The importance of grieving, self-care, and community

Yesterday I went to a gathering after friends died last week. I figured it was time to update and reshare this post about the importance of grieving and how we can take care of ourselves during such a difficult time.

Grief According to Chinese Medicine

Shock scatters the Heart Qi – There may be shock and disorientation, even though we all knew it was coming. Because even though you may know it’s coming, you never know exactly when it will happen.

Grief weakens the Lung Qi – Grief weakens Lung Qi and this may result in getting sick with a cold or flu. It is for this reason that I started taking herbs to boost my immune system. Other manifestations might be wheezing, or maybe a rash (or a bout of eczema or psoriasis, if you are prone to them).

Grief may also manifest in otherwise unexplained pain along the Lung channel. For example, you might have pain or discomfort in the upper chest, shoulder or arm. Here is what that channel looks like:

Lung Channel

The Lungs and Large Intestine belong to the Metal element in Chinese Medicine. Metal helps us to process our grief and to appreciate preciousness. I think that’s a beautiful way to think about loss: appreciating preciousness. People do that instinctively when someone dies and they say ‘tell people that you love them everyday and hold them close’.  Metal creates space for us to grieve and then to move on.

The Importance of Self-care While Grieving

Make sure you do relaxing things like yoga or qigong, get acupuncture, adequate rest, and maybe seek out a grief counselor or therapist. Prayer and/or lighting candles for your loved ones may also help. Kuan Yin is the bodhisattva of compassion. She hears the cries of the world. She hears our suffering. If you need her help, you only have to call on her by name Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa

There is also a beautiful Kuan Yin Prayer for the Dead that I found:

Divine Mother Kuan Yin,

Please take the soul of ______________, my dear departed one,

into the sweetest corner of your mind,

The most tender place in your heart,

That she and I might be comforted.

For now she has gone, and I pray,

Beloved Mother Kuan Yin, for the strength to remember she has not gone far.

For she is with you and shall remain so forever.

She remains within me, for we are all in you together.

The chord that binds us one to the other cannot be cut, surely not by death.

For you dearest Kuan Yin, have bought us together, and we remain in eternal connection.

There is no power greater than your love.

Death is not your master, nor mine.

These things I believe and ask my heart to register.

I surrender to you Beloved Mother Kuan Yin, my grief.

I surrender to you Beloved Mother Kuan Yin, my pain.

Please take care of your servant ______________, my dear one who has passed.

And please Divine Mother Kuan Yin, take care of me.

Tell other people

Sometimes they won’t know what to say but sometimes they may offer you a hug, some wise words, or even a card. Holding in your grief can do damage to your Lung Qi – both emotionally and physically. It’s better to express it so it doesn’t build up.

Get together with others who are grieving – If you are able to, attend a funeral so that you and your loved ones can mourn together and get closure.

Support groups – there are general grief support groups (in person or online) and maybe there are groups specific to the kind of loss you are experiencing.

Ceremonies and rituals to help you process the loss – Samhain or Day of the Dead or All Souls Day is the time when the veil between the worlds is thinnest and we can communicate with our loved ones who have passed on. But there may also be ceremonies at other times of the year. In Circle of Cerridwen, Gina often leads a meditation in which the deity of our choice brings a deceased loved one to us so we can talk and spend time with them. It’s a pretty powerful way to connect with our beloved dead.

Being alone while grieving is tough. This is why we started the Spirit Babies ceremonies for people who have experienced pregnancy loss. Because it is kind of taboo in our society to discuss pregnancy loss, we wanted to hold space for those who have had miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, or any other perinatal loss. This type of loss is very often silent in our country. We wanted to give voice, specifically, to those who have not had a chance to grieve their pregnancy loss. And from what I can tell, it has really helped.

One of the most important things about grieving is to be heard by others, whether it’s praying to Kuan Yin, letting your friends and coworkers know, or going to a ceremony. Allow yourself time and space to grieve – it’s different for everyone. Shared grieving may ease your suffering. It may make you feel like you are heard and cared for and that you are not alone. Remember that you are not alone.