KINDNESS WITH GRIEF – TWO WAYS TO HELP
I’m sitting at Busboys and Poets, a”cultural hub where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted.” I’m surrounded not only by this beautiful vision of the establishment but also by an awesome array of conscious cuisine, amazing art, and inspirational quotes. A true creative’s haven. Originally this trip to Virginia was planned because I was running the Richmond Marathon, but after being diagnosed with a significant stress fracture in my heel, the trip has morphed into something bigger. My injury allowed me to put my energy elsewhere and to be open to a whole host of other opportunities to connect with friends and interview someone totally awesome who will be featured in my book “LESSONS FROM THE EDGE OF LLIFE” (hint: he’s a young former Navy Seal who used to be one of my lung transplant patients). Yet while I sit here taking in the golden sunlight streaming through the autumn leaves, I have to acknowledge that among all the amazingness there is a part of me that is grieving. And I know I’m not alone.
As I rode the bus into Boston this morning, my heart, already heavy from the shooting at Hot Yoga Tallahassee, became even heavier. This time it’s a bar in California. I wonder – is there any safe space left in this world? The fear in me echoes, “No”, as anything can happen anywhere and to anyone. We’ve all witnessed examples of this in our life. Trauma and tragedy, violence and rage leaving those of us left behind to grieve which is why I feel called to offer two points on kindness with grief.
What does kindness with grief look like?
1.) Self compassion.
Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. I remember the first few times I laughed after my brother died. It felt odd and I told myself that I shouldn’t be happy; that I was a “bad” person. I told myself that there was no place for laughter given the sadness I was experiencing. I was harsh on myself – extremely critical and judgmental. I didn’t know how to be compassionate with my own inner landscape. I didn’t know how to acknowledge my own suffering. I’ve learned that in order to be kind, whether to ourself or someone else, we must pay attention. We must acknowledge pain and suffering. True compassion demands mindfulness.
2.) Being quiet.
How often do we want to fill the space of silence? You know that awkward space right? When we sit in front of someone who is hysterically sobbing or beyond consolation. When we are in the presence of someone else’s pain we get uncomfortable. We want to say something to make the person feel better, we want to make them happy again, and we want to fix their broken heart. As a former “grief expert” working with bereaved family members of organ donors I learned that beyond getting a newly widowed wife a cup of coffee or a bottle of water for a bereaved brother that the most powerful tool was to just sit silently with them and hold space. We are a society focused on doing, rather than being. Simply being present and quiet is a tremendous way to say, “I am here and I see your pain.” So please be quiet. Treat grief like the quiet space of a library. So sit down and silently spend some time there.
Approach grief with love
It’s love that brought you grief but it’s love that will help you move away from it