Sunday, June 29, 2008

Moving Toward Grief

The Western world is not a culture where grieving is well understood, let alone tolerated. I've heard of bereaved people going back to work 3 days after losing their spouse to be greeted by their boss saying, "well, you've had three days off, so you should be well over your grief by now." How people go back to work after 3 days is beyond me! I took a month off, and I probably should have taken more time. Ah well. Should-a, could-a, would-a, didn't-a!

It turns out that our modern culture of "get over grief fast" has very ancient roots, dating back to the Stoics. It is a myth that does not serve us well at all. Dr Alan D. Wolfelt talks about this bad advice in his book, Understanding Grief. He explains that grief is a collection of feelings that we need to experience, not a handicap that we must overcome.

When I became a widower, I did not know how to grieve, nor did I feel that I needed to. Deb had been sick with terminal cancer for 16 months before she died, and I felt I had done all my grieving during that time. What I found was that this myth of needing to get over grief fast helped me prolong my initial mourning by about 5 months. It wasn't until I started crying everywhere that I bothered learning what grief was and how to experience it.

Dr Wolfelt has some very good advice on how to counter this popular notion of grief. In my experience, it wasn't until I followed this kind of advice and faced my grief head-on that I began to heal. Read on:

[from pages 11-12]:

Myth #3: Move away from grief, not toward it.

Our Society often encourages prematurely moving away from grief instead of toward it. The result is that too many bereaved people either grieve in isolation or attempt to run away from their grief through various means.

During ancient times, stoic philosophers encouraged their followers not to mourn, believing that self-control was the appropriate response to sorrow. Today, well-intentioned, but uninformed, relatives and friends still carry on this longheld tradition. While the outward expression of grief is a requirement for healing, to overcome society's powerful message which encourages repression can be difficult.

As a counselor, I am often asked, "How long should grief last?" This question directly relates to our culture's impatience with grief and the desire to move people away from the experience of mourning. Shortly after the death, for example, the bereaved are expected to "be back to normal."

Bereaved persons who continue to express grief outwardly are often viewed as "weak," "crazy," or "self-pitying." The subtle message is "shape up and get on with life." The reality is disturbing: far too many people view grief as something to be overcome rather than experienced.

These messages, unfortunately, encourage you to repress thoughts and feelings surrounding the death. By doing so, you may refuse to cry. And refusing to allow tears, suffering in silence, and "being strong" are often considered admirable behaviors. Many people have internalized society's message that mourning should be done quietly, quickly. and efficiently. Don't let this happen to you.

After the death of someone loved, you also may respond to the question "How are you?" with the benign response "Im fine." In essence, though, you are saying to the world, "I'm not mourning." Friends, family and co-workers may encourage this stance. Why? Because they don't want to talk about the death. So if you demonstrate an absence of mourning behavior, it tends to be more socially acceptable.

This collaborative pretense about mourning, however, does not meet your needs as a bereaved person. When your grief is ignored or minimized, you will feel further isolated in your journey. Ultimately. you will experience the onset of the "Am I going crazy?" syndrome. To mask or move away from your grief creates anxiety, confusion, and depression. If you receive little or no social recognition related to your pain, you will probably begin to fear that your thoughts and feelings are abnormal.

Remember — society will often encourage you to prematurely move away from your grief. You must continually remind yourself that leaning toward the pain will facilitate the eventual healing.

Once I started acutely grieving at around six months out, I was acutely aware of society's disapproval and wish that I would be over my grief. However, I knew that I needed to grieve, and if the world wasn't going to support me, at least I could support myself. And when I wished that society would be more supportive of me, I kept in mind a quote attributed by Ghandi:

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stay In The Classroom

In my last post, I talked about the need to get quiet and spend time with ourselves. For months after Deb died, after my son was sleeping, I would just sit quietly with myself on the couch and listen to my body and what it was trying to tell me. You might want to read my article on Focusing To Heal to understand what I'm talking about. And yes, pain is a signal that your body wants your attention! We do well to heed such strong signals. We need to listen, not run away or drown them out.

Tonight I'd like to give some of Guy Finley's perspective from his wonderful book, The Secret of Letting Go. He explains the necessity of sitting with our unhappiness and learning what it has to teach us. After I was several months into bereavement and was feeling terrible, I knew that life was trying to teach me something. I wanted to learn the lesson! And I didn't want to take months and months to learn it.

[from pages 99-102]:

Nothing keeps us more aware of a problem than our struggle to forget it. Listen to what truth is trying to tell you about your strengths instead of listening to your weakness tell you where to hide. The most powerful force in the world for real self-rescue is your own awakened state. Mechanical and unconscious self-defeating behaviors are no match for this higher self-awareness because its strength comes from inner light. Light always cancels darkness. Only what is wrong with you wants you to forget what is wrong with you. What is right with you knows that the only thing that is wrong with you is that you don't know what is wrong — and that is why you stay pained.

Whenever we bury any unhappiness, we also put out of sight the cause of it. Each crisis is trying to teach us that there is a lesson within it if only we will stay in the classroom. Here is a glimpse of the freedom that awaits you if you will dare to remember yourself when everything in you wants to forget and run away.

By consciously staying with the awareness of your unhappiness, whatever it may be, you will discover one day to your grateful amazement that the pains and aches of this life aren't in you. That is correct. All of our unhappiness lies hidden in our ideas about who we are and how life should treat us.

The lesson of any painful emotional collision isn't in the crash itself, even though this is what we want to believe. With this convenient answer all we have to do, psychologically speaking, is blame the other driver, get a new car, and drive a different road. This kind of thinking only keeps us crashing with life. What each collision is trying to teach us is that the only thing wrong in our life is our current driver, who says he knows the way home when he obviously does not.

How to Change the Life You're Giving Yourself

We meet life, with all of its complex relationships, through what we know. Each daily event, with its dozens of unsuspected twists and turns, challenges us to come up with our best answers. Once our most suitable answer is at hand, We launch it and ourselves into action and watch to see what happens. With each situation, this challenge and response process is repeated over and over again until the condition resolves itself for us, either favorably or not.

The point being made here is that at any given moment we always do what we know. This may seem very obvious, but with closer examination, especially in light of the fact we wish to elevate ourselves and what we are getting from this life, we will discover something very astounding. Read the next three sentences very carefully. I have separated this trio of important ideas for ease of reading, but they are very much connected to each other. Each higher idea leads to the next one, and when they are absorbed all together, they will tell you a great secret.

