Self Care for the Bereaved
Be kind to yourself. If you have been the primary
caregiver for the dying, often there are feelings of relief, as
well as deep pain, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, lack of concentration,
tiredness, anger, guilt, regret, anger, waves of emotions, ideas
that seem true, truths that look like fantasies. You may want
to be alone; you may want to party.
Some thoughts are hard to deal with; things
can get way out of perspective. When there is more space in the
mind because its not occupied with the tasks of caring for the
dying or settling the estate, a lot of memories and commentaries
on the past may arise.
Basically each person grieves in their own way, but there are
some methods that help when it seems like life will never be the
same (it wont be the same) but different can be better than
the heartache you feel at the moment.
- Talking and accepting the help of a good friend,
sharing your burden, does lighten it.
- Having a 'good cry' - yes it helps both physiologically
- Be kind to yourself, have compassion for yourself,
what is done is done, accept your and others limitations of the
past and the present. Replaying old hurtful scenes will not improve
them but every time you judge yourself or others it will take on your
current temperament and view. It is only your view, painted as you see
it - others will see it differently - make room for another way of seeing
- When we hold one view too tightly, its going to
cause us or someone else pain. Let go of wishing to change the past
and accept what can't be changed. The present is the only time we have.
The future is created by present moments. Our attitude creates our reality.
- When the pain of
loss and desire is overwhelming there are some Buddhist techniques
that are very powerful.
- One is to imagine all the people in the world,
just like you who have strong grief, and think "Just as I want to
be free from this pain so do they"; Since I am presently experiencing
this suffering then may I experience it for the sake of all these
people, on their behalf, that their suffering is immediately finished."
Hold that thought as strong as you can. It can be done with the breath;
inhaling in the form of black soot all the suffering of loss and grief
in the world (thinking of individual people or nations at war, in
famine etc.). When this blackness reaches your heart think that it
explodes your own pain and loss and transforms into white light which
then you breath out freeing everyone from their grief and every form
At first glance this may seem to be adding more suffering to your
misery but it dramatically has the opposite effect. Why, because the
deeper our misery the more isolated and detached from the rest of
the world we feel. This further increases our feelings of uniqueness,
separateness and disconnection, adding more misery and can also bring
feelings of fear (how can life be good again etc.). By remembering
that we are not alone and generating good will for others opens the
prison of selfdom and allows us to reconnect with our essential nature
and the world.
- Another technique is to look directly at the pain.
Where is it? Does it have shape, colour, size? Can you find the feeling,
see the thought or the see the mind thinking or find the "I" suffering?
Every time you do this meditation the suffering may look less concrete,
more hollow or dreamlike. When the way it appears changes, it is easier
to let go, when the pain comes back.
- Or simply ask yourself, "What is making
me suffer? What do I really want?" There is no way we can change
the past. What is gone, is gone. And judging ourselves or others with
the wisdom we have today, won't help the past.
Then ask yourself, "Is this desire, this worry or this reoccurring
thought making me happy?" Then choose whether you want to continue
suffering (under the control of this desire, this painful thought)
or do you want happiness and freedom from this desire or worry. If
you choose happiness then let go of the harmful, hurting thought.
And every time is comes back, remind yourself that this
thought is like holding fire in
your hand, it burns, so let it go; or see it like a knife in your
heart and take it out! With practice you will be the ruler of your
thoughts not the prisoner.
- Practice rejoicing in the good memories, enjoy the
memories of mutual kindness and laughter. It lifts everyone's spirits
and gives energy and strength. Then dedicate this to the future success
and happiness of the deceased and those left behind.
- Focus on the positive, start with whats near:
a sunset, a summer breeze, a hot shower, a fresh flower, take a deep
breath and let the beauty and enjoyment fill your being, giving you
strength, comfort and healing. When youre ready imagine sharing
that liberating feeling with others on one or more of your out-breaths.
Rest in the awareness of this experience. Then when it fades, dedicate
the experience for the benefit of all.
© Amitabha Hospice Service Trust 2000 - 2008