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Living With The Dead: Why Letting Go is Not Always Right

Grieving boy
Crying Boy being comforted by his father

It is widely accepted that grieving is a very personal process, but what about mourning? What happens when cultural and societal expectations clash with that process?

My earliest memories of death and bereavement are of the time my grandmother (on my father’s side) passed away. I must have been 7 or 8 years old at the time and though much of those memories are vague, I do recall my own grief and subsequent mourning. Upon hearing the news of my grandmother’s death I didn’t really react. That is to say I didn’t cry. The funeral came and went and still I didn’t cry. I cannot recall how much time passed – days, weeks, maybe even months went by when one evening my brother, sister, and I came across a little finger puppet my grandmother had knitted and the grief just hit me. And then I cried. Boy did I cry. We all did, for pretty much the rest of the evening.

When Grieving is Wrong

I consider myself lucky. I remember my father didn’t understand why all of a sudden his three children were breaking their hearts over the death of his mother, but he allowed it. He never scolded us or told us off or tried to “correct” us in any way. Others aren’t as fortunate.

I know of people who have reacted similar to myself. They didn’t cry upon hearing of the death of their loved one and they didn’t cry at the funeral. They even went back to school or work the following day and they were judged for it. Criticised for not doing the “right” thing. Furthermore, when they later did grieve they were criticised for that as well; “That was months ago. You should be over it by now”.

Those may be extreme examples, but even well-meaning friends and family can impose a framework upon us for how we should grieve, when we should grieve and for how long. Ever heard the following:

“Oh how sad. I’m so sorry for your loss. Things will get better though. You’ll find a way to let go and move on”

The expectation is that we grieve, mourn our loss, and ultimately let go and move on.  Anything outside this process is frowned upon, questioned, and maybe even ridiculed. At worst it gets pathologised and called “Unresolved Grief”. But what if people can’t let go? What if they don’t want to? Is there an alternative? Is it ever okay to not let go?

Keeping Hold and Moving On

The grieving process can be helped by recognising that although the relationship has changed, it can be maintained. Many people find it helpful to talk to the deceased person as if they are in the room with them. And how often have you heard a grieving person speak of feeling the “presence” of their dearly departed? Who’s to say they aren’t actually with us?

Others may choose to keep the relationship alive by talking about the deceased to their children, friends, and/or other members of the family.  A good friend of mine often tells her young son about her deceased father and how proud he would be of his grandson.

In some cases this can even help others to deal with their grief. It’s as if keeping a hold of the deceased gives permission for them to do the same. In one such case a man who was unable to speak of the death of his father for years was able to come to terms with his loss by listening to and participating with his sister telling her daughter all about her grandfather.

Conclusion

Grieving and mourning is an incredibly personal process. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Do what feels right for you.

If you are currently struggling with your grief, give me a ring on 07547 906962

How to Turn Depression On Its Head

depressed girl with paper smileWhat if we’ve been wrong all along? What if depression wasn’t an illness? What if it was as natural as breathing? And what if it was a fundamental and necessary part of our (spiritual) growth?

For countless centuries philosophers and spiritual teachers have been telling us that our answers lie within. That is to say that what we perceive on the outside is a mirror of what is going on inside. And if you were to look into a mirror and see that your face isn’t smiling, you wouldn’t go over to the mirror and try to make the reflection smile! You would turn inwards and find out why you aren’t smiling.

Makes sense right? Yet when we can’t find the answers outside of us, we ignore our natural instinct to go within. Why is that?

Cultural Conditioning

Modern society, with its focus on all things external, doesn’t allow room for introspection. In fact it shuns it. We have deadlines to meet and appointments to keep. Places we need to go and things we need to do. And we don’t have enough time in which to do it all. (Or so we tell ourselves.)

Worse yet, when we do spend time soul-searching or doing some self-exploration we’re made to feel guilty. Selfish. Thinking only of ourselves and letting others down. So we ignore the urge to retreat and go within.

We have literally taught ourselves that it is wrong to look for our answers within ourselves. We have learnt to define ourselves by our external circumstances. We are walking up to the mirror and trying to make the reflection change! Which will never work.

“If you don’t go within, then you will go without.” – Neale Donald Walsch

And there is a part of you that knows this. A part of you that carries the highest wisdom and agrees with all those philosophical teachings – our answers lie within. So the “go within” urge persists. And gets stronger.

The desire to cut yourself off from the world intensifies. There is a growing need to separate from others and not to interact with anyone. You don’t know why you feel this way, you just do. You don’t want to hurt any one or cause any offence, but you just want to push every one away. Then our cultural conditioning kicks in and before you know it that pesky thing called guilt rears its ugly head. So you start berating yourself. Putting yourself down and maybe even telling yourself there’s something wrong with you. Which then spirals out of control. You tell yourself you’re useless. Unworthy or undeserving. You de-value yourself – which is quite possibly the root cause of all “depression”.

You do anything you can to try and get out of this dark place even turning to drugs in an attempt to control it. But again I ask; what if this thing we’ve labelled ‘depression’ is perfectly normal? What if there is actually nothing wrong with you?

What to do instead?

Turn it on its head. Embrace it. Tell yourself it’s okay to be “depressed”. Or to put it more succinctly; stop de-valuing yourself. Allow yourself to feel your value and to accept the simple truth which is this:

Something in your world needs re-evaluating and no amount of looking outside of yourself is going to give you the answers right now. Go with the process, let it flow. Trust your feelings and your natural tendencies because eventually you will find what it is you are seeking.

And when you do, your depression will immediately end.