Imagine that you are in a small enclosed placed sitting on a cold, hard floor in total darkness. The heat begins to climb as you wonder how you will be able to take a breath. The fear begins to rise from within and all you can think about it how to escape. And you are aware that you have put yourself into this place precisely because it scares you. 

This is the situation I found myself in when I took part in my first sweat lodge a few weeks ago. A small tarped hut becomes a sauna of sorts, as you partake in an ancient ritual that is steeped in Native American traditions. The idea is to cleanse yourself – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually of all that no longer serves you. When I entered the lodge, all I thought was that darkness, heat and confined spaces don’t serve me. I was scared. Then it happened. 

As we began, the leader called out to me, “How are you doing, Nancy?” I answered back, “Freaking out.” In that moment, my partner in life reached out in the darkness and held my hand. Rather than run for the door, I took strength in his presence and I stayed. As the singing began, I realized that I was breathing and that this was actually, fun. Round after round I embraced the experience and realized that the fear was nothing more than that: False Evidence Appearing Real. The process freed me to know that most of the things that keep us from what we want, are really inside ourselves.


I returned from that experience looking at grief in a different way. Each of us is grieving our loss in our own way, but what you really need in order to make it through the grief is simply a hand to hold on to until you can emerge from the darkness. You, too, may have fears to wrestle with. “How will I make it through without my loved one?” you wonder. “What if …?” and “How can I ever ….?” These thoughts come up again and again. You may be trapped by your sadness and unable to see the way to happiness and peace. Each day may seem like one long, dark day blending into the next.


Find a hand to hold. It may be a family member or a friend. Perhaps it is a grief counselor or someone else who is also grieving. Often times it is from someone that we least expect will be there for us. Do not get angry at those people who you thought would be there for you if they are not. Perhaps they cannot face your pain or are uncomfortable and don’t know what to say. Instead focus on those who are there for you. Accept their help and support. A listening ear and a hand to hold go a long way to making it through the darkness of grief.


And a hand reaches out in the dark

And calms my worried soul.

It brings me comfort and takes me to a place within that is serene -

A place that I did not know existed in me.


I grasp your hand and know that I will survive whatever challenges lay ahead.

I grasp your hand and take strength from knowing that there is someone who cares.

I need a watchful eye over me while I wrestle my fears and

Heal my hurting heart.


My soul feels safe with you beside me and I know

That as long as I hold onto you

 I will have new eyes that can see in the darkness

And I will rise above the despair and embrace the light.


Nancy Weil is a leading authority on humor and grief. She serves as Director of Grief Support for eleven cemeteries and is a Certified Funeral Celebrant and Grief Management Specialist. Through her company, The Laugh Academy, she offers products to ease the stress and pain that grief can bring. Bandages for Your Heart on DVD or CD, Laugh for the Health of It on CD and her new book, If Stress Doesn’t Kill You, Your Family Might, can be ordered by clicking here.


Image: Flickr Creative Commons / breahn

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Comment by Nancy Weil on August 3, 2011 at 9:07am
Linda, We grieve each loss differently. Tears may flow and flow, for others they don't yet our heart still aches and we still grieve.   To lose both parents so close together can be overwhelming and you may find speaking with a professional counselor helpful.  Blessings to you and everyone who reads this post.
Comment by linda braun on August 2, 2011 at 10:40am
I i`am going thought alot i just lost my mother 07/14/2011 and lost my dad 08/05/2010 so it is very hard for me i don`t cry about them why don`t i .
Comment by Nancy Weil on July 29, 2011 at 7:34am


The words come in time, but seem to lack the ability to fully convey the depth of our feelings. If you can't speak your feelings, you can always try to journal them. 

Blessings to all on the journey of grief,


Comment by Whitney Page Prillaman-Lynch on July 28, 2011 at 9:50pm

Not really Ready to talk much, I am sure it will come.


Comment by BONNIE on July 28, 2011 at 12:15pm


Thank you so much for lending a hand to those of us who have lost a loved one. It is so comforting to read your expression of your transition from grief to acceptance.

It truly is in giving that we receive as Francis of Assisi tells us.


Comment by Nancy Weil on July 26, 2011 at 9:45am

Even when life seems so dark, there is always a hand to hold. It may not be the one we truly want, but we can still get strength from those who love us and surround us. 


Comment by River of Tears on July 26, 2011 at 2:11am
Nancy this was beautiful
. It is amazing yet somehow telling in life how we can fall upon what just we need at the time we do as this . Especially when the darkness get a bit darker then one can see out from . . Lost alone seeking those they lost even within yet still empty not being able to have the aching arms around them . A pain that will be , a loss that can never be filled . Yet in this a light can be given way to a dark empty space of ones life .

Thank you ..

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