Before you can get anything different from this life, you must first do something different.

Before you can do anything different with your life, you must first know something different.

Before you can know anything different, you must first suspect and then confirm that it is your present level of understanding that has brought you what you now wish you could change.

Now let's reverse the order of these right ideas so that we can see how they work from the other way around.

Until you know something different, you cannot do anything different.

Until you do something different, you will not get anything different.

And until you really get something different from your life, you cannot know what you have missed and how much more there is to understand.

Here's the point: trying to change what you get from life without first changing what you know about life is like putting on dry clothes over wet ones and then wondering why you keep shivering. You must stop trying to change what you are getting for yourself and go to work on changing what you are giving to yourself.

It is vital for you to realize that life has not held back its riches from you. The truth be known, which it will be, you have been held back from real life by a false nature that thinks life is meant to be suffered through, and that all there is to insulate it from a harsh world is what it can win and possess for itself. While there is no denying our world is becoming more and more cruel, there is also no denying that we are the world. Neither our individual world nor the global one can change until the connection between what we experience and who we are is no longer denied. This is why we must have a new knowledge. Spiritual knowledge isn't something mysterious or out of this world. In fact, spiritual understanding is the most important and practical knowledge a person can possess. It is ultimately what we know about ourselves, about who we really are, that determines the quality of our life.

The truth is, we cannot separate our answers from our actions and our actions from their results. They may appear to be individual in their operation because they often occur at different times, but they are really one thing. Intellectually we already know this important concept, but its deep significance hasn't yet become clear. We touched on this earlier. Let's look once more at the old adage, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." Here again we can see yet a new significance in this New Testament teaching. What you sow is seed or, in this metaphor, your knowledge. What you reap is the crop, or your results. This spiritual knowledge shows us the great importance of reconsidering what we think we know. Life is trying to reach us and teach us, through our experience of it, that we need new and true answers. These higher answers serve as a special kind of personal shelter that effortlessly keeps out what is harmful and keeps in what is healthy and life-giving. That is its nature.

To elaborate on what Guy has explained, we need to expose ourselves to many different perspectives on grief and grieving. As we learn more, we can do more and become more. We can heal the pain and thrive again. But it starts with different perspectives. And here's a perspective that will likely hit you right between the eyes:

See the perfection where the seeming imperfection seems to be
-- Lester Levenson

When I first read that a couple of weeks after Deb died, I wanted to strangle Lester! "Seeming imperfection?" Hello??? But that perspective opened something up inside me and paved the way for the long road to my recovery.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Get Quiet

Tonight I have another post about dealing with change. Ariane de Bonvoisin explains that, to avoid getting lost along the journey we now find ourselves on, we need to "connect with the core of our being, the essence of who we are." I was originally going to post this about a week ago, but I felt strongly that I needed to post the short series on anxiety first.

I have often heard widow/ers express a fear about allowing themselves to grieve — that if they allow themselves to grieve fully, it will overwhelm them and they won't be able to stop. I learned from The Sedona Method that the opposite is true. When I tried to probe the bottom of my grief and despair, I found that it eluded me. I'll post more about that another time, but I wanted to put you at ease as we look tonight at getting in touch with the core of our being:

The First 30 Days

We all have things we turn to. Perhaps it's meditation, prayer, a belief in the law of attraction, or visualization. Or maybe it's a connection to nature, a certain type of calming music, or a creative outlet like writing or painting. Whatever it is, it will help you during times of change by allowing you to connect to who you really are.

Even during the most dramatic change, there is always a place within us that is calm, collected, and comfortable, that knows how to cope with change. This part of ourselves doesn't fluctuate when circumstances are changing all around us. For most of us, it's something we call our higher self, our soul, or our connection to the Divine or God.

During times of change, most of us crave understanding. We want to make sense of the seeming chaos around us. The place I'm speaking of, though, I call inner-standing. It's the part of you that is calm and wise, that accepts things as they are. That part of you is eternal, unchanging; it is whole and complete, and you can't get rid of it no matter how hard you try. Connecting to this inner place means aligning with the person you were before the change, during the change, and after the change. It's about remembering who you are.

Peace and Quiet

No matter what change or transition is going on, no matter what decision you need to make, find some time to be alone and silent. Often we are looking for more peace in our lives, but we don't do what we need to do to make it happen. So many times our higher self tries to give us answers or solutions, but with all our busyness, we can never stop to reflect. This is why meditation has become so popular in our culture today: Although you may think of meditation as passive, it is in fact an active way of creating time in the day to connect with the deeper part of yourself. Meditation stops your resistance to change by allowing you to find the relationship between the little you and the bigger you and to remind yourself that you are exactly where you need to be. When you get quiet you'll see that life knows what's happening.

There are many different forms of meditation, but at its core all meditation is the practice of taking a few minutes a day to stop and do absolutely nothing. No phone calls, e-mails, computers, talking, eating, television . . . nothing. Slow down the engine that runs your mind, and take time to focus on the engine that runs your body: When you simply acknowledge your breath - breathing in and out - you are tapping into your life force. Just allow everything to be exactly as it is. Sometimes, it feels good just to hang out in God's waiting room!

Isn't it extraordinary how much we fight the idea of being quiet? What are we afraid of? What's the worst that could happen? Who could come out and hurt us? What are we avoiding? There are few things more essential than taking five to ten minutes a day to find your center; it will help you handle anything going on in your life. Just be quiet. Nearly every religion encourages silence and solitude. Remember: whenever we lose something external during change, we always have the chance to regain an inner home.

In my case, I actually attended a free 10 day silent meditation course, and it absolutely helped me get in touch with the core of my being. I learned how to be totally at peace with Deb's death. And I learned valuable skills that I use every day. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Only Way Out Of Anxiety

I've been sharing some valuable information from Dr Paul Dobransky's ebook called MindOS™ - "The Operating System of the Human Mind". I originally shared his work in my series entitled The Rollercoaster, and the last two posts have dealt almost exclusively with anxiety. In Avoiding Grief, we looked at how avoidance is a passive response to anxiety, and in Dumping Your Anxiety, we saw how worrying and complaining is a destructive, active response to anxiety. I also clarified that, as widow/ers, we need to express our worries and complaints, and that support groups are a more appropriate outlet for "dumping" than our friends and acquaintances.

