Checking In On Grief

September 21, 2012
Barbara Sinclair Checking In On Grief

Yesterday while searching through thousands of my photos for an image to use in an article, I realized that I was mentally categorizing the photos as pre and post Ralph’s death. It made me pause and take a moment to drop into that space where I self-reflect on how I’m doing grief-wise. Pretty darn well, I have to say. Checking in on grief is important.

I saw my energy medicine teacher last weekend and she remarked that although I had suffered a great loss when Ralph died, the experience had opened a door for me to expand spiritually. This is a concept that is difficult for many people to grasp but it is very true. I feel blessed to be in this space rather than stuck in debilitating sorrow and/or anger. Ralph’s death happened at a time in my life when I had begun to really delve into the mysteries of life as well as the afterlife.

Believing that Ralph’s spirit is just on another plane is a great source of comfort to me. He comes in and out of my consciousness, and for some reason was very present in the weeks before my last trip to Asheville.

I would be riding my bike and could see him ahead of me (in my mind’s eye, of course!), weaving through the tourists on the bike path down by the river–making an opening for me to get through.

I was hearing the music he loved to listen to and I could smell his favorite cologne.

He was there in the theater watching a movie with me. I was easily brought to tears but they were happy tears, cleansing and opening my heart rather than closing it. I can physically feel the difference now.

Don’t get me wrong–our relationship was far from perfect. I would venture to say there are few out there that are.

After Ralph’s death, I did a lot of soul-searching–journaling about what was both right and wrong with our time together. I was able to process the emotional baggage of the not-so-great stuff and leave in its place all that was good about our relationship. And it is in that space, on a soul level, that I still feel connected to him.

According to both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs are the seat of grief and sadness. I found this out firsthand a couple of years ago when I had whooping cough (long before Ralph died). Months after I had recovered, I had a session with Dr. Mei Jen Weng–an acupuncturist/healer who approached me and without even an introduction said, “My dear, you have so much grief, it’s buried in your bones.”

I was shocked. I told her that I didn’t even feel sad. Things were pretty good and I was there for a completely unrelated issue. Dr. Weng replied that this grief had likely been stored in my body for many years, perhaps even carried over from past lives. She placed a needle in my chest and it was as if a tsunami arose–within seconds tears and sobs spilled out uncontrollably. When I left the session, I felt as though a weight had been pulled off of me, one that I didn’t even realize was there.

In Maya Tiwari’s book The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book of Ayurvedic Healing she writes about how vital it is to heal our ancestral wounds. Faced with a diagnosis of terminal ovarian cancer at only 23 years-old, she retreated to the woods of Vermont prepared to die. Instead, she found herself reconnecting to her ancestors through writing, meditation and her dreams, and was able to heal the wounds which had been passed down through generations. When she emerged from her cabin and returned home, doctors could find no trace of cancer in her body.

When I read this book I immediately thought of what Dr. Weng had said to me. I started to think back on my own parent’s lives, especially as children and realized how much sadness and grief they had both endured.

Going back even further, I could look to my mother’s Polish heritage, and see the insurmountable suffering that happened in that country. Ditto my father, whose roots were Irish and Scottish.

A few months ago I did a workshop with Vasant Lad, an Ayurvedic doctor who helped bring the 5000-year-old system of mind, body, and spirit medicine to the West.

We spent one morning doing Pranayama, an ancient Ayurvedic practice which helps regulate our life force energy through various breathing techniques. During one of the rounds we were instructed to completely breathe out all of the air in our lungs.

Dr. Lad explained that doing so would expel old stale air and along with it the grief that is stored in the lungs.

For many of us in the West, these concepts might seem strange. We’re used to putting a bandaid on a problem, be it physical or emotional, and not getting to the root cause. But I can tell you from my own experience that they are lifesaving.

Here’s a breathing technique that anyone can do to cleanse the lungs, breathing out grief and replacing it with courage, which also resides in the lungs.

  • Sit upright in a relaxed position.
  • Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. As you take a deep breath in through your nose, you should feel your belly rise, pushing outward instead of inward.
  • When you have taken in as much air as you can, breathe out slowly through your mouth making the sound sssss (like a hissing snake) and expelling every last bit of air you can. As you are making this sound, imagine that you are letting go of all the grief and sadness, the darkness, and the pain, that has been trapped in your lungs. Start by doing this 3 or 4 times and increase the number of breaths over time.
  • Now breathe deeply and imagine your lungs being filled with courage, just like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. Picture a beautiful healing light, any color that resonates with you, filling your lungs.
  • Smile. 🙂

I’m sending love and light to anyone who is suffering from grief and sadness – be it from the loss of a loved one, a job, a marriage or anything else. Once you emerge from the darkness of grief, it can transform your life just as it has mine.

Much love,
Barbara

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34 Comments

  1. Barbara, this is a moving and wonderful post. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Carlene M. Wentworth 864.847.9366 Home 864.760.3150 Cell 888.828.8921 Fax

    ________________________________

    • Barbara, what a beautiful, practical, healing message you give through sharing your experience, strength, truth, and wisdom. I just now did the breathing technique you shared about breathing out the grief and sadness and replacing it with courage. It’s just wonderful, and one that I am going to use and share as well.

