During times of stress or loss we can be at increased risk for injuries and setbacks. One goal of Body Aware Grieving is to avoid creating new problems while we learn to recover from any current difficulties. [Read more…]
The most important aspect of Body Aware Grieving compared with other available services related to grief recovery is our focus on physical health. Even when we may not feel we are being affected by stress, sadness or anger, our bodies display symptoms that let us know we are functioning at less than our full capacity.
We are each so unique and different from one another. There is no reason to try and compare one person’s pain to anyone else. While the word “grief” is most commonly used in reference to a death, any reason we may be disappointed or struggling is equally important.
Common signs that we need to take better care of ourselves include: stomach or digestive issues, back or neck pain, fatigue, sleeplessness, muscle tension especially in the jaw and shoulders, dizziness, inability to concentrate, incessant crying, under or over-eating, overuse of medication, drugs or alcohol, getting colds or the flu repeatedly.
Even years after a romantic breakup you may find it hard to stop thinking about the person you love. Other people become overwhelmed when they observe the natural signs of aging happening to their face, body or ability to function. It is common to struggle with low self-esteem, even depression, after losing a job, business or accumulated amount of money. There are even people who envy those of us who are in mourning and wonder if they are ‘normal’ because they don’t seem to care enough about anyone or anything in their life to feel loss.
Physical signs of stress may be subtle, at least at first, or can become more extreme if we choose to ignore them. One of the most vital moments in healing can occur when we realize that we are having a problem that is not passing on it’s own. Perhaps instead of feeling ‘weak’ when we realize we may need help, it can be exciting to explore, “How can I get through my current situation with the least amount of extra suffering?” THAT is a question that can begin to lead us towards becoming healthier and happier.
The source of why we are upset is not specifically important. Regardless of why our emotional or physical health is being diminished, we just want to find ways to console and care for ourselves as easily as possible. If you or someone you care about is going through a challenging time, please go to the Healing Techniques section in our sidebar for a choice of wellness activities.
Best wishes to you,
photo © Adam Weiss email@example.com
Have we lost our ability to know whether or not we are hungry, sleepy and even how we are feeling? How often do we eat a meal simply because of what time the clock says, or when we get a break at work? Do we go to sleep when we are tired or because you need to get up early the next day? On the weekends do you choose activities that suit you at the moment, or do plans and obligations dominate your ‘free time’?
From the time we are very young, many of us have each part of our lives so pre-planned that we have lost the ability to know what our actual desires would be in the moment. To go deeper, how often are we able to express our actual emotions and thoughts as we are experiencing them–at work, with our families and while out in public?
The goal of Body Aware Grieving as a system of healing is to become so familiar with the natural cravings of our bodies and hearts that we can make skillful choices about our own care. Here is a Healing Technique that can help us strengthen our sense of self called: Intuition Search.
How to do an Intuition Search:
Find the longest period that you can in your schedule and experiment with making choices based on what you want to do in a spontaneous manner. Take a few hours, a whole day or even a weekend if you can, to just wander from one appealing activity to another! Maybe you are in the mood to:
- Visit a friend
- Take a nap
- See what movies are showing
- Eat a (small portion) of foods you are craving
- Walk out your door or get in your car and choose a direction to explore spontaneously.
- Pick up an instrument you used to play
More important than what you actually do is to develop a sense of freedom and familiarity with your own desires. Maybe you are ready to sleep at 7pm, or get up to start a creative project in the middle of the night. If you are lonely, reach out for some companionship in person, on-line or with a pet. People who are surrounded by others, especially in a caregiver role may crave time totally alone at a hotel, beach or even just sitting in their car with the windows rolled up and the music on.
Of course we are not talking about choices that would create a strong negative consequence like having an affair or going in to quit your job without preparing first. Many of you may think this sounds great, but feel too burdened with responsibilities to take much time for your own preferences.
Even if all you can spare is a few minutes, it is still worthwhile to ask, “What would I like to do right now?” Perhaps not every desire is one you can act on immediately, it can still be beneficial to be familiar with your own cravings. Knowing what our “real self” wants is an important first step to getting as many of those needs as possible met.
