My personal journey in a time of grief and how mindfulness helped me find the way through.
The loss of my father brought about a tremendous flood of emotions for me... disbelief, sadness, frustration, heartbreak and a host of other feelings I'm not sure I could even identify, but certainly felt. I knew even in the midst of feeling as though my heart would break and recognizing the very sharp, physical pain from this deep sadness, there was a lesson to be learned. It was an opportunity for me to work through darkness and deliberately seek out happiness.
Connecting with my breath was pivotal in getting through the first few days after his unexpected passing. Flashes of moments in the hospital - conversations in the waiting room, doctors coming in and out, his grandchildren's faces, the final moments we were able to say our goodbyes, how unlike himself he looked in that space - became a reel of images in my mind any time I closed my eyes. My mindfulness practice and training were at the forefront each and every time. I knew I needed to sit with this overwhelming grief and work with it, so I could process and move through it all. I repeatedly returned my attention to my breathing. I didn't feel instantly calm nor did it bring me any profound peace. It did, however, allow me to feel without getting sucked into despair. It allowed me to rest and gave me the gift of accepting the loss. It allowed me to understand self-compassion in the deepest of ways by being fully present with my vulnerability, my tears, and all the feelings that came to visit.
It was in these moments of connection and presence that I began to discover peace and an incredible sense of gratitude. As Mr. Rogers always said when times seem dark, "look for the helpers." From the start, I was surrounded by love and kindness...
- The EMT who told us the truth as the ambulance departed that it didn't look good.
- The tremendous understanding and compassionate care that both my dad and our family received in his final moments.
- The outpouring of meals, flowers, cards, phone calls, memories and care that flooded all of us from neighbors, extended family and friends.
- The immense love that surrounded us by all who came to his celebration of life (even those who didn't know my father, but knew me or his grandchildren).
In the days since, I remind myself to look for the good, to seek out those who help and to savor the moments of happiness and joy. I'm reminded that everything is temporary, even when the most challenging of experiences seem to linger. I understand the work and time it takes to stay on top of the waves and stay out of the strong under-tow. Each moment and each day bestows many blessings and experiences to be cherished. It takes an act of deliberate intention to fully appreciate the beauty in a simple smile, the touch of someone you love, the celebration of another's accomplishment, a small act of kindness. Mindfulness has taught me to be present and appreciative for it all. It provides me the skill to more easily focus my attention where it is needed. I will continue to sit in these difficult moments and I will recognize the temporary nature of it all... and, always to look for the good and ride the wave.