There are certain types of grief our society handles well. And certain needs for support  that we are good at recognising. That doesn't make these types of life events less painful. But a good part of our ability to be resilient is how supported we feel, so it's incredibly important.

And some life events are not recognised as times of immense pain or grief. Those with "hidden" illness or disability are met with judgement and impatience at times when they deserve and need the compassion and gentleness we are better at showing someone with cancer, or someone who has a visible paralysis. And those who experience a loss not acknowledged by their community sometimes deal with isolation in addition to their grief.

All of these societal factors affect how we cope with our burdens, and how we feel we are able to let go of the person we were before the spiritual forest fire struck.

A few years ago, I experienced three miscarriages in a row. The second one in particular was horrific to me. It dragged on for months, required two separate surgeries, and emotionally I was devastated. Some people visited. Some told me to medicate my grief. Others told me to get over it. And some seemed to disappear for a while (or forever). Someone told me that when we go through grief of any kind, we are always surprised by who is there for us, and who is not.

The one thing that is clear - I am not the person I was before these events. Before I was someone with a healthier body, an assumption that the people in my life would completely buffer any difficulty that ever came my way, and the cheerful belief that motherhood would happen easily. All of that has gone. I am a mother now, but the sacredness of my daughter within my heart reminds me that there is never again an assumption of how motherhood will be. For a few years I was bitter about the loss of all these expectations towards others and the "why me" force was strong within me! Now I've softened again, but this time with discernment. And a bit more resilience. And I get "it" in a way I didn't before.

So when I was cocooned away with my little mother on a holiday in the Sunshine Coast, and I stumbled on the book (affiliate) Letting Go of the Person You Used To Be by Lama Surya Das, I had to buy it. And then I hid it away and "forgot" to read it for a few years. You know.

But recent times have been healing and whole and happy, and I've been reading this book at last. Here are my thoughts and what I'm learning:

  • Lama Surya Das does not skirt around the edges of the pain - he talks directly of it. This would have been almost nihilistic for me when my grief was raw and I was traumatised. For others, it would be a relief to finally have direct acknowledgement of grief. I would not recommend this book for anyone on the edge or lost in their own darkness. But with a bit more distance from the rawness, and the readiness I have to face and release these past experiences, it is wise and healing
  • There are spiritual growth opportunities in loss  - we can grow, become more understanding and compassionate. There is also the risk of our hearts contracting into bitterness as they break, as I experienced, and thoughts on renewing our intention towards peace within
  • the book explores our natural tendency to shy away from these feelings through eating, drinking, drugs, shopping or any other distraction. Others dive into their sorrow but find it difficult to leave and risk wallowing or becoming stuck. The principles of Buddhism teach us to find a middle path of facing our grief, allowing our feelings, and remembering "This too shall pass".
  • the goal within grief is too fully inhabit our present experience, know the wisdom of releasing pain, and allow ourselves to be nourished by life
  • naming and examining our loss can help us process the events of our life
  • there are clues in how we live that we are holding on to a past version of ourselves - the key one being clutter
  • letting go is a universal spiritual practice - demonstrated in Lent, Ramadan, the renouncing of worldly ways by nuns and monks of many faiths
  • a simple breath awareness meditation is practice for letting go in our lives, as we notice the letting go of each out breath
  • letting go of ego-clinging does not man letting go of life and its precious opportunities - life is considered marvelous, despite and especially when we learn detachment
  • the Taoist spitiual guide, The Tao Te Ching teaches us "a master does his/her best, and then lets go"
  • when we pray for spiritual guidance and support, it usually comes in the form of other people, often not even recognised by us through their actions
  • Tibetan Buddhist practices of walking through our shadows, healing meditations and practicing mindfulness are shared. Mindfulness allows us to face our loss but also to experience the joys and pleasures still available to us.
  • mindfulness is something to infuse throughout our whole life. We can practice mindfulness of sounds, taste, smell, feelings, sights and thoughts. Choosing our own sound that occurs regularly in our environment (I am choosing the snoring of my dog on the couch as I work!) can be an anchor to remind us to practice a moment of mindfulness. 
  • all beings  have innate Buddha-nature. Our only task is to recognise this and awaken to our true self
  • all emotions can be channelled in constructive ways. Anger can be the fire that burns down our house, or it can be the rocket fuel that launches something amazing. Mindfulness helps us recognise our emotions and channel them for the good.
  • we are all truly surrounded and available to Love at all times, even through loss. We can access love of the Divine, loss of nature, of children and animals, of humanity, creativity and work. Even of our adversaries, who can be our greatest teachers.

I would suggest this book to someone who has gone through their own personal spiritual forest fire, and has reached the point where they would like to make sense of their experiences, name and process their losses, and practice mindfulness to begin a new part of their lives. You can buy the book through my affiliate links at Amazon or Book Depository. If you are still raw or traumatised from experiences, perhaps do what I did and hide the book away for a while. Be ever so gentle with yourself. And this book, and the rest of your life, will be waiting for you when you're ready.

If you would like support in processing past events of your life and establishing new ways of living in the world and constructive thoughts and practices to channel your lived experience, I'd warmly encourage you to consider my transformational mentoring packages.

Now I'd love to hear from you - what has been essential in healing from loss and letting go of the person you used to be? Let me know in the comments. And know that love is within you.

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