A quick online search shows many religions have mourning rituals to guide their practitioners through the grieving process. Other theories and customs abound, including the popular Kubler-Ross five stages of grief model, (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), and the Ancient Egyptians who spent their lifetimes preparing for the afterlife.
According to Vaughan Bell, in a November 24, 2012 article in The Observer, (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/nov/25/grief-mourning-psychology-customs):
*A child’s death on the Pacific coast of Colombia is celebrated. (The belief is the children become angels, going directly to heaven.)
*Sexual activity is prohibited by the Ganda people of south-central Uganda while mourning, and
*Sexual activity is part of the Cubeo’s (Northern Amazon) wake.
In the end, even though intellectually you understand that from the instant of conception the ultimate destination is death, when reality hits, your intellect will jump out the window and you will find yourself in a quagmire of emotions. Emotions which are personal. Emotions which, when combined with your constitution and make-up, make your grieving process unique.
You will probably accept the fact you need to be patient, empathetic, and compassionate of someone (fingers crossed you will be this kind to yourself), who lost a family member, a close friend, or even a co-worker.
Maybe you can be solicitous to someone who lost a pet. (Though that can be a challenge if the pet owner can’t bring him/herself to grieve the loss their friend/companion because after all, “It was only a [cat, dog, horse, parrot, etc.].”)
What about the loss of a dream? Can you offer comfort? Can you allow yourself to grieve? After all, a dream is intangible. Ethereal. Going beyond the realm of tactile senses.
Perhaps you know someone who dreamed of being a dancer, who poured her heart and soul into it. Who, when asked at age ten what she would do if she couldn’t dance replied, “I breathe, therefore I dance.” Who, at age 12, not only to faced a future without dance, but for a window of time the possibility of being permanently crippled because of muscular skeletal issues.
There are times when mind-over-matter is a wise course of action. There are also times when you need to allow yourself heart-over-matter.
Just as your subconscious doesn’t know the difference between reality and what you tell yourself (one of the bases of mind-over-matter), so your heart doesn’t understand there are losses which are socially acceptable (definitely a person, perhaps a pet), and losses which are socially unacceptable (loss of your dream, your youth, your belief system which you held near and dear only to find out it wasn’t there when you needed it).
When a person is abused physically, there are marks on the body. Because they are visible, they are tended to and, with time, heal (albeit often leaving scars). The same cannot be said for a person who is abused emotionally, mentally, or psychologically. That is intangible. You can’t see the marks, so it’s hard overcoming the pervasive, “If you can’t see it, it’s not there” mind-set.
A loss of a person or pet is visible. You can see when the life force is gone.
Does not a dream have a life force? Does it not propel you to move forward? To push yourself? To strive? To keep going long after you thought possible? I say yes. I say when that life force dies, you need to allow yourself to grieve. I say when that life force is gone and someone you care about needs to grieve, the best gift you can give them is the compassion, caring, understanding, and time to go through the “process.”
What process should you or they choose? I say do what works! If you don’t have any built-in customs or rituals by your faith/culture/family, etc., go online. See what resonates. Try it. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, try something else. Keep at it until you reach the other side.
*The other side of the acute pain of your loss.
*The other side where you no longer have to remind yourself to breathe in before breathing out.
*The other side where you know you are no longer an innocent free of sorrow and that’s okay because that too is part of life.
*The other side where, by the overcoming your loss, you reach a place of quiet from which you can move on.
And please, learn from one who fights this tooth-and-nail, the sooner you let yourself heart-over-matter, the sooner you will reach the other side. May you have cups of joy and but teaspoons of sorrow.
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