Grief is love. It is love for someone who is gone. When the feelings of loss are so strong that they brim over, that is you expressing great love.
I did not hear about the tragedy in Connecticut for a few hours. Instead I had taken part of the morning to visit some new babies. One visit was with an eight-day-old boy. For our brief, half-hour walk, his mother wrapped him so snuggly, so securely in his natural fiber carrying wrap, she could have been doing flips on a trampoline and he still would have slept peacefully.
All loved ones are that precious. So it’s fairly natural to grieve for other people’s loved ones too. No one goes through the process of mourning in the same way, but the basic emotion of grief, at its core, is the same.
Buddhist teacher, and grandmother, Pema Chodron has said it this way: “If you get in touch with that arrow in your heart, it’s quite accessible to you at that very moment, that there are people all over the world who are feeling exactly what you’re feeling.”
If you have lost people who are dear to you, then these kinds of tragedies can can bring back all sorts of memories. You may find that you want to reach out to people. You may feel in community with them in some way. Melanie Beattie calls it, “The Grief Club.” I’ve also heard it called the society of people “Holding a Hand in Heaven.”
You can send a letter to the parents of the children who were lost, or their classmates, or the families of the lost teachers to:
Sandy Hook Elementary School: 12 Dickinson Drive Sandy Hook, CT 06482
After all, Shakespeare tells us to “Give sorrow words…”
If you are grieving a loved one during the holidays: remember there are a few things that may help:
- Plan out what you will do so things are not unexpected.
- Include regular self care: massage, exercise, long baths, yoga, walks, art, reading, laughter. Positive feelings need not be intense and prolonged for them to have benefit.
- Remember your loved one in a specific way: Light a candle in a special place. Visit the bench, or the tree you dedicated to them.
- Spend time with people who share memories of your loved one.
- Start new traditions. Things are never the same when someone dies, but you can begin new memories.
- Get in touch with the heartfelt honesty of grief, and let go of those things that aren’t important. Some things that are stressful, you can just drop. What mattered then, is not the same as what matters now.
- If your loved one died this year, and it seems too much, you don’t have to send out holiday cards. People in the Grief Club will understand.
- Risk engagement. To your surprise, a get together, accepting an invitation, getting out in the world, might be nice.
Remember, even if you have one hand in heaven, in this moment now, your feet are on the earth. So, notice that there is still life all around you.