Tonight I'll wrap up this series with Dr Paul's way out of anxiety: courage.

[from pages 196-205]:

Courage IS the only way out of problems with anxiety, victimization, impulsivity, addictions and lack of confidence. Interestingly, the film, "Saving Private Ryan" defines courage very succinctly: "Do the Right Thing."

Consider that knowing that "the Right Thing" to do comes from your two inner decision-making resources, conscience and intuition! Courage then, is not bravery, not fearlessness or any other thing we lack or acquire — it is a DECISION!...

We have no excuses. Courage is a decision, and if we are alive, we are capable of decisions, by definition. Every time we make a decision, we have to be in the "present moment," and therefore also have access to Observing Ego at those times. Courage is a constructive way of thinking before acting, done in a WIN/WIN way that sees the world as a place of ABUNDANCE.

This is where the notion of faith comes in to intertwine with courage.

To have FAITH in something, we need to have some degree of BELIEF that our actions in the future will work out, even if we don’t have conclusive proof they will. That takes some Observing Ego first off — a "bird's eye view" of our abilities and function. But then we have to DECIDE to think and act according to that faith. Imagine it — if you have poor Observing Ego ability then you don't have the "bird's eye view" on life. You only see the challenges in front of your face. So you tend to THINK in childlike ways—destructively. But with the "bird's eye view" of Observing Ego, you can see ALL the options available to you, now and in the future, and so you are a bit less distressed. You can do it, with some smart planning. You can do courage, the "Right Thing" to do.

Interestingly, we are most alone in the world when we do courage, but after the moment we do it, the WHOLE WORLD wants to join us. If our beliefs are composed of some part emotional evidence and some part intellectual evidence for the belief, then the emotional part can be used as energy to nudge us into action, and the intellectual part can guide the way. The emotional energy of courage then can then be joined by faith and belief so that we don't have to feel so alone in that moment that requires courage...

If you saw the film Saving Private Ryan or you yourself served in heroic capacity in the military, then you know what courage is and how it works. The soldiers storming Normandy Beach WERE afraid, nervous, jittery, peeing their pants, and calling for their mommies. But they were still among the most courageous men of the last century simply because they DECIDED to do what is right, regardless of the amount of uncomfortable feelings they had at "the moment of truth."

This concept of courage is one of the hardest character skills to build in psychiatry, because it doesn't involve too much thinking and analyzing — one simply has to think of the "Right Thing" to do, then go DO courage. That is an act that almost never can take place in a therapist's office. It has to happen out there in the real world, where one is ALONE and without a psychiatrist to chat with about it...

If courage is constructive, then just as any WIN/WIN behavior that sees the world as a place of abundance, it takes time, patience and discipline to do. Courage is about the long haul, not the quick fix of wishing you were something you're NOT.

The bright spot of this all is that you CAN become something that you aren't right now. You can become a little more like your heroes every day through Observing Ego, just like the main character in a great film — but only by the slow, patient discipline that adults use.

When you do courage, You have a 100% guarantee of reaping an EQUAL amount of confidence in ratio with the amount of courage put in. But we all have more or less confidence about SPECIFIC fears. If you list those fears, then you know the most logical targets for your courage, things to make goals out of. List your fears, then fly your "airplane of success" toward the goal of beating those specific fears through courage! It is a sure-fire way to build confidence in exactly the areas of life you need it.

Now you can see every kind of behavior to do with anxiety. This is important because we all do all three methods of anxiety all the time. Impulsivity and victim behavior get us NOTHING, but only courage wins confidence — it is EVERYTHING.

I'll just close by mentioning that I've previously described a great tool for getting that "bird's eye view" in my post titled A Wider Perspective. And I'll also mention that, since incorporating the above anxiety diagram into my life, I have more than restored all the confidence that I had lost when Deb died.

I hope that deciding to "do courage" proves fruitful in your life as well.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dumping Your Anxiety

In my last post, I shared some very interesting information from Dr Paul Dobransky's ebook called MindOS™ - "The Operating System of the Human Mind". I love the way he explains complex emotional behaviour in a logical, straightforward manner. He showed how avoiding anxiety in our grief is really a passive response to anxiety. While avoidance can be helpful in the first few months after our spouse dies, eventually we need to actively deal with our anxiety if we ever want to heal.

In tonight's post, I'll continue Dr Paul's teaching about responding to our anxiety "signal." As he already explained, anxiety is a signal that we have fears, challenges, change or risk to face, and there are only three ways to respond to anxiety. In my last post, we covered the only passive response, namely avoidance or impulsiveness. This post will look at one of the two active responses to anxiety: worry and complaining.

[pages 188-189]:

When we think destructively with anxiety, Mind OS calls that "Victim-thinking", "martyr-thinking", or masochism, where you take on a "poor me" attitude, erroneously believing that you are truly hopeless, or helpless. You worry about the future and complain without offering solutions. You regret the past, and essentially are WISHING you controlled the uncontrollable, "dumping" your anxiety into someone else's boundary.

Doing all this may seem harmless, but it is NOT. You are dumping your anxiety into someone else to let them worry about FOR you. It is childish, WIN/LOSE behavior, where you WIN relief but someone else LOSES their sense of peace, by absorbing your negative energy.

Is an adult person who walks and talks and can do adult things ever truly hopeless or helpless? NO! Never. Sure, a CHILD can't just go out and get a job, or buy a home to fix their problems, but adults CAN. To think otherwise is an illusion. When we get masochistic, victim-like beliefs about the world, it forces others to participate in the mechanics of OUR illusion. This is where anxiety connects to depression.

[pages 191-192]:

When we decide to take the destructive, immature "quick-fix" of immediate gratification, we find that others can sometimes be convenient "dumping grounds" for our complaints and worries. This happens especially if they have holes in their boundary where we can "push their buttons," shame and manipulate them into accepting our anxiety FOR us. We then "WIN" and they "LOSE."

Note that all the traits that go with playing the victim are also characteristics of nonbiological depression, and they are an illusion. We complain to the boss, we whine and moan about how helpless we are, we allow ourselves to believe there is no hope, and finally find ourselves winding into masochistic depressive thinking.

