Grieving the Loss of a Loved One

June 1, 2011

There is perhaps no greater fear that we humans have than the loss of a loved one. Many of you know that my beloved partner, Ralph, passed away unexpectedly on May 5th after a brief illness. He was my kind, gentle giant and as different as we appeared on the outside, on a soul level we were very similar and deeply connected.

Although it will be just one month tomorrow, many people have commented on how I seem to be handling my grief with such grace.  For that reason, I wanted to share some thoughts with you.

Grieving the Loss of a Loved One

We all experience grief differently. In 1969 psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced what she called the Five Stages of Grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

We might pass through all of them or maybe just experience one or two.

My parents passed away over a decade ago and that was a vastly different healing process for me. In fact, looking back, I never really allowed the healing to happen at all. I cried and cried but then I locked my sadness away and rarely allowed thoughts of my parents to surface.

Out of the blue, a couple of years ago, my mother started appearing frequently in my dreams and it was then that I began the work of processing my stored emotions.

It was no coincidence that I was having health issues with my lungs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, it is believed that unresolved grief is a major cause of lung disorders. In fact, both excessive or unprocessed emotions, in general, are an invitation for a disease to set up shop in the body.

What then is so different this time around? When I began my study of energy medicine a year and a half ago, my life changed dramatically.

Lifelong anxiety seemed to melt away as I deepened my meditation practice.

I began journaling to get in touch with buried emotions.

I felt a greater spiritual connection and my belief in an afterlife began to blossom.

When Ralph passed away my immediate visceral reaction was inconsolable grief that shook me to my core. I felt as though my body would not be able to survive the intense emotions that were raging. But at the same time, I knew that the tears were cleansing and necessary to help me heal.

I listened to my body and gave it what it needed – sleep, whatever food I could manage to get down, exercise (mostly in the form of yoga) and the permission to release whatever emotions surfaced.

I began to notice that what was most healing for me came from engaging my five senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. Some examples you might try are:

  •  Listening to favorite music that you shared
  • Being in nature (tops on my list – Ralph and I loved spending time in nature together)
  •  Looking at photographs, reading old cards or letters. Don’t be afraid of the emotions that will arise – it’s a good thing. I have the above photograph on my computer desktop and every morning when I turn it on, there’s Ralph, looking right at me with those beautiful brown eyes. At first, I would sob, but now I smile each day when I see him and feel our deep connection
  •  Cooking meals that you both loved. This is a tough one for me because Ralph was a chef and he did all the cooking! But I’m going to try. I know he’ll be watching over me as I’m wielding a sharp knife…
  •  Spritz your loved one’s favorite cologne around your home – especially on the pillow beside you
  •  Wear an old favorite shirt or piece of jewelry

As I mentioned above, meditation and journaling are two powerful ways of moving through any difficult situation.

Meditation will calm your nervous system, bring clarity into your life and help forge a deeper connection with loved ones who have passed.

Journaling will help you process painful emotions as well as record precious memories.

Just days after Ralph passed on, my sister-in-law, Nancy, sent me a journal called “Angel Catcher: A Journal of Loss and Remembrance” written by a mother and daughter who had themselves journaled their way through the grief of losing their son and brother. Nancy had recently lost her own father and was lovingly passing along to me her own healing experience.

And last, but not least, I did something that I know saved me from becoming trapped in my sorrow.

I surrendered to everyone who showed up to love me.

So many of us are better at giving than receiving, but there was no debate here. In addition to my children and close friends who I was able to lean on, I received countless hugs, cards, emails and phone calls from people I barely know. Each one has touched me deeply and usually opens up the floodgates once again.

But I can smile through the tears and I think that’s the key.

I believe that Ralph is still with me, just on another plane. I feel his presence and with each day, it is making me stronger.

The day after he passed on I was getting ready to cross a busy street here in NYC. As usual, everyone was crossing against the light and as I started to step off the curb I felt this force holding me back and I heard Ralph’s voice say “Barbara, just wait.”

He was always watching over me and he still is.

With love and gratitude,

P.S. “Hereafter” is a wonderful film about the afterlife by director Clint Eastwood. Ralph and I saw it together and it sparked some deep discussions which I am now very grateful to have had.

And…some books I found enlightening:

Talking to Heaven: A Medium’s Message of Life After Death” by James Van Praagh

Survival of the Soul” by Lisa Williams

  1. Hello Barbara,

    It seams that you are one mature soul that understand profoundly the meaning of life.
    I see the trailer for Thereafter and I was touched.
    I will buy it.
    Thanks for your post and good luck.


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