Amidst the powerful and conflicting emotions of grieving, it can be difficult to step back and see the big picture. Grief is a necessary catharsis for the release and relief of the pain resulting from the death of a loved one. But how does one grieve in a healthy way? Like all experiences of emotional pain, you have a choice to go through it not as a negative experience, but as an opportunity for growth — albeit painful growth. Feelings are feelings, but we can choose whether to experience them in a destructive or productive light. The following four suggestions for how to face grief are based on the 4000-year-old Kabbalistic tradition, which emphasizes thoughtfully and compassionately learning from every experience you have in life. (Obviously, these suggestions do not replace the elaborate process necessary to heal from pain, which may also require the help of a professional).
Remember: The Soul Never Dies
Modern physics has taught us that no substance truly disappears, that it only changes form. A tree, for instance, might be cut down and used to build a house, or a table, or a chair. And when that same wood is burned in a furnace, it again changes form, becoming an energy that gives off heat and gas. The tree, the chair, and the fire are all merely different forms of the same substance. If this is the case with a material substance, it is even more so with a spiritual substance. The spiritual life-force in man, the soul, never disappears; upon death, it simply changes from one form to another, higher form.
While death represents the soul’s elevation to a higher level, it nevertheless remains a painful experience for the survivors, who cannot feel the soul’s continued journey, and therefore grieve and mourn over their loss of connection. At the same time, it must serve — as must all experiences in life — as a lesson. We must see death not as a negative force, but as an opportunity for growth.
Look At Your Life Carefully
“The living shall take to heart” says Ecclesiastics. It might seem selfish, but it is an honor to the person who passed away to use the opportunity to examine your own life. Death reminds you to think about and appreciate your life. Do you have a personal mission statement? How well are you fulfilling it? Remember the things that your loved one accomplished during his or her life, how he treated his family and friends, how she helped others. You can use the strong emotions of grief to jolt yourself out of apathy and continue the legacy of your loved one.
Initiate Positive Projects in the Memory of Your Loved One
A powerful tradition, which also serves as a catharsis to the pain of loss, is to channel the grief into positive actions: 1) Inspire others by sharing with them the good things that your loved ones did. 2) Create new initiatives — or perhaps a charitable and educational institution — in the honor and memory of a loved one. Do not be concerned by the size and scope of the initiative. Never underestimate the power of small, local, and even micro projects. Any good deed you do in the memory and honor of your loved ones transforms grief into positive energy — most notably it perpetuates the spiritual vitality of the deceased. It accesses the eternal nature of the soul, and manifests it in this physical world.
Do Not Try to Explain
Death is beyond human comprehension. After all the rationalizations and explanations, the heart still cries. And it should cry. Although we should not mourn longer than necessary, it is still important to grieve. Soothe and console yourself in the healthiest ways that you can. Allow the pain to seep through you. There is nothing anyone can really say that will explain away the pain of mourning, for no matter how you might try a brilliant mind cannot console a bleeding heart. Silence is often the most appropriate way to experience and express pain. As one great teacher told his grieving student: “I don’t have answers for your. But I can cry with you.”
Go deeper into this subject: Toward a Meaningful Life | How to Relieve Your Emotional Pain | The Kabbalah of Crying | Death & Grieving | Passing Away: Where Does the Soul Go When You Die?