Healing Grief through Compassionate Presence

Grief is never easy, nor is it predictable. Whether we are being present to the grief of another or walking through our own, a tender and patient response is invited. Deeply woven into the fabric of life, grief is an inevitable part of being human. If we allow it, sharing this universal emotion can invite the gifts of connection, compassion, gratitude and love.

A wonderful family grief support center in Baltimore called Roberta’s House, asked me to facilitate a mindfulness workshop for young mothers who experienced the death of a child who did not live longer than a year. When I entered the building, I was uncertain about what to expect. The welcome I received and responses to the workshop activities taught me a wonderful lesson – that even in the midst of sorrow, there can be moments of real joy, laughter and fun.

As we explored SHINE’s Keys to Mindfulness, the young parents opened up and described how they could use each key to support them in their journey. They learned from one another, sharing stories of their challenges and frustrations. They listened with open hearts, smiles, contemplative moments and generous nods of recognition.

By bearing witness to another’s grief, listening deeply and not trying to fix it, we allow that person to feel heard and seen. We enter a space of compassion. When we share our own grief, rather than hold it tightly within our own isolation, we experience the common humanity inherent in grief’s inevitability. At multiple times in our lives, we will all travel similar paths.

This simple yet powerful animated video by grief expert Megan Divine beautifully illustrates the simple truth that “being heard helps,” that “acknowledgement may be the best medicine we have.”

Most of us are not taught how to deal with grief, which makes loss all the harder. Frank Ostaseski, co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project and author of The Five Invitations, is an outstanding resource for the many faces of grief and loss. In his blog post on “Supporting Grief”, Ostaseski points out, “While we normally associate grief with the death of a loved one, there are many causes of grief.” These can include loss of a loved one; a relationship; our identity; our capacity; familiar places or objects; or loss by a group, community, culture or nation.

All grief is valid grief, and the world is a better place when we are able to share that grief in the company of someone who is able to truly listen.

What gifts have you received in being present to someone who is grieving?

Has being present to someone’s grief helped you to share your own grief when needed?

Let self-compassion rise up during these tender times, knowing that in our humanness, we have room in our hearts for grief and gratitude and love. All are welcome!

To what one breath can do,

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