When we do this attitude long enough, people will get sick of it and turn on us, abandoning us and leaving us with even more loss than before. Complainers, whiners, moaners, and masochists attract the attention of soft-hearted friends in the short run, but tire them out and lose those friends in the long run. So a negative feedback loop occurs where we get negative momentum for our personal growth. We started to make a "mountain out of a molehill" that drives friends and solutions away...

Now you're probably reading this and thinking, "uh, HELLO!!! My spouse is DEAD. This is NOT a molehill. It is a thousand Everests!!!" And I agree. It is probably the most painful, agonizing ordeal we ever have to go through in our whole life.

Keep in mind that this ebook was not written for the bereaved, so it can come across as a bit harsh and uncaring. Yet the phenomenon of dumping our anxiety into someone else's boundary is all too common. Why do you suppose "friends" and acquaintances vanish after the funeral? They cannot deal with our immense sorrow, so they avoid us, adding to our losses.

But to grieve, we absolutely must get our feelings out by talking! We need to talk about our anxiety and fears in order to heal, but if we tell our friends, they can't deal with our hopelessness and they leave! How unfair is that? And how do we resolve this paradox?

Well, you've probably already guessed the answer: bereavement support groups. Try to find a support group like Bereaved Families of Ontario, one run by volunteers who have themselves suffered a similar loss. The primary reason to attend these groups is precisely to express your sense of "poor me," hopelessness and helplessness, worry about the future, complaints without solutions, regret about the past, and wishing you controlled the uncontrollable, all that unflattering stuff in the first quoted paragraph above. The major difference here is that support group attendees can relate to you and support you, unlike your friends and acquaintances.

You are not expecting these strangers to worry about all this stuff for you — you just want (and need) for someone to listen. You need to get your pain and frustrations out. Keeping them bottled up inside is a recipe for lifelong misery. And when you are finished talking, you can be there to listen for someone else who needs you just as much as you need them. Sitting with someone else in pain is one of the most powerful gifts you can ever give another human being. And when you give this gift to someone else, you heal yourself in return.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Avoiding Grief


You know what I'm talking about if you've been bereaved for any length of time. In our anxiety as a new widow/er, we often use avoidance as a common coping mechanism. We would rather avoid our anxiety than deal with it. And don't get me wrong — in the early months of grieving, grief avoidance is probably a good thing. In fact, it can often make the difference between getting through the next five minutes and totally losing it. But eventually, we need to stare our anxiety in the face if we ever want to heal. By avoiding grief, we passively let our anxiety run our body. Whatever direction it takes us, it isn't a healing one.

In my "rollercoaster" series, I quote from a great book called MindOS™ - "The Operating System of the Human Mind" by Dr Paul Dobransky. He does a fantastic job of making sense of our bewildering emotions. If you've ever wondered how to deal with anxiety, this is one post you'll want to pay close attention to.

To recap from The Rollercoaster III: anxiety is a signal to which there are only three possible responses — courage, worrying/complaining/victim thinking, or impulsiveness. Avoidance fits in to the impulsiveness response.

I'll let Dr Paul take it from here [pages 183-187]:

Anxiety is not good or bad. Just like anger, it is a SIGNAL. It tells you something is wrong and needs to be done. If you recall, anger signals you that you have unmet needs. Well anxiety signals you that you have fears, challenges, change or risk to face and rise to...

When we are passive with our anxiety and don’t like to make decisions, it likes to “go on autopilot” and is run by the “fight-or-flight” reflex. This reflex makes us either impulsive or avoidant of things we need to face. When there is an anxiety or fear to be faced, our “gut” tendency is to either want to RUN from it to avoid it, or else to attack it impulsively without thinking first.

We need this “fight-or-flight” reflex though for one situation, and one only: SURVIVAL! Yet most of the time, we are NOT under a real threat to our lives. So what happens when we are passive with anxiety? The reflex STILL drives us to be impulsive — to act without thinking — and we overeat, overspend, get addicted, and a host of other behaviors that ironically ARE a threat on our life if we do them enough!

...We overeat, overspend, get overworked, get addicted to drugs, alcohol, or medicines of abuse as unconscious ways of lowering our anxiety through spending it on these physical activities. They are all temporary fixes that lower our anxiety, but if the original sources of that anxiety are still present — loss or fear of loss, or lack of confidence about a particular aspect of life, then we see a rise of anxiety again soon after indulging our addiction....

Allow ourselves to feel the anxiety and then THINK about it. Feelings CAN’T hurt us or cause us more loss, only real threats can...

If I STOP to THINK BEFORE ACTING, I can get in touch with this valuable signal called anxiety — turn the arrow UP. Notice how the Anger Map and Anxiety Map have some opposite properties — anger turned inward causes depression, but anxiety turned inward instead of into immediate action leads to personal growth!

Actively dealing with our anxiety leaves us with two options: courage or worrying and complaining. In my next post, I'll explain what's really going on when we worry and/or complain.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No Problems In The Present Moment

I've written a number of posts now about a major tenet of ho'oponopono, namely that all our problems in life come from our memories. This should be very clear to see as we struggle through bereavement. If you open a newspaper from a neighboring city to the obituaries, I'm sure you can find an obit concerning someone you don't know. Do you feel overwhelming sadness about their death? No? Why? You probably feel overwhelming sadness concerning the death of your spouse. But what is the difference? They are both dead people. The difference is, you have no memories of the dead stranger, but you have tons of memories of your dead spouse.

I was reading part of The Sedona Method yesterday, and I found a great section that takes this concept to a whole new level. It also teaches a powerful life skill that I feel will help you immensely in your grief work.

[from pages 268-270]:

Exploration: There Are No Problems

...I'd like to share one of the most powerful perspectives that we've been exploring in Sedona Method Advanced Courses with you: There are no problems in the present moment. I saved this piece for now, because I know this may be hard for you to accept, but — what if all the supposed problems you have right now are only memories? I challenge you to explore this question for yourself and at least entertain the possibility. If you can even partially accept this notion, and work with it as best you can in the way outlined here, it will give you another powerful tool to transform your life radically for the better.

The reason that problems appear to persist through time is that, whenever they're not here, in this moment, we go looking for them. Yes, we actually seek our problems. We tend to filter our experiences based on the belief that we have a particular problem, unconsciously censoring anything from our awareness that doesn't support that belief, including the fact that the problem is not here NOW.

