A spiritual perspective is capable of providing adequate support, thoughtful guidance and filling the grief-stricken people with new hope. When the bereaved persons probe their assumptions around life and death, falsehood and truth, and loneliness, there is a widening of consciousness. Consequently, they gain profound insight into eternal reality and are able to be more stoic in the face of grief.
Kiri Walsh and colleagues (2002) studied the relation between spiritual beliefs and the resolution of bereavement by witnessing 135 relatives and close friends of patients admitted to a centre with terminal illness. Participants who held stronger spiritual beliefs were able to resolve their grief more rapidly and completely after the death of a close person as compared to people with no spiritual beliefs.
Maharshi Patanjali, the author of Yoga Sutras emphasises that raga (attachment to pleasure) is an important tendency of our mind that makes us psychologically vulnerable and more prone to grief. We tend to derive happiness when our needs and desires are fulfilled through relationships, sensory experiences, material, and non-material possessions. However, life shows us that nothing is permanent, and that all relationships, experiences and possessions disintegrate with time.
From a spiritual perspective, what is it that we must learn from loss? The Divine is benevolent and omnipotent, and if He had willed differently, there would have been no misfortune. However, He chose to create a world where right from birth till the time we die, multiple losses come our way. When we think deeply, we realize that a loss is much more than a mere unfortunate occurrence. It is an opening through which you can question your superficial sense of pleasure and pain and move towards something better.
In my sessions with people who are trying to come to terms with grief, spiritual journeys have invariably helped them overcome dejection and secure an abiding sense of lasting happiness. Because we dread pain, we end up either suppressing grief or denying it completely so that there is no effective resolution. Nothing in the universe is ever still, and there is a constant movement through which creation, destruction and evolution come about. Likewise, the self has an innate power to heal from states of grief and dejection and invigorate itself once you have allowed the emotions to flow freely.
Be open to recalling and perceiving past events so that all its attendant thoughts, emotions and memories come up. Let the associated grief well up in the mind. Revisit the incident, focussing on every detail. Initially, you may feel blocked up, but if you attempt this sincerely, then after a few attempts, you will get in touch with the pain. As you go over all the thoughts and feelings, put them into words. Then, open your being to let the Divine force heal all your anguish. It could be overwhelming in the beginning, but as you repeat this process several times, you will find that the intensity comes down, and that ultimately there is peace and calmness.
Close your eyes and relax. Focus on your breathing. Take relaxed and normal breaths so that both the breathing rate and volume is as less as comfortably possible.
As you feel relaxed, recollect the loss that you wish to come to terms with.
Recall all the details of the incident — even the minutest ones that will bring the experience alive. Ask yourself some questions such as ‘what you were doing prior to the event; how you felt when it happened; where you were exactly; what you were wearing and what was happening around you?’
Expose yourself to everything that comes up — thoughts, emotions, images and memories. Tell yourself that all this is normal and that it is human to experience it.
Pray to the Divine to help you steer through it.
When you feel reassured, open your eyes.
This post has been extracted from When the Soul Heals – Explorations in Spiritual Psychology by Pulkit Sharma (2019, Auro Publications)
Pulkit Sharma is a clinical psychologist, author and spiritual counsellor, based in Puducherry. This book is based on his unique technique that combines psychology and spirituality to help people reclaim their lives.