HOW TO DEAL WITH PAIN AND GRIEF
How to deal with pain and grief after losing a loved one due to death or separation
As you might know, I opened a 60+ yoga class almost a year ago. While officially labeled 60+, as a matter of fact, most of my course participants are well into their seventies, if not eighties. We can’t deny that this is the phase in life that is all about learning to let go and saying goodbye to many loved ones around us. Finally, we also have to find the trust to let go of our own life without knowing what exactly might come next.
Unfortunately, death and loss is still something that we rarely talk about in our modern day society. So where else, if not in a yoga class, can we openly address this undeniable fact of life? And how can I, a young person who’s just turned thirty, lecture seventy or even eighty year old people about death, letting go, grief and loss? Doesn’t this just somehow seem very weird or just blatantly wrong? I must admit, that yes – it does feel weird and I still have to get used to it. But I nevertheless address these topics in my yoga class and the positive feedback I get from my elderly course participants motivates me to carry on.
So, here are twelve tips from my own personal experience that may help you – no matter what age you are – to deal with pain and grief after losing a loved one (please note that these tips are not in chronological order – i.e. the top one isn’t the most important one):
1. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF and continue with your life in a way that would make your loved one happy. This also includes eating a healthy and nourishing diet.
2. MOVE. Depending on your health and fitness level, choose a gentle or more vigorous physical activity – anything from yoga to crossfit works. If possible, try to add a „cardio“ sport and go all out at least once a week.
3. BREATHE. Connect with your breath, either by just breathing naturally and consciously or by doing a yogic breathing exercise. For me personally, vigorous breathing exercises like kapalabhati, bhastrika or Wim Hof breathing with long retentions work best to release adrenalin and dopamine, which lifts my mood in just a few minutes.
4. MEDITATE. Take time to anchor your attention within your body. Choose a meditation practice that works for you. For me personally, focussing on my heart works very well. I visualize a sun shining in my heart center which sends out warming sun rays throughout my whole body and beyond. A warmth that is not only palpable on a physical but also on an emotional level.
5. GO OUTSIDE and connect with mother nature. Go for a walk, take a forest bath – if possible barefoot, go for a swim, a bike ride or what ever else you like doing outside.
6. SOCIALIZE. Even if you might not feel like it at first, catch up with friends (or relatives) and see if you can open up to them. It might be difficult at first but usually feels really good and nourishing afterwards.
7. START JOURNALING. Journaling is a great way to deal with all sorts of issues in life but it may also be really helpful in a situation of grief and loss.
8. CONNECT. Yoga teaches us that everything and everybody is connected. Even though we might intellectually know and believe this, we often seem to forget all about it during the day, which (in yoga philosophy) is actually considered the root cause of all grief and loss. If we really knew about connection, what reason to grieve would we have in the first place? As most of us are not that enlightened yet, we may use photos, texts, maybe a song or an object to remind ourselves of our loved one and that we are still connected, although physically apart.
9. SMILE. You surely have heard that also a fake smile works to release endorphins in our brain. I must admit that I first considered the idea of fake smiling as something completely stupid. But I have nevertheless given it a try – for example while doing breathing exercises or meditation – and it really works, i.e. it brightens up my mood surprisingly quickly.
10. HELP OTHERS. Helping others is one of the best ways for me to find meaning in life.
11. WORK. While this might not be the best advice, work can be a great way to shift your attention away from grief and loss, especially if you are blessed with a job you love.
12. ALLOW. Sometimes, grief and loss can just be overwhelming. Don’t always try to push them away by following through tip one to eleven. Allow yourself to have moments of sadness and loneliness, allow yourself to cry and grieve. Often this may feel very liberating and something new and unexpected may come out of it.