I have worked with this perspective in the background of my awareness for many years; however it has only been in the last few years that I have used it in our classes and retreats. One of the first times I shared this perspective with a group was at a Seven-day Retreat a few years ago. Henry came to the retreat wearing a leg brace and feeling a lot of pain due to torn ligaments in his knee. His doctors had told him that the pain would probably persist for about six months until all the ligaments healed. So, he was quite skeptical when I told him that even pain is a memory. Yes, there were sensations in the NOW, but the pain itself was only a memory. He was so skeptical, in fact, that he spent the next 24 hours trying to prove me wrong. He was certain that if he got completely present with the sensations he was experiencing, he would still feel pain.

The next day in class, Henry shared that he was more than a little shocked that, despite the fact he had doubted what I said, every time he looked for pain in the present, he couldn't find it. He went on to explain that not only could he not find pain in the present, but there was no more pain to be found period, and his swelling had gone down about 85 percent. He also no longer needed his leg brace to walk!

I invite you to challenge your long cherished problems by embracing at least the possibility that they are only memories and allowing yourself to be open to what you discover.

To release the suffering caused by your perceptions, begin by thinking of a problem that you used to believe you had. (Notice that I have purposely phrased this sentence in the past tense.)

If you have a hard time accepting the problem as being from the past, allow yourself to include the last moment as part of the past. Most of us think of the past as at least yesterday, last year, or years ago. For the sake of understanding what I am suggesting, please view the past as anything that is not happening at this exact moment, including a second ago, or even a nanosecond ago.

Then, ask yourself this question: Could I allow myself to remember how I used to believe I had this problem?

The shift in consciousness that follows the question may make you laugh, it may make you tingle inside, or it may simply open the possibility in your awareness that, "Yes, even this is just a memory."

Next, ask yourself: Would I like to change that from the past?

If the answer is "yes," ask: Could I let go of wanting to change that from the past? Then let go as best you can.

Simply move on to the next step if the answer is "no."

The completion question in this series is: Could I let go of wanting to believe I have that problem again? Or: Could I let go of the expectation of having that problem happen again?

As always, just do your best to let go. If you find that you're still clinging to the memory of the problem in this moment, however, repeat the steps from the beginning until you can let go fully.

There are tons of excellent exercises in this book to help you let go of all your problems, anxieties, fears, and limitations. I highly, highly recommend it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Quieting The Self

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a few articles about how grieving is a feeling process not a thinking process. Tonight I'd like to revisit this concept a little bit and tie it in with a fascinating book called Beyond The Conscious Mind. The author, Thomas Blakeslee, describes a consciousness model in which a number of specialized modules in our brains are responsible for different aspects of our daily living. There's a module for driving a car, for example, and different modules for other physical activities, such as climbing the stairs. Our consciousness is made up of many of these different modules, but there's a central module which takes most of the limelight: the "self" module.

The weird thing about the self module is that it is not related to physical activities. It also doesn't have direct access to any of the other modules that do pertain to physical activities. You can prove this to yourself by asking yourself to describe any physical task that you perform automatically, like riding a bike. How exactly do you balance on two wheels? Try to describe how you shift your body weight around to keep upright. If you're like me, about the only way I can begin to describe such a task is by imitating the posture of riding a bike and trying to describe what I'm feeling. My self module has no direct access to my "bike riding" module and therefore can't explain exactly which muscle groups move in exactly what way. Those details are known only to the bike riding module. The self module can really only guess.

Why is this important to know when grieving? We have a tendency, men especially, to intellectualize our grief. We imagine that if we just think long and hard enough about our dead spouse, that somehow the pain will go away. But we miss the forest for the trees by doing this. Here's a clue: pain is something we feel, it is not something we think! And there's lots of physical pain in grief, as you're well aware. We have to feel our way through grief, not think our way through.

So this brings us back to our conscious mind, and why we would want to quiet our self module. Our self module is the thinking module. But, as we already know, it doesn't have access to the physical modules — it can only guess at what is going on in there. And grieving is something we do physically, not something we do mentally. So, if we think really, really hard about grieving, about the only thing our self module is accomplishing is some guesswork as to what our physical activity modules are doing and why they hurt. Thinking about grief is not a help — it is a hindrance. We need to learn how to quiet the thinking self module and let the other feeling, physical modules feel their way through this desert of grief.

OK, so how do we quiet the self? I'll let Thomas Blakeslee explain:

[from pages 62-3 of Beyond The Conscious Mind]:

If you try hard to quiet your mind and think about nothing you will find that there is always something — a noise, a breeze, a memory image, or a random thought. The problem is, the effort not to think always engages your self module. Willpower is the domain of the self, so the harder you try not to think, the less chance you have of succeeding. There is a way to quiet the self module, but it does not involve willpower: If you do any task that firmly engages another module of thought, the self module will instantly fall silent.

Skill activities that require concentration, such as art, music, sports, dancing, or nonroutine work, can put you in a flow state where the self module is quiet and time seems to stand still. When you have been in a flow state for an extended period of time and your self module reasserts itself, you may feel that there is a time gap in your memory where you don't even know what happened. You may look at the clock and remark about how time flies. The activities that will make this happen always require skills in which the self module is not proficient. This guarantees that the self module will lose the competition for control. While the gap in consciousness is noticeable after such extended periods, normal day-to-day existence contains occasional brief bursts of self-consciousness.

Since the self module is often nagging us with what we should do, it can feel quite refreshing to have this nagging silenced for extended periods...

One reason people develop hobbies is that they can quiet the nagging self module by putting themselves in a pleasant flow state for extended periods of time. The quieting of the self module and living in a continual flow state are common goals in Eastern religions. Meditation is a regular exercise directed at quieting the self. It could be very useful for Westerners, but it is often made very difficult by our strong habit of using self-control to accomplish things. When we try to use willpower, it engages the self module, which defeats the whole purpose of meditation. Learning to accomplish things by letting go takes a lot of practice, but the payoff is considerable.

... And that nicely explains why I, as a widower, attended a free 10-day silent meditation course ;-)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Understanding Grief

I wrote last month about memories from a western perspective. In that post, I referred to a great book by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt called Understanding Grief. Tonight I'd like to quote a bit from the introduction to that book.

For the first six months after Deb died, I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I knew there was this thing called "grief" that I was supposed to do, but, having no prior experience with the death of anyone close to me, I had no frame of reference for understanding what grief was. I remember distinctly wondering, "what is grief, anyway?"

