Grieving is hard work — even physically in a way we don’t anticipate. When my wasband George and I got divorced, there was real pain in my chest. My heart was literally aching, like a broken bone.
The time it takes to recover from intense grief can be longer than most people expect. Other people get impatient with the process and don’t want to talk about it anymore, while for the bereaved the pain of loss and impermanence are always front and center.
Compassion is feeling the pain of another with the wish to alleviate their suffering. The most important thing we can do to help is to be able to sit quietly and simply be with the grieving, holding the grief in the tender arms of loving awareness. Offering kindness, company, and caring helps heal great sadness. Then, moments of joy can emerge in the midst of sorrow, along with poignant appreciation for the life and love of the person who is now gone.
Before she became a Zen nun, Rengetsu buried two husbands and all five of her children. She expressed her feelings in poetry:
The impermanence of this floating world
I feel over and over
It is hardest to be the one left behind.
In the video above, you’ll find more about grief.