formula that applies to each person as well as to include each of the four elements. That being said here are a few concepts that will give you some ideas around full-being grief expression;
Mental – The Realm of Thoughts
Talking, journaling, writing stories or poetry, writing good-bye letters all come to mind when I think of the mental aspect of our humanness.
For some journaling would be the private way to get the thought out of the mind and down on paper. Importantly though get a trusted friend or family member to read through your writing efforts. It takes two for communication to take place and relief to actually happen
For some of us writing stories about our deceased loved one will be the trick, while others will be prone to write some poetry, and again offering your creative writing to one other person to read will help in the healing.
For some of us writing a good-bye letter to our late loved one will be the ticket to relief. Putting down on paper those things we wished we would have said and then having another person read it, though daunting, will provide the necessary connection to help the mental side of us let go. You see we need to know that at least one other person will ‘catch’ our communication before we will indeed let it go.
Emotional – The World of Feelings
The outward expression of our emotions though uncomfortable is a true requirement of healthy grieving. We are often led to believe that our grief is a burden. Being compassionate folks to a fault we then often withhold our emotional grief to ne kind to others. Personally I do not subscribe to this myth and in fact lean hard against grief being labeled as a burden.
Emotional grief is an expression of our deep profound love for a loved one – not a burden. Much like a thought it requires a receiver to listen and ‘get’ your expression of grief without judgment or criticalness. Crying into our pillow alone and late at night may providea slight energetic release – it will not result in lasting relief though as it takes two to heal emotionally.
Physical – The Domain of the Corporal
Well we are in a body after all so we also need to be physical with our grief and do something in the manifest outside world that will support our body’s letting go of its natural grief response to a loss.
All manner of physical activities will help. From lying with our loved one as they die, to hugging once they are dead though intimate and perhaps a little scary can provide real relief for both people.
Washing your loved one and dressing them in their favorite clothes is yet another way to have the bodies involved. And yes with planning and preparation you can do this.
Building the casket, purchasing an appropriate urn, spreading ashes in special places, can all help support the body letting go – cooking a meal or going through their clothes can and will support the physical need to grieve. Cleaning a closet, or dusting their favorite possessions will help too.
Painting can be helpful too and oftentimes is a great replacement for ‘talk therapy’. I have used art regularly with those who have a natural passion for painting. It really helped them in their expression of grief and as with other forms of communication it was important that others see the paintings and ‘receive’ that unique form of grief expression.
Getting the body actively involved, however you do it, is very important.
Spiritual – The Universal Self
This can be the solitary piece of grief that is between themselves and their understanding or experience of God, the Universe, the One, the Divine, the Spirit or what ever name you wish to attach the invisible, indescribable Higher Power.
Whether it is prayer, time at church, a talk with the minister, or sitting in nature it is important to acknowledge this personal and invisible aspect of ourselves. It is at times such as death that we lean heavily on our faith or spiritual beliefs. Being with others in our spiritual community can be very comforting and helpful.
Creating an alter or sacred space in your home can also be of great support – A place to sit quietly and remember – a place for loving memories.
So remember the domains they are your paint brushes. Notice the uniqueness of each person they are your colours. Allowing each person to artfully express themselves through each domain in a way that works for them is the goal of healthy grieving.