Dr. Wolfelt does an excellent job in his book of explaining, in a clear and concise way, exactly what grief is and how to complete that process. If you are newly bereaved, this book may provide some much needed answers at this bewildering time.

[from pages viii and ix]:

What Is This Wound Called Grief?

"Grief Work" may be some of the hardest work you ever do. Healing in grief is not a passive event. It is an active process. Because grief is work, it calls on your emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual energy. You cannot skirt the outside edges of your grief; you must go directly through it.

Please do not try to embrace your grief alone. You need fellow companions who will bring you comfort and support. My experience suggests trying to do grief work alone can be overwhelming. A useful analogy is as follows:

When you go out on a sunny day, the bright sunlight on your unprotected eyes creates stress. It makes seeing difficult. Sunglasses help filter out the harmful sunrays. Maybe you can think of the stress of your grief in just that way. If you respond to the stress of the death of someone loved alone, or without sunglasses, you may be overwhelmed. But if you accept the help of other people, just like putting on the sunglasses, your work of mourning will be accomplished more easily, and with less damage to yourself.

[from pages 1 and 2]:

Perhaps you have already heard the statement, "With time, you will feel better." The feelings of grief you experience when someone loved dies are sometimes described as "emotions that heal themselves." Yet, time alone has nothing to do with healing. To heal, you must be willing to commit to learning about and understanding the grief process.

When forced to confront the death of someone loved, you must become an active participant in your own healing. But in this culture, you are often left to your own resources at the very time those resources are the most depleted.

Another disappointing reality is that you may have little, if any, preparation for a new life as a bereaved person. In the crisis of grieving, you may even fail to give yourself permission to mourn, and you will usually not receive that permission from other people...

Grief is not a disease. No "quick fix" exists for the pain you are enduring. But I promise that if you can think, feel, and see yourself as an "active participant" in your healing, you will experience a renewed sense of meaning and purpose in your life.

To be human means coming to know loss as part of your life. Many losses, or "little griefs," occur along life's path. And not all your losses are as painful as others; they do not always disconnect you from yourself. But the death of someone you have loved is likely to leave you feeling disconnected from both yourself and the outside world.

Based on my own experience, that last paragraph is especially true. Now that I have successfully passed through the desert of grief, I can see more easily and readily the many "little griefs" that I pass through on a daily basis. But now, I have a wealth of tools and skills to help me navigate through those losses with an ease that eluded me before I was bereaved. If you are in the depths of intense grief, it is helpful to know that the skills you are acquiring now will become extremely useful and helpful in the days and years ahead. The day will come when you will be very thankful to have these tools you are now paying for so dearly.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I was recently asked to provide a source for a comment I made about how intense grief can be eerily similar to heroin withdrawal symptoms. As it turns out, I wrote about this back in November in a post titled A Bad Trip. I figured it wouldn't be too hard to find another good reference in Google, and sure enough, I found another neat resource in the form of one Susan Anderson, author of The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life.

She has a website called, and she explains a bit more about this physiological phenomenon:

WITHDRAWL - painful Withdrawal from your lost love.
The more time goes on, the more all of the needs your partner was meeting begin to impinge into your every Waking moment. You are in Writhing pain from being torn apart. You yearn, ache, and Wait for them to return. Love-withdrawal is just like Heroin withdrawal — each involves the body's opiate system and the same physical symptoms of intense craving. During Withdrawal, you are feeling the Wrenching pain of love-loss and separation — the Wasting, Weight loss, Wakefulness, Wishful thinking, and Waiting for them to return. You crave a love-fix to put you out of the WITHDRAWAL symptoms.

She also wrote a very good paper on Suffering the Death of a Loved One, and I'd like to quote a few more sections that help to explain these withdrawal symptoms a bit better.

As the Novocain wore off, the acute pain of loss began to break through, and we went into withdrawal. We were in painful withdrawal from our partner, just as if we were in withdrawal from Heroin (and it involves the body’s own opiates). We began craving and yearning for a love-fix we could not possibly get.

Week by week, our emotional needs – the ones that had been met by our partners – began to mount. We grew to miss them more and more. We missed having someone in the background, someone who cared, someone to care about, someone to come home to, someone to bring us that cup of coffee, someone who would know if we fell in the shower, someone to serve as a focus for our lives. As these deprivations reached critical mass, the intense grieving could become nearly unbearable.


We found ourselves weeping – a kind of crying specific to early bereavement, characterized by sighing and flowing tears, different from our usual crying . Our emotional brains were automatically scanning our memory banks (searching for the lost object) – an involuntary function of the brain which is part and parcel of our stress response to crisis – flooding us with scenes from all the way to the beginning of the relationship. Our coupled histories passing before our eyes in a blur of tears. We remembered them as they we (and as we were) when we first met them, the initial romance. These memories (along with the intense yearning and pining) caused us to fall in love with our partners all over again and want them more than ever before. We became walking memorials to them...

As my group mates and I cycled through the tugging, craving, helpless feelings of withdrawal, we helped each other realize that we weren’t alone feeling this pain. We served as reality checks for one another – maybe we weren’t going crazy after all – our emotional excesses were an ordinary part of grief. We could see each other surviving through the worst of it and felt reassured that we too would make it through.

We cycled through withdrawal during all different timeframes. For some, this phase of active grieving was delayed for a long time. Several members remained in the numbing fog indefinitely. "I know I need to cry, but I feel detached and remote, like I’m not really here. Other people’s tears don’t seem real to me, but I know they mean something."

Waves of grief:

Grief proved to have a mind of its own – its own rhythm. It came in waves which washed over us and sometimes swallowed us whole, leaving us beached and dazed, sending us back into the numbing fog to start the cycle over again.

Any sudden realization of the loss – as if realizing it on a new level – could send us right back into shock, and then the acute pain of missing the person would break through the Novocain, and we would resume a new wave of active grieving. We might wake up in the middle of the night startled anew by the reality that our loved one was gone, and cycle from shock to withdrawal in a matter of minutes. In fact this is another cornerstone of grief: the sudden re-realization of the reality of the death...

