What is Intentional Grieving?

“Who in the world would want to grieve intentionally”, a former client asked me when I inquired about this concept. “Come on now, really?” She just looked at me with wide eyes.

Intentionally grieving is just that. Creating a time and place to sit yourself down and feel ALL that this loss has taken from you. I just encouraged twenty-something children in Raw Grief to make an altar with their parent’s photo and cherished belongings. I then suggested they sit at that altar weeping and wailing as they play their favorite music, look at that picture and talk aloud to their parent. One child has an affinity for writing. ‘Go buy an inexpensive notebook and pour grief’s ambushing thoughts onto the page,’ I urged after hearing the chaos their mind was creating. This parent had been a remarkable cook. Unfortunately, the children had not ‘osmosed’ that skill, especially creating beautiful sweet treats. When I asked,”What dessert do you miss the most?” they promptly replied “Dome Cake”.

“Well then, where can we get a dome cake?”  I  know that less than three miles away there is a gourmet bakery to support this craving.

Raw Grief

We know that in Raw Grief, that first ninety days to a year, emotions wash over us without warning. It feels like we are in the middle of a shipwreck with things out of our control. There is no rhyme or reason to emotional outbursts and grief attacks. They just come unbidden. For an example, the seventeen families in Parkland, Florida have no choice. Gripped by grief they are in it. Raw grief is a brutal process. We get headaches from crying and red noses from tears in the form of snot. It is messy. Debilitating. We feel isolated.

Eventually sobbing begins to subside. No longer crying for days, we begin to cry for hours. We wonder if anyone can hear us. If anyone knows the depth of our anger, sadness, fear. We feel disconnected and cut off. It is in this time that we must begin to listen differently to ourselves. Listen to the unreasonable thoughts in our minds. Upon closer examination, we see that it is usually our memories that trigger the meltdowns 30, 60, 90 days after the loss. We think of the job that we had to leave when we were fired. The co-workers that cannot reach out to us triggers the feeling of longing and then the grief of loneliness crashes over us. Or the thought of the husband that is seeing the other woman comes to mind when we are shoveling snow in the home that he no longer inhabits. Flinging the snow as far as possible, we hope it and our anger will bury him. We cannot stop thinking of our child, our mother or father that we will never see, hug or hear them say “Where are you? I’m home.”

Intentional Grieving Allows Us to Listen Deeply To Our Hearts Instead of Reacting Mindlessly to Our Emotions

As a mind-body therapist I have seen the power of deeply listening to ourselves. Last week a woman came in to ‘release my grief from my mom’s death twenty years ago.’ It quickly became apparent that the grief was really about a sibling that was still living. The client was so sad that her sibling’s life had been so hard because of the unwise choices they had made. When I asked this client what she was noticing in her body after this realization, she said, “My heart hurts.” Inviting her to place her hands over her heart and breathing, she heard its message. Her heart told her  “Drive in your own lane. You have done as much as you can for your sister. Listen to me, your heart.” After she breathed and focused her attention on the connection of her hands over her heart, I guided her to notice what was happening in her heart. “It has shifted. The pain is gone. My heart says ‘You may live in Joy.'”

Intentional Grieving Works

So whether you create an altar, listen to music that evokes weeping and wailing, talk aloud to a picture of the person you have lost by divorce, estrangement, kidnapping or death, journal, eat dome cake or see a mind-body therapist, I invite you to take the time to grieve intentionally. You will know this is necessary if the light and happiness of life have not returned. Grief is a process with a timeline unique to each of us. You are not sentenced to a lifetime of sadness. Go to www.BeyondYourGrief.com. Scroll down to the bottom of the home page and complete the Grief Assessment. It is another way to know, you are not alone. You answers arrive in my in-box and I reply to your unique and precious grieving self. Take Deep Care.