Embracing Self-compassion During Times of Grief
Photo by: Andrew Neel on Unsplash
Here at the Thrive Center, we strive to promote a vision of thriving for all. Part of that vision is to support our community during times of uncertainty. I’d like to take a moment to raise our awareness around a topic many may be uncomfortable discussing, but many are experiencing loss. In this post, I’d like to normalize collective loss and propose ways you can approach these feelings with compassion and grace. The hope is that we can all feel what we are feeling, gain a deeper understanding of all of our emotions and direct them in a meaningful way that is adaptive and health focused. In a follow-up blog, I am going to discuss how the act of “meaning-making” can serve as a cushion for our feelings connected to loss and how it can facilitate healing.
David Kessler, a healing and loss expert, said something on a podcast with Brenè Brown last week that stopped me in my tracks. He said, “The worst loss is ALWAYS your loss.” I’m no stranger to loss. In fact, I have made it my life’s work. In my personal life, I have experienced an unusually high amount of loss. These experiences have led me on a professional path to deepen my understanding of how individuals and families heal, recover, and even thrive through the experiences of loss.
Over the last week, I noticed that I had been comparing the losses in my life with those of others and minimizing the pain I was feeling. I was doing the big “no, no” in grief—comparative grieving—that is, comparing my grief to others. My family is safe and healthy, their basic needs are met. I found myself cycling between shame and guilt and asking myself, “How could I possibly be experiencing loss right now when others have it so much worse.”
“The worse loss is always your loss.”David Kessler
This simple statement should give us permission to actually feel what we are feeling. I think it’s extremely important to normalize and name what we are feeling. Our world faces catastrophic and collective losses. We normally pacify the feelings that come with experiencing loss as if on auto-pilot. We rush to soothe, cover, and quickly replace in order not to feel discomfort.
Learning to Feel In Order to Heal
What if we gave ourselves a little grace and mercy, and created space to understand our feelings of loss and the function they serve right now? In order to do this, we could start to approach our emotions with non-judgmental compassion. Our emotions are neither good nor bad, they just are. Emotions are simply raw data for how we are interpreting our world. Far too often, we want to rush through the uncomfortable feelings and push them away in order to replace them with more “positive/good/acceptable” ones. I invite you to “feel in order to heal.”
Here are some ways to hold your emotions—no matter what they are right now—with love, compassion, and grace:
1. Do a daily loving kindness meditation.
This activity will help you develop an awareness of, and gain a loving appreciation for all the emotions you are feeling.
2. Write a letter to love and from love.
This activity described on TED Connects by Elizabeth Gilbert is a long-standing practice she personally uses for cultivating compassion around all emotions.
3. Name your emotions.
Remember when I said emotions are data? You need to feel them before you can heal them and, in order to feel, you need to name. Use an emotions wheel when you’re unable to discern what you’re feeling.
 Kessler, D. (2019). Finding meaning: The sixth stage of grief. New York: Scribner.