The loss to death of someone deeply loved creates an emotional void while simultaneously opening deep, profound spiritual issues and questions. While some turn away from faith during this difficult, challenging time, others use the pain of grief to grow spiritually. Here are some simple, but effective ways of developing your spiritual side while grieving.
Meditation—spending as little as five minutes sitting silently or repeating a calming word such as peace or joy or love, can set a positive tone for the day. Meditation involves quietening the mind and creating space for insight. Mediation was something recommended by St. Albert the Great who advised: “When you pray, shut thy door; that is, the door of the senses. Keep them barred and bolted against all phantasms and images. Nothing pleases God more than a mind free from all occupations and distractions. Such a mind is in a manner transformed into God, for it can think of and understand nothing, and love nothing except God. He who penetrates into himself and so transcends himself, ascends truly to God.”
Nature—Getting outside into the natural world lifts the spirits. This was something noted by Rainer Maria Rilke: “If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence, we could rise up, rooted like trees.” Also, the psalm writers spent a great deal of time in nature because doing so renewed and lifted their spirits. And, Charles Spurgeon, a British pastor and author found his own spirits lifted and heightened by time in nature. He wrote: “Doth not all nature around me praise God? If I were silent, I should be an exception to the universe. Doth not the thunder praise Him as it rolls like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not the mountains praise Him when the woods upon their summits wave in adoration? Doth not the lightning write His name in letters of fire? Hath not the whole earth a voice? And shall I, can I, silent be?”
Acceptance—Advancing your acceptance of life’s changes and challenges will take the edge off anxieties because the attitude of acceptance is a recognition of reality. Without acceptance, we simply fight against reality and in that battle, reality always wins. Remember that Jesus practiced acceptance during his time of trial and sorrow when he prayed: “not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Gratitude—…for the many positives that remain in your life, such as health, friends, food, a comfortable home, etc. The simple act of intentionally expressing gratitude downsizes feelings of negativity and sadness. Follow the lead of author G. K. Chesterton who said: “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
Breathing—Anytime stress levels rise or grief intensifies, pause to focus on your breathing by slowing down your inhalations and exhalations. As you do this, repeat this wisdom of Job: “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4)
Hope—Maintain a positive, hopeful attitude about your life and your grief. When sadness enters and depression expands, try shifting your focus toward this insight from St. Paul: “Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Victor M. Parachin, M. Div., is a bereavement educator and grief counselor.
He is the author of numerous books about grief, including
The Lord Is My Shepherd:
A Psalm For The Grieving and Healing Grief.