A few weeks ago I heard that one of my oldest friends had died because of a stroke. At first I became mute and cold. We shared our time intensely for a few years during the second half of the 80’s. After that, we didn’t meet often, but occasionally, with a few years in between, our paths crossed from time to time.
I took some time to write and reflect on his passing. We met in our teens, an important time when we build much of the identity we carry with us for the rest of our lives. I can see the influence he has had on my life, echoes of him live inside of me. I still listen to music he introduced to me. I can still laugh at his intelligent witty humour. We have both been standing with one leg in the established society and the other in the alternative subculture for our whole lives. Together we shared an interest in interpersonal relationships and how we can influence society.
With his death, a piece of my frame of reference has disappeared. A perspective is gone. Someone who sees me in a specific way, different from everyone else, is now absent. There is still a hole, an empty space, but also many absurd, quirky and funny memories.
Taking the time and space to mourn, to honour someone or something that has been important but now is lost, is essential for us, humans. To pause and let ourselves be touched and experience the full palette of emotions that come and go. Grieving without clinging helps us process what happened and continue living our lives.
Sometimes grief seems to be too painful. Instead of grieving, some people indulge in behaviours to alleviate or completely avoid grief. It can be by using drugs, distracting oneself with entertainment or focusing on positive thinking.
Some people who approach meditation seem to value detachment highly. Many Buddha stories contain messages about avoiding attachment. If we do not create strong bonds with certain people or circumstances, we may be able to avoid some suffering. The risk, on the other hand, is that we might develop an indifference towards our fellow humans.
Mourning and attachment
Maybe grief requires attachment? For my own part, I have come to the conclusion that I want to live with a mixture of attachment and detachment. Maybe there is a term for this mixture? I want the people who are close to me, the people I love, to have a special and important place in my life. To keep them close to me, I want them to be precious to me and that I am precious to them. I want to enjoy the occasions and the moments we share together. And at the same time, I do not want to rigidly hold on to or expect specific actions.
When one of the persons I love somehow disappears from my life, I will experience a lack and an empty space. I want to give time for this space to be filled. During this time, I will most likely experience grief. In the beginning of a loss, many may experience anger, denial or despair. To get through the grief, I think we need to have contact with acceptance. Acceptance does not have to mean that we like what has happened or that we should not try to do anything to change circumstances. But I think we need to differentiate between what we can and what we can’t do, what we can and what we can’t change.
Sources of mourning
Sorrow may sometimes originate out of joy. The joy to have experienced another human being, another life. When I become aware that I never will be able to experience this joy in the same way again, sadness arises. Both as a longing for something that has disappeared but also as an honour to what has been.
Grief can also be linked to something that has never been fulfilled. Events have not developed in the way we long for. Maybe life circumstances did not meet essential needs for a long time. We also need space to mourn potential lives that never have been realised.
In NVC we do not usually refer to emotions as positive or negative. Our feelings are our body’s way of signalling that a need is met or not. With this approach it doesn’t matter if we have feelings we enjoy or that we dislike. Our life force, as we might name our needs, are living through us. So when we mourn it is like a reminder of our longing and our lifeforce.
How is it for you to mourn? And is it easy for you to be with other people who mourn?
Joachim Berggren (CNVC Certified Trainer)
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On 12 March at 11:30-12:15 CET, you can participate in a Zoom Talk with me and Ida Rump. We will talk about the need for mourning. The session will be part of Time for Empathy, a week full of free workshops with different NVC trainers. The session will also continue for 45 minutes after the talk with Ida. Read more and register for Time for Empathy HERE.
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