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