Do you ever hear a sound, do an activity or smell a smell that reminds you of a relative who is no longer here? In those moments do you pay attention to your feelings? Do you feel grief or do you feel gratitude? If you can have more gratitude in your life you will be happier, have a higher self esteem and will re-wire your brain so you get more dopamine & serotonin aka be happier.

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This past summer I lost my brother…and while I have lost many people who were close to me over the years, it had never hit me so close to home. It has been 2 months and I still cry every day. I still find myself randomly reminded and when that happens I have had to figure out a process so that I can feel that emotion and then carry on. Maybe you have lost someone recently? Or maybe you still get reminded of a loved one who is no longer here in body and you get stuck a little bit? Well, if so, maybe thinking about ways to turn grief into gratitude can be helpful for you.

Turning Grief Into Gratitude

Here are a few steps I use to manage my grief, in order. This is a work in process and I am very open to hearing about other peoples’ processes to manage their sadness when they are grieving a loved one.

  1. Acknowledge it: when we miss someone,it is important for us to acknowledge that it is okay that we miss them. It is normal and natural and if you’re sad it just means you’re paying attention to your feelings which is a good thing.
  2. Feel the feeling: whether you feel sadness, happiness, anger, loneliness or any emotion – put yourself into a safe space and give yourself a few moments to feel your feeling. If you need to put on music or a timer, then do that but make sure you put a time limit on your feelings so you don’t spiral or sink into unhealthy behaviours or patterns.
  3. Ask yourself: what would your relative want for you? What do you love about them? Make a list. After I finish crying, I imagine my relative in the spirit world looking at me. I think about how they probably don’t want me to be sad forever, they want me to be healthy, they want me to take care of myself and my responsibilities. I think about all the things I love about them and how those characteristics made my life brighter and how I wish there was more of that amazingness, that quality, that personality in the world for others to know and experience and learn from. Sometimes I think they were so much kinder than me, more generous than me…then I realize if they are not here in body but I am, it is my responsibility now to try and nurture those characteristics in myself and others.
  4. Ground yourself in the present: when you are intensely missing someone you are either in the past recalling all the good things that once were or in the future imagining the times and places where they will not be with you. Take this next moment to ground yourself in the present so you can take care of yourself and your responsibilities. Here are a few tips to ground yourself using the five senses (click here) and a video that talks about mostly breathing techniques (click here).
  5. Live a good life for your relative – do the positive and healthy things they would want for you and your family. How? Take a look at the answer to #3 and the list from #4 and do what you have to do to make it so. Be grateful that you have the chance to live another day. Also, look to teachings in your community or culture – for me I think of mino bimadisiwin / good life.

I made this video in 2014, but the message remains true today. When we miss a loved one, we have to acknowledge the impact they made on us – so much so that even when they are gone, we carry a piece of them with us. That’s why it is so healing, and feels like medicine when family all get together on anniversaries or at any other time. Many people who carry a piece of the same person coming together and remembering them and loving them and laughing all together almost feels like that person is with us again.

Learning how to manage your grief is a process that takes different amounts of time for different people. It is important that you pay attention to your mind, heart, body & spirit while you try these things so you can know what works for you and what doesn’t. Also know that it takes a lot of energy to manage your emotions so remember to eat, get lots of rest and identify your circle of supporters so you can lean on/talk with them when you need to. I know its gonna take me some time yet before I feel okay about all this but until then I am going to work as hard as can to live mino bimadisiwin and to turn my grief into gratitude.

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