Grief and Spirituality: 10 Tips for Supporting People in Grief Respectfully

“What is the point of all these signs and symbols if they don’t mean anything?”

I was asked this question and I didn’t have a good answer, or even a bad answer. I was too busy asking myself the same thing. It’s called a crisis of faith and it’s not anybody’s idea of a good time.

Grief is on my radar, sorry to say. I’ve been connecting with people neck deep in pain.

Sometimes tragedy strikes good people: people who try to do the right thing, live in the flow and work with spirit, you know? Law of Attraction be damned, life goes beyond a simplistic explanation of what someone has attracted through their thoughts and beliefs. Do I think the Law of Attraction is real? Yes! Do I think it’s one-stop-shopping to explain everything that happens to everybody, all the time? Not even close.

And as gifted as I am at reaching for a positive perspective–if there’s an ounce of bright side, I can suss it out like a champ!–I cannot spew glitter and rainbows over raw, primal pain and magic-wand it into something lovely. Can. Not. Do.

Nor should I try! It’s disrespectful to treat grief trivially–as something to covered up with air-freshener-platitudes so as not to be so bothersome. That is something uncomfortable bystanders do to help themselves feel better around the grieving, not the other way around.

When a tragedy is on the news, or even a string of awful tragedies, you can flip the channel when your compassion muscles are overtaxed and you hit saturation. You may think “How sad.” You may feel shaken up and depressed, for hours or maybe days. Sometimes you donate to a charity, or light a candle or say a prayer or do whatever you do, just to feel like you’re doing a tiny bit to make a difference.

When the tragedy hits your circle–or worse, your life–it’s not so easy. You do the same things, I guess. At least, I do. But it’s different.

I can fall back on idea that people don’t cease to exist after death, and do come to the Earth plane with contracts, specific purposes. And many times those purposes play out in ways that we don’t understand. But that idea isn’t generally very satisfying. It feels too easy, too pat. It may be true–I believe it with my whole heart to be true. That doesn’t eradicate the pain.

But we cannot (and should not) try to sidestep the grieving process. It serves a purpose. Grief reaffirms the value of what we’ve lost. Grief is a function of love and connection. Grief says you had something WORTH caring about! Grief bridges the past to the future, the new normal. Grief is necessary if not tidy.

Truth is, each grieving person has to construct a personal understanding, writing their own story and meaning to attach to the event.

[bctt tweet=”Finding story is a way of walking the path of grief.”]

Some stories will ultimately help one grow, however awful it feels at the time. Other stories will fill a person with anger or engender isolation. Pretty much everybody is changed by grief. You don’t have a choice about the change. Only about the stories, the path you walk with it.

Being touched by grief can leave you feeling helpless, even if the grief is not yours. There are lots of tips for supporting people in grief–ways we can respectfully ease the process for those walking that path.

10 Tips for Supporting People in Grief with Respect

  • Be a witness. Do not try to steer the conversation to things “more cheerful.” Do not try to “bright-side” anything about the situation. Just let the grieving take the lead: sometimes they will focus on the pain, and sometimes they will seek distraction. The process will ebb and flow. Realize that being fully present and allowing them the freedom to focus on what they need to in that moment, neither judging nor flinching, is a gift in and of itself.
  • Accept whatever feelings come up. Extreme emotions can surface, including those usually considered negative like anger and guilt. Don’t tell someone to be strong, when “strong” is the last thing they may feel. Don’t try to spare the grieving their own feelings. They have a right to them! Feelings may change rapidly and will not necessarily make logical sense. Love and acceptance of the emotional messiness of grief facilitates its processing.
  • Do not push your own belief system. If your spirituality comforts you, great! But this ain’t about you. Allow the grieving to decide what comforts them.
  • Do not make social demands. Offer invitations, but do not press if the answer is “no.” Respect an individual attending to their own needs on their own timetable. Small gatherings with familiar friends and low-key settings are easier to manage at first. Understand the need for a fluid approach, allowing grieving people a graceful exit if need be.
  • Do not continually ask, “What can I do?” This can turn into little more than another responsibility in the lap of a person who doesn’t have the focus or emotional bandwidth to think of things that will help you to feel helpful.
  • Do offer specific, practical support. If you can make phone calls, run errands or otherwise help deal with the demands of the situation or daily life that follows, offer–but be specific. If you are extending a social invitation, suggest a specific activity, time and location. “Whatever you want” is just another decision to be made during an overwhelming time. Many people bring food. I know someone who drops off things like tissue, toilet paper, disposable dinnerware, paper towels and other sundries that will come in handy with an influx of visitors. As my mom used to say, “Make yourself useful as well as ornamental.”
  • Handle your own pain outside the circle. Yes, you may be experiencing your own sadness and grief. That’s natural. But do NOT go to a person closer to the loss than you are to seek comfort. It’s not fair to make them to take care of you! Find someone further removed to provide your support. Never dump inside the circle.
  • Do not avoid mentioning the person who is gone. Happy, loving memories are both comforting and healing in times of grief. A grieving person wants their loved one honored, not erased.
  • If you’re concerned about a grieving person committing suicide, ask directly. Don’t hedge. Get it out in the open. You are not going to cause a suicide by giving someone “ideas.” By the time you get to the point of worrying, the idea has long-since hatched. If the responses you get are concerning, help coordinate professional support. Unless you’re trained in suicide intervention, it’s not really a do-it-yourself project.
  • Check in. It’s doesn’t need to be a big production. A small connection, a touchstone in the day, is all it takes. A person who was “fine” yesterday may be a mess today, and even a small dose of love, served up consistently, can be very grounding. Anniversaries and milestones of any sort are especially good times to check in.