      • Thank you, Vivi! I’m following my own advice and breathing deeper, too! Thank you for all of your heartfelt encouragement and love. 🙂 xoxo

    • Beth Hofmann-Davies

      Hi Barbara,
      This article and the one that linked to it about fibromyalgia are both great! Yesterday I saw a “pain management” Doc at Kaiser here in California and he told me he wouldn’t prescribe opiate meds for the fibro and osteo arthritis and slipped disc pain I was having even though they worked for ten years to help me function day to day and keep working etc. his manner was very abrupt and dismissive and I burst into tears. I NEVER cry. But I cried so hard and was depleted the rest of the day. Your articles have been very helpful to me to realize that these problems really have a lot to do with grief, fear and trapped emotions. It really helped me to not feel crazy and see that this might be the beginning of unlocking the sadness that had made a home in my body. THANKYOU! -Beth?

      • Barbara

        Thank you for writing, Beth, and sharing your experience. You’re not crazy – your feelings are valid – and making the mind/body connection can be life-changing. Stay positive, explore what’s trapped/hidden below the surface, do things that bring you JOY, and one day you will look back on all of this as a distant memory. Take care! Barbara
        Barbara recently posted…Three Days of Stabbing Pain and My Mind-Body ConnectionMy Profile

  2. Barbara, this is a moving and wonderful post. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Carlene M. Wentworth 864.847.9366 Home 864.760.3150 Cell 888.828.8921 Fax

    ________________________________

    • Barbara, what a beautiful, practical, healing message you give through sharing your experience, strength, truth, and wisdom. I just now did the breathing technique you shared about breathing out the grief and sadness and replacing it with courage. It’s just wonderful, and one that I am going to use and share as well.

      • Thank you, Vivi! I’m following my own advice and breathing deeper, too! Thank you for all of your heartfelt encouragement and love. 🙂 xoxo

  3. Katie Carlone

    As always, I find your words to be so healing Barbara. I love your relationship with Ralph, and with time itself. Thank you for teaching us how to mind our breath — I feel this is something we westerners completely take for granted. There is great power in using our breath to take exquisite care of ourselves. I am setting aside some time today to practice the technique you shared, and will pass it on to my friends & clients, too. Thank you again dear Barbara!

    • Thank you, Katie! I think part of why I write these posts are to remind myself to do the things I need to do (like breath work)! Thank you for being such a loving and supportive friend. 🙂 xoxo

  4. David Howell

    Beautiful post, Barbara. I’ll be putting to practice that ‘courage’ in the month to come… indeed, I’m using it now in preparation for my modest transition 🙂 I’m finding that as I continue to remain ‘open’ and not fearful and withering, that all manner of goodness continues to be broadcast along the path… like flower petals thrown out in front of a special visitor, or honored guest… in this case, a diplomat of the Heart. Sending you my best.

  5. David Howell

    Beautiful post, Barbara. I’ll be putting to practice that ‘courage’ in the month to come… indeed, I’m using it now in preparation for my modest transition 🙂 I’m finding that as I continue to remain ‘open’ and not fearful and withering, that all manner of goodness continues to be broadcast along the path… like flower petals thrown out in front of a special visitor, or honored guest… in this case, a diplomat of the Heart. Sending you my best.

  6. Barbara, you are such a wise loving teacher. Thank you for this. See you soon, fellow traveller!
    Love,
    Nancy

    • Nancy! You were on my mind today and I was about to send you an email! 🙂 So connected… Thank you for your kind words, as always. You are such a dear and true friend. xo

  7. Barbara, you are such a wise loving teacher. Thank you for this. See you soon, fellow traveller!
    Love,
    Nancy

    • Nancy! You were on my mind today and I was about to send you an email! 🙂 So connected… Thank you for your kind words, as always. You are such a dear and true friend. xo

  8. Well said, Barbara! A timely and healing message for me. I feel as though I hold much grief in my bones. When I read your statement about Maya Tiwari retreating to a cabin in Vermont, I thought, “Oh, I could really use a time and place like that to connect and heal.” In my meditation for kids class (held today) we reviewed the breathing you described, except that I did not share the part about breathing in courage. The children were guided to discover and invite a Wise Animal Friend into their Special Place. BTW ~ The picture of the Cowardly Lion made me smile. Thank you for sharing this message.

  9. Well said, Barbara! A timely and healing message for me. I feel as though I hold much grief in my bones. When I read your statement about Maya Tiwari retreating to a cabin in Vermont, I thought, “Oh, I could really use a time and place like that to connect and heal.” In my meditation for kids class (held today) we reviewed the breathing you described, except that I did not share the part about breathing in courage. The children were guided to discover and invite a Wise Animal Friend into their Special Place. BTW ~ The picture of the Cowardly Lion made me smile. Thank you for sharing this message.

  10. Barbara, I love that you are teaching meditation to kids! How lucky are they to have YOU?! 🙂 I don’t know how old they are, but would it be okay to teach them to breathe out sadness (if they’re feeling any) and breathe in happiness? Thanks for taking the time to comment. xoxo

  11. Barbara, I love that you are teaching meditation to kids! How lucky are they to have YOU?! 🙂 I don’t know how old they are, but would it be okay to teach them to breathe out sadness (if they’re feeling any) and breathe in happiness? Thanks for taking the time to comment. xoxo

  12. This is so beautiful, my dearest Barbara, and I thank you with all my heart!

  13. This is so beautiful, my dearest Barbara, and I thank you with all my heart!

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