The holidays are upon us. Time to surf the waves of grief. For some folks, they knew the waves were coming, as the losses have been recent. For others, there was no warning, thinking that the past stays in the past. Grief in unpredictable in that way. Seemingly unrelated moments can trigger a temporary surge of grief. As we continue to adjust to the new normal the pandemic has brought in to our lives, we are realizing how our lives have been forever changed.
This may be the first holiday season that feels “back to normal” even though so much has changed over the last several years. Maybe we are out of practice with hosting gatherings. Maybe we are relearning how to interact with family and friends we haven’t seen regularly (or at all) for several years. Maybe we are facing the harsh reality of who won’t be at the table this year. Maybe we are reconciling new knowledge or understanding of the impact of our ancestors’ actions.
All of this during a time where cheer, joy and peace are being shouted from every tablet, phone, television, billboard and radio station. It’s a lot to absorb and respond to, as those sentiments may be in direct contrast of how we feel at times. Gratitude and thanks are mentioned often this time of year. Sometimes it’s easy to make that list of what we are thankful for. Other times it feels like an assault on our senses as some of the people or things we have been thankful for in the past are no longer present. Experiencing these contrasting thoughts and feelings can be difficult. So, what can we do?
Let it RAIN: Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurture
Tara Brach’s RAIN Meditation explores breaking down the thought or feeling in a holistic manner. First, we recognize what is happening. In this first step, there is no judging. This first step is becoming aware of what we are experiencing – thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc. Are we feeling angry that our loved one won’t be seated next to us at dinner? Do we feel a pit in our stomach as we acknowledge that loss? Are our cheeks feeling warm as we process these thoughts and feelings?
The second step is allowing life to be as it is. Again, no judgement, but rather sitting with those thoughts, feelings and sensations. Yes, this is uncomfortable and doesn’t have to last more than a second or two. We can take a couple deep breaths as we sit with the discomfort. Allowing these thoughts, feelings and sensations to exist and come to the surface creates the space needed for the next step.
As we move into the third step, we investigate those thoughts, feelings and sensations to better understand them. It’s imperative to do so with curiosity and compassion. The article linked above gives a list of questions that can be used during our investigation, as a way to more deeply understand what is going on within us at that moment. Some of these questions may be difficult to answer, so holding ourselves in loving compassion is key. Sometimes it helps to imagine ourselves as a friend that we are supporting if it’s hard to access love and compassion for ourselves. This inquiry also provides a pathway for the fourth step – where we nurture with love.
This fourth step, nurture, focuses on identifying what we need and how to get our needs met, nurturing those parts of ourselves that require support and love. Those familiar with self-care may already have a variety of tools in their toolbox. For those of us who are having difficulty accessing those tools, finding that what’s in their toolbox isn’t working anymore and/or who haven’t found the right ones, resourcing new ways to care for ourselves can be helpful. We can crowd source with friends, social media, co-workers or family. For those who enjoy or want to try some guided meditations, please peruse the list below.
Please remember you are not alone, we are all in this together. There is at least one person, of the 8 billion on the planet, who has been where you are.
Here are some links to meditations
Mindful Self-Compassion Guided Meditations and Exercises:
Tap Into Gratitude with Loving-Kindness Meditation:
12-minute meditation to counteract resentment with gratitude
Guided meditation to awaken the flow of gratitude in nature
Guided meditation to give gratitude for your body
Guided Meditation: notice how sadness, loneliness and ager show up in your body:
Standing body scan