Naturally Good Health Magazine: Holistic Grieving

In Springtime there is a natural grieving for the festivities and restful hibernation days of the winter just passed as well as the old ways of the previous year. If we find this difficult we might ask ourselves how comfortable are we with death of the small as well as the inevitable death of our loved ones? There are three absolute certainties in life – birth, change and death. When we grieve we are dealing with all three at the same time – the death of a loved one, the huge changes that inevitably brings and the birth of their new transition to spirit. In olden times in Ireland there were very specific rituals and ceremonies to help the whole grieving process. However in our modern world many of these have been lost. Nowadays if we don’t follow a formal religious path there is a gap, which we yearn to fill to ease the pain and suffering through to acceptance and peace. Of course we may also need to grieve for lost opportunities, the end of a particular phase in our lives such as our teenage years, the job we hoped we would get.

In Ireland up to 50 years ago we all had a very healthy attitude to death. The funeral ceremony was preceded by a ‘wake’, which was a life celebration of the loved one who had passed. The expression ‘waking the dead,’ meant waking the spirit up, to rise into the birth of a new dimension. Their favourite food and drink was served, their family and friends all came to celebrate their life with stories, song and even dance. In the midst of all this the open casket displayed their body for all to see including the children. The reason was that everyone could pay their respects but also see clearly that their life force had left their body and gone to the place of spirit. This started the whole grieving process as people could see that their loved one had moved on.

Neighbours stepped in to ‘look after’ the grieving family preparing the food and keeping an eye on them for a month afterwards. At the ‘months mind’ it was time then for the family to start looking after themselves. At the year anniversary the grieving process was deemed to be over. If it wasn’t then there was something out of balance and help was needed to assist the person move on with their life.


When someone we love passes away or there is a major loss (job, finances etc) the first sense is one of shock. This occurs even if the person is old and has lived a good life but is hugely heightened if they are young or die suddenly. Our bodies experience numbness and we don’t know what to do or say. Sometimes we are catapult into the organisational aspect of spreading the word and making the funeral arrangements. This has the effect of keeping us occupied and temporarily postpones our grief. Many of us don’t actually know how to be in a death situation. It is a shocking and tragic time and nowadays we aren’t taught how to behave since it seems nobody likes to talk about death anymore. We want to join the world again, but when we do we can feel like we don’t belong. Trust your intuition. You will know when you are ready to go back to work or out socially. We need to go through the pain of death to come out the other side. You might think you’re going crazy, not knowing if you are doing the grieving process the right way. Bereavement counsellors can help you through this difficult time. Some emotions may surprise you, like anger. Maybe toward yourself, your loved one for leaving you, the hospital or even your perception of God. Know that it is perfectly fine to express and release it, without feeling guilty. Change will come. When someone close to you dies it is a special time, a time to go within and feel your feelings. Be good to yourself, listen to your body.  Let the tears come, let the mourning sounds out, it’s good to cry. 


Depending on how you look at it, the person who has passed away is either gone for good and out of pain or in a loving spiritual place. The grieving process is all about YOU coming to terms with their passing. It is easy to get stuck in the fear, guilt or helplessness of the situation. Our mind plays tricks and spins into negative spirals of depression and self-depreciation. The expression ‘Time will heal’ is actually true. Core grieving takes a full year at least. Confusion plays a part too. One day you feel back to normal and the next day, the smallest memory can trigger waves of sadness. Each life event is a milestone: Christmas, birthdays, holidays. Everyone grieves differently so whatever you are doing is the right way for you. Just remember to respect the other people’s methods of grieving in their own way.


At some stage in life we’ll ask the question ‘where did we come from and where are we going?’ This can happen at the time of bereavement. Spirituality is a very personal matter and one to work out yourself. Some people talk about a sign that they feel their loved one gives them to say that they have reached a happy place in the afterlife. Some talk of vivid dreams, coincidences and serendipity for instance favourite songs playing on the radio. Nature is a good place to nurture your own soul when grieving. When feeling low seeing a tiny bud at the end of Winter gives a feeling of hope even after despair. A huge part of the difficulty in grief is the loss of communication with our loved one, which leaves a gaping hole in our lives. A little bit of quiet time can ground you and give you a sense of connection. Light a candle and talk to them, the way you always did. Tell them about your day and what’s going on, and wish them well wherever you perceive them to be.


If you are supporting someone in their grieving process, let them know you are there for them, but give them the space to release their emotions in their own way. Your presence alone is hugely supportive don’t feel you have to find the ‘right’ words to show you care. Just be yourself and remember laughter is as much a relief as tears are. We need to feel the feelings, release them safely and appropriately and nurture ourselves at this time of change. All will be well…in time.

Want more advice? Listen to the Mind Your Precious Self Podcast!

If you enjoyed this article, follow Dr Karen Ward on social media where she combines her holistic therapies with her love of nature, Celtic Shamanism and academic studies.


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