And Don’t Forget You!

If you are supporting someone through grief, it will take a personal toll. Don’t feel guilty for your own sadness and stress, even if it seems trivial compared to what’s felt by people closer to the loss. Pay special attention to eating well, sleeping and proper hydration. (I know it sounds silly but it makes a difference.) Have quiet time to process and ground. Get your own support as needed–but always outside the circle. Other people’s pain impacts us and self-care is a vital and often overlooked component of effective support to others.

If you are feeling helpless, you can send love: imagine light coming down from the heavens into the crown of your head and traveling out through your heart, to those suffering. This is a rudimentary form of Reiki, and it does have impact. You can pray, light candles and send healing and love every time you think of it. You can imbue a gift with loving, healing energy and good intention before sending it along. You can memorialize or honor the person who has passed in countless ways–your imagination is the only limit. The big thing here is to take an action, however humble, full of loving intention. It adds healing to the mix and helps you at the same time.

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Tolle / Tips for Supporting People in Grief

Whenever we are touched by grief, it’s a hard reminder to take stock of our own connections and express love and appreciation for those people, right now.

Because that right now? That’s really all we ever have.

What would you add to this advice?

If you’re having a bad day…

So you’re having an awful, terrible, upsetting or overwhelming day? Don’t just be miserable. Pull out some coping skills and give ’em a working! Here are random ideas to manage, in no particular order:

  • Gratitude listing. Yes, I know you’re probably not in the mood. But it pretty much always helps, and fast! If you have trouble coming up with anything, then make it into a game to find the most creative, ridiculous or imaginative things to list. I guarantee that you will feel better (and maybe get a chuckle out of it).
  • Quiet time-outs. If you can get a few minutes to yourself, do some deep breathing. Visualize something peaceful and beautiful. Breath out bullshit and breathe in peace.
  • Got Prayer? If you are a pray-er, it’s a good time for it! Release your worries. This technique works even better if you’re able to follow it up with a nap.
  • Shield thyself. Use the force, Luke! You don’t need emotional waves from others right now, whether the stress is generated from without or within. Take deep breaths and visualize them forming a translucent shield all around you, including above and below. I dig blue or golden hues, but use whatever colors you prefer. Fill it with light.
  • Smudge ’em if you’ve got em. Because it helps. Incense is a good backup choice. If you have neither, try to at least get a good smell going on around you.
  • Turn on the tunes. Music has wonderful power to alter our emotional states. So get your jam on.
  • Chocolate therapy. Okay, maybe it’s not your healthiest choice, so skip it if need be. But chocolate therapy or wine therapy for most are less risky than retail therapy.
  • Keep it in perspective. Most often, we’re talking time-limited stress that is mucking with our Zen, man. Use the situation as an opportunity to practice your skills in staying grounded, centered and calm. Because really, you need to be able to call on those skills not just in quiet time, but in stressful time, too.
  • Remember the point. Why are you where you are, doing what you are doing? If you can shift your frame of reference from pain to point, you’ve got something to work with in shifting your feelings about it, too.
  • Mantras are awesome. Have a favorite affirmation? Dig Ganesha? Find yourself a mantra that resonates and repeat it, aloud or under your breath. It helps attune you to a more pleasant frequency and tune out the yuck.
  • Draw and destroy. Create a symbolic representation of your stress. Doesn’t matter what as long as it works for you. Then tear it up, burn it, stomp it out or otherwise obliterate it. This is a little bit of magic and yeah, well, magic works.
  • Scrub it off. Baths or showers (with cleansing herbs if you have some, or pure intention if not) are MAGIC. Envision the water carrying all that ugly stress down the drain.
  • Tea time! Herbal teas are another great choice. Drink it or bathe in it, I don’t care. Just pick calming varieties.
  • Grab some sparkle! Gemstones are great for helping alter the mood. I love Rose Quartz to address an agitated state, and a rough cut can feel good turning over and over in one’s hands when it matches a rough mood.
  • Breathe. And breathe some more. Deep, long breathing, in through the nose on a count of 4, hold 4, exhale 4.
  • Tree-hugging. A few minutes outside does wonders. Actually hugging a tree is great but if it’s too…conspicuous, well, try to touch a tree, plants, or walk with your bare feet on grass. Imagine the stress and excess energy funneling into the Earth. This doesn’t hurt the Earth, by the way. Momma Earth can recycle that fertilizer into something beautiful, man!
  • Look for the lesson. I know, I’m being annoying as Hell with that one. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to feel pain without getting a benefit of it. And you can usually find one, if you look.

