The Mindful Path – Grief

By Marilyn Halpern, LSW, ACSW ~

“A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again.” – Maya Angelou

Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a traditional Mexican multi-day remembrance holiday. It is a celebration of love, life and sharing memories of people who have died. Showcasing the rich heritage of this ancient holiday, families gather to remember loved ones with ofrendas (altars), decorated sugar skulls, music, marigolds and festivals. It is a community holiday often featuring skeleton figures, beautifully dressed women (catrinas) and men (catrines) that remind us we are all equal in death.

Reflecting on the upcoming Day of the Dead provides an opportunity to consider how mindfulness can help integrate the sorrow of loss. The purpose of mindfulness is to increase our non-judgmental awareness of how grief impacts our body, mind, emotions, spirit and attention. Death and grief are part of the human experience. The only healthy way to overcome deep sorrow is integrating our feelings into a new normal. In what is often called a death phobic society, the process of grieving can feel isolating and overwhelming. 

To endure the depths of loss, we can provide a safe space for ourselves to feel all the emotions that may surface. We can trust our inner resources and honor our journey. As humans, we have an extraordinary capacity to heal.

It is important to give ourselves permission to grieve and share our stories. It is helpful to reach out for support to understanding friends, spiritual leaders and support groups. Some may find books or podcasts helpful. We can express our feelings in the form of poetry, journaling and music. For others, the creative process of dancing, gardening or creating art might be cathartic. 

As we trust the healing process, some may find slow, deliberate breathing can calm the mind. Author Jack Kornfield offers a free grief meditation at jackkornfield.com/meditation-grief. Some may find comfort in joining the communal celebration of the Day of the Dead. The City of Longmont hosts Colorado’s largest Dia de los Muertos celebration that spans from October 1 to November 1. In-person (observing social distancing) and virtual events will be held all month. For more information visit –https://www.longmontdayofthedead.com 

Loving kindness, patience and gentleness fosters grief integration. As we remember and celebrate the “great souls” of our lives, we honor the power of love, time and human connection.

Marilyn Halpern is an End of Life Doula, medical power of attorney, care manager and professional guardian in the Denver Metro area.  For more information www.aspencareservices.com.

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