Making Room for Loss

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  • If you found Dr. Eva Selhub’s recent Ask a Luminary response on loss valuable, we invite you to read her more in-depth look at this topic today.

    I am often asked by my clients and friends alike how they can possibly manage or get over the loss or death of a loved one. My answer to them is always the same. You don’t “get over” a loss, you make room for it.

    What do I mean by that?

    When someone you love dies, it is appropriate for you to feel grief.  You miss their laughter, their strange quirkiness, their voice on the phone, and their actual physical presence. It is no longer available to you.  The loss is deep and it hurts… a lot. And it’s not something you need to “get over.” What you do need to heal or “get over” is the notion that you are incomplete without this person. It is this belief system that makes moving forward in life more challenging after the death of a loved one.

    If you think about it, this person occupied a big place in your heart. Perhaps they meant everything to you, or perhaps you depended on them for so many things—to be your parent, your confident, your support, your “other half.” They completed you, in other words. Now, without their physical presence, you feel incomplete, as if part of you is missing, especially a big part of your heart.

    Now you feel incomplete, with an incomplete heart because there is a huge hole or gash in the heart that makes it difficult to fully breath and experience the breath of life. The more you grieve, the more you hurt, the larger the hole gets, the smaller your heart feels, and the more shallow your breath comes.

    But let’s just say that we correct the notion that you that you are incomplete without this person. Let’s just say that you are a beautiful, magical vibrant being who is already complete and who has had the luck to have this person share the ride of life with you for a while. Your heart is already glorious and fully connected to the breath of life, and always has been. You just forgot because it felt so amazing to breathe the breath of life with this person. Now that they are gone and  they no longer can breathe with you, it feels like you breath has been cut in half, so you grieve. But in reality, you were already breathing fully beforehand, so you do not have less breath, it’s just different. Indeed, the hole in your heart left by the loss is still the same size, but relatively speaking, it doesn’t occupy as much room. Your heart is large enough to create space for allowing loss, which will happen in the natural cycles of life.

    What I am hopefully getting across is that you do not necessarily get over a loss, nor do you need to. You want to allow your heart to be big enough, compassionate enough, loving enough, to hold space for it so that you can honor it without having it take over and obliterate your life.

    One of the problems many of us face when we experience such loss is that we want to shut down, close off, and withdraw from everything and everyone. And often, there is a time and place for us to do so, to really face the darkness of loss, to look deep into the face of death and ultimately the meaning of human mortality.

    But then there comes a time to come out of the shadows to remember that in nature, there is always a life and death cycle, followed by rebirth—rebirth of the spirit, of the breath of life, of our knowing that we are all one, no a-lone and the most of all, that we came here to experience joy.

    To make room for loss, but doing what you can to open your heart and breathe the breath of life. The more you fill your heart with love and appreciation, the more space or room you make.  Here are some ideas:

    1. Spend time out in nature to remind you of the cycles of life—nature just as soon lets a forest fire burn as a fire bloom. It is nature’s way. New growth recurs constantly. Spending time in nature will also help lower your stress response, and raise your feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, helping you elevate your mood.
    2. Spend time with those who love you and can remind you of how lucky you are and also of the good times you shared with the one you lost. Bringing up happy memories of appreciation and joy will fill your heart.
    3. Practice self care to remind yourself that you are choosing to live whole and complete. You are choosing to live happy and healthy, with an open heart and clear mind. Choose regular exercise, which is also helpful to your brain and emotions; a diet low in sugar, chemicals, dairy  or processed products that deplete you rather than help you stay whole;  sleep until you are rested; and get body work as gentle touch will help you heal and feel taken care of it.
    4. Journal and have a conversation with your loved one. They haven’t left you, they are just not present in their physical form. Every morning, after a brief meditation where you can quiet your mind, have a conversation. Use your first letter for you and their first letter for them, and go back and forth with questions and answers. This is a good way to get used to having regular conversations with someone who has passed on that provides much needed comfort.
    5. Join a spiritual community or work with a spiritual guide who can help you make meaning from the fears, thoughts or beliefs that seem to be more prominent since the loss, especially those that are impeding your ability to move back into your life fully.
    6. Let yourself cry when you need to. This is sacred space time. Release and heal. Talk about it if you need to.
    7. Do the Love Radar
      1. Imagine the sun shines down on you, showering you with love and light, so that when you breathe in, your breathe this light into your heart center.
      2. As you breathe in, the light accumulates in the center of your heart and forms a sun shine, so that you have a sun shining from the center of your heart.
      3. It then begins to spin and shine like the sun how through your chest, and out into the world and universe.
      4. The rays of light are actually sending our radar waves that are sending out a call for love (imagine the old police shows: calling all cars! Calling all cars!)–Calling all love! Calling all love!
      5. The rays are bi-directional. So as these rays go out calling love, they also bring back into your heart the love you need in the form you need it in.
      6. Bask in the love. Breathing in and breathing out. We are all one.

    Dr. Eva Selhub

    Eva M. Selhub, MD, a passionate, articulate advocate of Mind/Body Medicine, enjoys a flourishing career as a speaker, healer and media spokesperson. Dr. Selhub is a Clinical Associate in Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Benson Henry Institute, and an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Board Certified in Internal Medicine and specializing in Integrative Medicine, she teaches and coaches clients to achieve resilience by moving beyond limiting beliefs, set diagnoses or genetic predispositions. As a teacher and motivational speaker, Dr. Selhub has lectured throughout the United States, Middle East, Far East and Europe, training healthcare professionals and coaching chief executives. She is the author of The Love Response (Ballantine/Random House 2009) and a co-author of Your Brain on Nature (Harper Collins, 2014). Dr. Selhub also have several guided meditation audio CD’s and offers an 8-week on line program to get healthy and happy along with options for individual coaching.

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