Wakeful and worn out:

The physiological symptoms of withdrawal included continual wakefulness, anxious wrenching in our guts (even while some of our appetites (unfortunately) began to return ). We felt overwhelmed, on edge, and entirely exhausted. Beneath the surface, the emotional brain continued working overtime “searching for it's 'other half' and learning to recognize the loss. Our cortical brains were also busy on the conscious level trying to come to grips with this reality.

On the positive side, the acute grief of withdrawal motivated us to dig deeper, reach all the way down to our untapped resources. We panned for our grittiest reserves and came up with survival skills and hidden strengths that amazed us.

The entire paper is well worth reading if you have the time.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Lingering Grief

As I've written about in the past, I'm a big fan of Dr. Lou LaGrand's work on grief. His articles are always relevant, accurate, and above all, extremely helpful. For tonight's post, I'd like to revisit a topic I hear widow/ers talk about frequently, namely, how long should grieving take? Specifically, if you are well into your second or third year of grief (or more), you may be wondering what is causing your grief to linger. Will this ever end?

In this article, Dr. LaGrand has written about five key concepts that may be holding you back from completing your grief work. If you are looking for an encouragement to help you get "unstuck," this great article may be what you are seeking. Enjoy!

Why Grief Lingers On and On

Grief and grieving is inevitable because we choose to love. And it can be argued that it lingers on and on because we refuse to learn to love in separation and complete a primary task: acceptance of the loss and the many changes demanded.

However, there are a number of old beliefs that we have learned about grief from the authority figures in our lives that have a major impact on the length of time we grieve and the amount of unnecessary suffering we endure. For example, some people believe you must grieve for a year, grieve for the most part in silence after a couple of weeks, and eventually find closure (often interpreted as meaning forget about the deceased) and get on with your life.

Still there are several things in addition to questionable beliefs that tend to prolong and exacerbate the grief process that you can immediately change.
  1. You grieve without a goal. Make a full commitment that you will accept the death of your loved one and reinvest in life. Ask yourself the most important question about your grief: Do I want to be loss oriented in my life or restoration oriented? Without the inner commitment to heal—and the actions to back it up—each day will prove to be filled with pain and aimlessly long.

  2. You are expecting to be your old self again. Yet you are different. We are all different when someone we love dies because a part of us that related to the loved one in the physical world has also died. We will grow from having known the deceased and build on what we were given, or we will regress and try to live in the past.

  3. You are not aware that you are starting a new life. You may have to take on new roles and develop new skills. Your routines will change; some you will retain. Few of us like the new. We like the expected, the security of old routines, many of which have to be given up.

  4. You don’t realize its okay to establish a new relationship with the deceased. Our loved ones die but relationships and love live on. There is nothing wrong with talking to or writing to the loved one that died to express your feelings at various times. Though physically gone, depending on your belief system, you can still speak to his/her spirit.

  5. You have not found someone you trust to talk to about how you really feel. It is not unusual to have a confidant early in your grieving and months later feel you can’t say what you’re feeling to that person. You may believe you should be “over it” or sense that your friends feel that way. But each grief is one of a kind. You may need more time and someone to talk to.

Although the above five concepts may be behind your extended grieving, keep in mind that grief has no specific time boundaries. Its length varies with the individual. You will know when grief is lessening in your life. But one final awareness to consider: It is normal for grief to revisit. Something you see or hear can bring up a sad memory, even tears, or the wish that the loved one was with you. Perfectly normal. Allow the gift of grief to run its course at that moment.

Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc. His website is

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Heartbeat Of Death

It has now been several months since I finished reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, but I found it to be a very, very interesting read, full of amazing insights from a very different perspective than my Western mind produces. I'm currently reviewing some of the pages I had tabbed for further reading, and I'd like to share one of these with you tonight.

Before I do, I'll just explain that this passage will likely make a lot more sense if you have had at least a little bit of exposure to Eastern / Buddhist thought. And just to clarify, I'm not a Buddhist, nor do I play one on this blog ;-) I did get a healthy dose of Buddhist thought when I attended a free 10-day Vipassana meditation course this past winter, and it was that (amazing!) experience that prompted me to pick up The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

I last wrote about a silver lining to grief back in March, but I want to take that concept many steps further tonight. If you are past the first year of grieving, this may give you a suitable foundation upon which to build your new life. I know for me this perspective colours everything regarding how I live my life now.

I think it was about the 11-month mark after Deb died, when the pain was at its most intense, that I decided that whatever lesson I was learning through this ordeal, I intended to learn it! I wanted to make sure that all this suffering and anguish I was going through was not in vain. Over the ensuing months, I learned that Deb's death had forced dozens of major changes on my life all at once, but the reality is that change is relentless, ever-present, and ongoing. The sooner we can come to grips with this fact, the sooner we can come to embrace it. It is this embrace of change that helps me to thrive as a healed widower, and it is my hope that you too will thrive again in your new life of your choosing.

[from page 33 of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying]


There would be no chance at all of getting to know death if it happened only once. But fortunately, life is nothing but a continuing dance of birth and death, a dance of change. Every time I hear the rush of a mountain stream, or the waves crashing on the shore, or my own heartbeat, I hear the sound of impermanence. These changes, these small deaths, are our living links with death. They are death's pulse, death's heartbeat, prompting us to let go of all the things we cling to.

So let us then work with these changes now, in life: that is the real way to prepare for death. Life may be full of pain, suffering, and difficulty, but all of these are opportunities handed to us to help us move toward an emotional acceptance of death. It is only when we believe things to be permanent that we shut off the possibility of learning from change.

If we shut off this possibility, we become closed, and we become grasping. Grasping is the source of all our problems. Since impermanence to us spells anguish, we grasp on to things desperately, even though all things change. We are terrified of letting go, terrified, in fact, of living at all, since learning to live is learning to let go. And this is the tragedy and the irony of our struggle to hold on: not only is it impossible, but it brings us the very pain we are seeking to avoid.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Erase Traumatic Memories

Tonight I'm going to post one more "mind movie" exercise. My last post was about image switching, and I first posted about mind movies back in November 2007. Tonight's technique is called the "eraser," and I hope it can be especially helpful for those of you who find yourselves replaying the moment of your spouse's death over and over and over again. Between these three "mind movie" techniques, I hope you are able to be free of the Ludovico Treatment:


Here is a powerful exercise to rid yourself of negative feelings caused by past events. This can be done in your mental theater. It is an excellent technique to use for fears and phobias, as well as shyness.