Do you have any favorites to add?


Body Combat Zen

frosted rose

I have to laugh, as I look at my daily for tomorrow: Psychosomatic Illness. Funnier that it was posted early. The information needed extra air time!

See, I’ve been complaining for the last several days of being under the weather. Sinus issues, leaving me to talk a little funny and perpetually appearing to be on the verge of tears. I’m not, but my face feels like it. And my face looks like it, kind of swollen, when I can see it, between sneezing fits and rubbing itchy eyes.

I want to blame it on Reiki detox, since the second degree attunement I had on the Virgo Full moon. And maybe there’s something there. Or not, I don’t know. Even in my woo-woo world, not everything comes with a legible tag declaring it’s origin.

I don’t see physical issues in and of themselves  as”bad.” Inconvenient or uncomfortable sometimes. I’m very lucky, that’s all I have to deal with! But I’ve seen too many times when the body reacts to emotional shifts and energetic shifts physically, too many times to just judge physical anomalies as “bad.”

Sometimes, they are signs you must make a change. Sometimes, they are signs you have made a change. Either way, it’s common there is something significant happening.

Considering something as simple as a cold–all those unwelcome symptoms are doing very welcome jobs, ridding our bodies of invaders that can harm us. There are purposes served by all our experiences and I welcome the purpose even if the mode of delivery is less than charming.

Staying open to the experience, I hope to help it travel smoothly, efficiently. (Read: Quickly!) It’s like my own form of “body combat zen.” I fight by not fighting–accepting and accommodating and allowing the experience, until I no longer need it.

And having said this, my work is good still anyway–really, the connection is especially solid now. Strong enough I have to periodically remind myself to ground, grab a hunk of Hematite in each hand, and count my breathing while I sink an astral taproot to anchor. Just so I don’t float away…

But I did realize today, I’ve been handing out the same advice over and over in a short period. My 3-times rule is beyond triggered and I already realize that my people’s favorite tactic for getting a message through m thick head is to send me a swarm who need that very message.

“Carve out some time specifically for yourself, put it on your list and prioritize it.” Heard!

So from here on out, I will not be scheduling readings on Saturdays, OR on the days of New and Full Moons. If a lunar event falls on the weekend, I’ll likely take the day before off regardless of what day it is, instead of just Saturday. But in general, that’s what we’re looking at. I’ve carving out this time for personal pursuits, whether woo-woo related or not. So please be aware of that unavailability when we are working together or figuring expected response times.

And thanks for understanding.

How are y’all doing out there?

Creative Whack Video – Shield Yourself!

What to expect if you’re very creatively gifted (also known as a freak)…

Short version: If you’re brand of originality is supremely original, chances are you’re going to annoy, threaten or scare the Hell out of somebody just by virtue of being you. This is no time to let ’em bother you! Learn to listen to what helps and deflect the rest.

Do you wield a shield?

The Value of a Self

On my radar I’ve noticed the question several times recently: how do you set your own value? What is your worth?

Are you only valuable when you sacrifice? If that’s your calculator, then you pretty much always must martyr self for the other. If that’s your measuring stick, then the old or sick or otherwise incapacitated become worthless. Do you think that’s true?

Is your personal value derived from whom and how you help? And if so…where do those people get THEIR value? Do they have to be more valuable than you intrinsically to justify your sacrifice?

Is it in what you create? Is it in who you love? Is it inside you, just because you have the spark of life within you?

I’m not saying there is one right or wrong answer. But think about it. If other humans have “worth” to you simply because they are human, then don’t you have to accord yourself the same worth? If your heart and soul reaches outward to ease suffering when you can because other people have worth–then don’t you, yourself, deserve the same from yourself?

Where does your sense of self-worth come from?

Random Affirmation Video: More Peace, Yo!

I always pay attention to repeaters in my Tarot draws. I wasn’t expecting repeaters in my Affirmation cards draw!

Short version: Are you truly feeling the peace? Because to feel it, you have to be able to let go. And like everything else, the work with the REAL impact always starts at home.

Can you access peaceful? Does this prescription help?