A tale from ancient India during Buddha’s time, speaks of a woman named Kisa Gotami. She married young and gave birth to a son. One day, the baby fell sick and died soon after. After losing her only child, Kisa Gotami became desperate and asked if anyone could help her. She loved her son immensely and refused to believe that he was dead. She carried her son’s body around her village, asking if there was anyone who can bring her son back to life.
The villagers all saw that the son was already dead and there was nothing that could be done. They advised her to accept his death and make arrangements for the funeral. An old man from the village empathized and suggested to her to consult Buddha.
“Kisa Gotami, we cannot help you. But you should go to the Buddha. Maybe he can bring your son back to life!”
She immediately went to Buddha’s residence and pleaded him to bring her son back to life.
“Kisa Gotami, I have a way to bring your son back to life.”
“My Lord, I will do anything to bring my son back”
“If that is the case, then I need you to find me something. Bring me a handful of mustard seeds but it must be taken from a house where no one residing in the house has ever lost a family member. Bring these seeds back to me and your son will come back to life.”
Kisa Gotami was overjoyed and went jumping from house to house, trying to find the mustard seeds.
At the first house, a young woman offered to give her some mustard seeds. But when Kisa Gotami asked if she had ever lost a family member to death, the young woman said her grandmother died a few months ago.
She moved on to the second house. A husband had died a few years ago. The third house lost an uncle and the fourth house lost an aunt. She kept moving from house to house but the answer was all the same – every house had lost a family member to death.
Kisa Gotami finally came to realise that there is no one in the world who had never lost a family member to death. She now understood that death is inevitable and a natural part of life. Putting aside her grief, she buried her son in the forest. She then returned to the Buddha and became his follower.
In light of some current situations in my life, I am finally having the courage to write a piece on Grief.. As a Life Coach and NLP practitioner, I have been trained to let go of any unprocessed negative emotions, including sadness or ‘grief’. Having lost my father more than 7 years ago, having lost that hand of protection forever over my sister and I, it was an extremely empty feeling to bear.. for the longest time, I was in denial that he was gone.. I was even naïve and so utterly selfish to have prayed to God during those initial days to take away my mom too as I couldn’t bear to see her as a widow when all I ever knew was my parents being together and inseparable.. I couldn’t bear to see just one of them remaining.. today, when I think back I was so selfish and feel terribly guilty for even having that thought cross my mind.. my mother is my biggest source of strength now and she took over the role of both my mum and my dad and never let us feel the void.. I perceived my own weaknesses and projected it on her saying she was going to be weak.. when she wasn’t.. we often do that, project our own perceived fears onto people around us and make it our reality..
So what is grief?
Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the intense pain and emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. Often, this pain and suffering can be overwhelming. Or not. It’s a highly individual experience.. there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Your process is highly unique to you. Tears or no tears is no indication of the intensity of anyone’s pain.
Even if the loss is nobody’s fault, it never is.. you may feel angry and resentful. If you lost a loved one, you may be angry with yourself, with God or the Universe, with doctors, or even the person who died.. for abandoning you. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you. Anger, as we know is only disguised sadness.
You may even regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t do.. things you said or didn’t say.. you may feel guilty about certain feelings, like I did, for my mom.. or guilty of feelings of relief when a loved one dies after a long, difficult illness. After a death, you may feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing more you could have done! Remember –
We are always doing the best we can, given the resources at the time!
What is important, however, is to ‘acknowledge’ your pain. For the longest time, one is in denial that the event has actually happened and that it is causing some kind of emotional pain or suffering. In the garb of being ‘strong’ and pretending to have it all under control, sometimes we forget to dig deep within and check on ourselves. For real healing, it is necessary to face your grief and not suppress it. Unresolved grief can lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, and other health issues.
All negative emotions, including anger, sadness, guilt, grief remain unprocessed only because our unconscious mind has not received any learnings from it. Not letting go of this emotion is in direct conflict with one of the primary functions of the Unconscious Mind – that is to preserve the body. Wouldn’t you be a lot safer if you let go of the emotions and preserve the learnings about taking care of yourself?
To some extent, sometimes people feel if they ‘accept’ or deal with their feelings, it will cause the memory to go away. Moving on does not mean forgetting. On the contrary, releasing this heavy emotion only makes the memory more beautiful. It only removes the heavy negative charge around the emotion and you are able to see and think clearly and keep your loved one alive in your hearts without feeling uncomfortable about it.
Only you can know when you are ready to move forward after your loss. Only you will know if you can do it on your own.. or need the help of a professional.. Only you can decide when is it the right time.. what it means to accept the loss you have experienced. Only you can truly decide what it means to let go..
Whatever that looks like for you, it is perfect and right.