  1. First sit in the audience of your theater, near the back, so that the screen is quite far away and small. Have some popcorn, relax and enjoy yourself.

  2. On the screen, put a black and white still shot of yourself just before the incident that gives you bad memories occurred.

  3. Now, from the back of the theater, enjoying your popcorn, watch yourself in a black and white movie of the incident. View the incident until it is over and you're okay. (If the incident still makes you a little uncomfortable, make the screen even further away and smaller, rewind the film to the beginning and watch it again.)

  4. After you have watched the incident to its conclusion, stop the film and STEP IN to the movie — become yourself in the movie.

  5. Now turn up the color and the sound and run the film backwards to the beginning very fast — in one or two seconds, no more. Everybody and everything will move backwards super fast like a movie rewinding. Stay in the movie. Now run the movie forward to the end even faster — now back again.
    Return to your seat and think about the incident that made you feel negative. Notice the difference in your feelings.

  6. Imagine a similar situation in the future. Notice your feelings. Look into the future. Is there any time when those negative feelings would be appropriate?

It is proper to be a little nervous or frightened in some situations. It keeps us alert.

[Taken from the Zero Resistance Living course, Volume 1, page 233.]

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Image Switching

I wrote early on about mind movies and a powerful technique for changing memories of traumatic events. The basis of the technique is altering the movie you play in your mind by changing your perspective of it, much like you change your perspective in a real theater by sitting further back as opposed to close to the front. It is a great technique that was super-helpful to me, and I often recommend it for widow/ers who can't get images of the death of their spouse out of their heads.

There are several other "mind movie" exercises in the Zero Resistance Living course, and tonight I'd like to share another one called "The Image Switch." This one is similar to the Theater of the Mind exercise I wrote about earlier, but it deals more with the creative aspect of building our new life.

A short word of warning: this exercise is very helpful for those of you who are down the road a fair way and are maybe just looking for a technique to help get you un-stuck in your grieving. If you are still within that first year, however, be aware that any kind of planning for the future is often a major grief trigger. Still, I share it for everyone so that when the time is right, you have this powerful tool at your fingertips. I hope you find it helpful:

The Image Switch Exercise

This is an excellent exercise for ridding yourself of unwanted habits and reprogramming your brain to do new, positive behavior automatically.

In this exercise, you actually switch mental images so that the image or situation that "triggered" the unwanted action will trigger new, desired behavior automatically.

The Image Switch Exercise is very powerful and useful. You can use it to change attitudes and feelings as well as habits. Take the time to learn it thoroughly.

  1. Make a still picture of yourself just before you do the thing you want to stop doing. Be in the picture. (For example, if you want to stop biting your fingernails, see your hand-coming up to your mouth.) Make it as detailed as you can.

  2. Close your eyes and on your movie screen create a beautiful vibrant color picture of yourself the way you would be if you didn't have the habit. Be out of this picture.

Look at yourself. What kind of person would you be? Make a very attractive, positive picture of yourself. Make it colorful. It is a picture of a wonderful future you, a person free of that unwanted habit. Someone you really want to be.

Set that picture aside for a moment.
  1. Put your bad habit picture on your screen. Make it further away and smaller until it just disappears on the horizon.

  2. Substitute your tiny, distant, positive picture on the horizon. Make it closer and larger. Notice how attractive that wonderful, future you is — your real, best you.
    Feel yourself drawn to the picture.

  3. Open your eyes.

  4. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 ten times, each time switching the pictures faster and faster. By the tenth time you will be able to switch the negative picture to the positive one in about one second.

Remember to open your eyes after each time you do Steps 3 and 4.

You can use this exercise to create new habits also.

In this case, in Step 1, create a picture of yourself not doing what you want to do.

In Step 2, create a very attractive picture of yourself as the kind of person you would be if you had the habit you want.

Then do Steps 3 and 4 as before.

Do this exercise ten times each day this week using the same pictures. (It will only take a couple of minutes to do — remember, the faster you switch the pictures the more effective it will be).

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Feeling, Not Thinking II

In my last post, I wrote about how grieving is more of a feeling process than a thinking process. In fact, intellectualizing grief can prove to be counter-productive because our thoughts produce feelings, and we already have more feelings than we know what to do with. We need some way to deal with the feeling we already have.

What worked for me was managing my sensory environment as much as possible. This tied in with my major goal in grieving, namely, how to be at peace with Deb's death. I found that I could shorten this goal to simply asking, "How can I be at peace?"

So, in managing my sensory environment, peacefulness has been my goal. I'll go through all five senses with some examples that I found to be helpful:

  • Sight
    I put some classical art on my walls. Each scene is very peaceful. Looking at each painting helps me imagine being at peace. I've also reduced or eliminated clutter everywhere in my house. Where clutter persists, peace is absent.

  • Hearing
    I listen to the Smooth Jazz channel from satellite TV every day at home, and I listen to a selection of classical music at work. I remind my son to use his indoor voice ;-) I wake up to peaceful music.

  • Taste
    I eat wholesome, savory food every day. I don't go overboard with snacks, but I certainly indulge myself a lot more than I used to with tasty treats and desserts. When I was deeply grieving, I often didn't feel at all hungry, and food tasted bland, if I could taste it at all. I ate good, healthy, tasty food anyway.

  • Smell
    I have learned a bit about essential oils, and I make sure my house always smells nice and pleasant. I also burn incense from time to time. The tasty food I eat often smells delicious as well. And for a real pick-me-up, I take a good whiff of certain essential oils right out of the bottle, like lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus.

  • Feel
    Even days when I spend the whole day inside my home, I still wear clothes that fit well and make me feel good about myself. I don't dress like a slob, ever. And I smile whenever I feel a little bit out of sorts -- yes, forcing a smile still releases endorphins. Five or six rapid smiles will give an even bigger "hit." Exercising helps me feel better, and it releases endorphins also. And lastly, I can force myself to breathe in a more peaceful, relaxed manner.

By providing my body with the most peaceful environment I could create, I found that I could facilitate grieving using feeling techniques like Focusing a lot easier.

By far the easiest way to peacefully affect all five senses is to get outside in a beautiful nature setting. I found a wonderful walking trail 10 minutes from my house, and I walked it with my son as often as I could. If you are only looking for one thing to do to help you in your grief, get out there and take a walk in the Great Outdoors. You'll be glad you did.