A few years ago I experienced the most difficult years of my life. Multiple deaths in my family, a romantic break up and financial stress all happened literally at the same time. What I could not have predicted then, is how amazing, strong and proud I feel now!
It has been proven (I have proved it to myself!) that I can survive and thrive despite the loss of loved ones, heart break and being broke. I now feel almost fearless, very proud, and much more capable.
The image of a phoenix rising comes to mind. Every 500 years or so this mystical, magical beast is said to climb to the top of the tree to be burned to ashes by the sun and emerge as a renewed and stronger animal. Said to function even better with 500 or more years of accumulated wisdom, a Phoenix who has risen from the ashes of its previous life begins a new cycle of adventure more skillful and courageous than before.
The bird proudly willing to burn,
So that he may live again,
Chooses the flames of fires
That burn the aged Phoenix
The nature stands still
Till a new young bird starts again,
and begins the legend of the Phoenix.
– Claudian (Roman author)
If you’d like to learn more about the history and belief of the phoenix, click here for a wonderful article by Mohan Deep: Legend of Phoenix
Perhaps you like the idea of emerging as an improved and transformed version of yourself, but prefer a different image than a phoenix. We can observe examples of renewal and rebirth in a variety of ways. A caterpillar goes into a cocoon and emerges as a butterfly. The seasons of the year are a common symbol of the process of loss and renewal found in nature that can provide comfort and inspiration.
Other people may want to keep it simple. In many cultures there are versions of the expression, “Whatever does not kill us makes us stronger.” A Japanese proverb also comes to mind, translated as: “Knocked down seven times stand up eight.”
Humans, along with most parts of the natural world, are in a constant state of transformation, at times more dramatic than others. We can do more than control certain life events, we can influence our own responses to them.
During actual episodes of grief and struggle it is often hard to feel powerful and optimistic. When we feel overwhelmed, defeated or weak, it is worth remembering that in the stages that come next we may amaze others and ourselves by the person we are about to become.
While I would not choose to re-live any of the painful moments in my past, being better prepared for whatever may come next is a very, very sweet and unexpected reward. If I compare my life to the cycle of a phoenix in the present moment, I am only now beginning to rise up and learn what my new self is able to accomplish. Very exciting!
Please share your opinions and stories with the rest of our community here at Body Aware Grieving. As always, you are welcome to include any name you choose, or remain anonymous. Have you gone through a surprising life change, or observed them in others? If you are in a period of struggle, do any of these ideas give you more hope about the future?
Click Below for the Audio Version of this Article
The Rewards of Recovery
Each person will find their own ways to remember people or pets whom they have loved and lost. The activities that bring us comfort will vary, as will the length of time it may take before we become adjusted to our new lives without the companion we have cared about.
I have shared posts and videos here on Body Aware Grieving about my own pet Bunny Jo who passed away just over 6 months ago. It seems like he has been gone much longer than that. I kept a few items that remind me of him, his favorite plants, a mat he loved to sit on and a blanket I used to wrap around him when he became sick.
Slowly I have been figuring out ways to re-use these reminders of Bunny Jo. It can be very liberating and even uplifting to either let these items go, or find new purposes for them, but only when the time is right.
The picture at the top of this post shows Bunny Jo sitting on a piece of colorful fabric he used to enjoy. In my current home, there is a young cat owned by one of our neighbors. With winter coming, I decided use the mat and blanket to make a cozy place for this sweet cat since he likes to visit my patio. Here are a few photos of the neighbor’s kitty discovering his favorite new spot to play and relax.
Perhaps these small changes may not seem important. However, instead of feeling sad when I see these items now, it brings enjoyment to see them being used appreciatively. No longer hidden on a shelf, Bunny Jo’s favorite items are ready for a new life…and so am I.
Of course we welcome your comments, memories, photos and artwork of your current or previous pets.
Bunny Jo ‘stars’ in this video about sharing our lives with pets:
Not ready to have another pet yet full time? Audio podcast about pet sharing:
Examples of skillful ways to respond following the loss of a pet:
Documentary of one man’s last days with his beloved dog:
The following stories are from readers who share their memories of life with their pet cats: