Spirituality and Grieving – Does spirituality help us cope with the loss of a loved one?

I wrote this post a while ago to avoid myself shutting down and in hope to help others by documenting the rawness of having someone pass away.

There are many common stages of grief, below I have shared the 7 Stages of Grief Model.

  1. Shock and disbelief
  2. Denial
  3. Guilt
  4. Anger and bargaining
  5. Depression, Loneliness, Reflection
  6. Reconstruction and working through
  7. Acceptance

In a nutshell, I feel spirituality helped me immensely to get through the first 6 stages of grief very quickly and come to acceptance. I noticed how important it is to be mindful and allow ourselves to fully experience the human emotions while not getting fixated in them.  If we do not allow ourselves to be immersed in the experience, then we risk spiritual bypassing and a false ‘acceptance’.

In actuality, spirituality is in observing, experiencing and then letting go of all the emotions that come along with grief, NOT in the avoidance or minimizing of our experience in order to feel more spiritually correct.

There is no real one prescribed way of grieving.  We all do it in our own way, in our own time, as long as we get closer to the final goal of ‘acceptance.’

I hope you find this post I wrote insightful.

In recent years, I have lost a few loved ones and most recently my loving Nana Ji – Grandfather to Covid-19 in September 2020. I write this article to give an insight to what grieving may look like, and also how spirituality has affected my experience. 

Right now I wake up with tired eyes, a foggy mind and confusion and guilt about how to grieve ‘properly.’ I let out most of my crying the first day, and now I only shed a few tears while in the shower or going to sleep.  I have a lot of underlying feelings but have overall accepted my grandfather’s death and am reflecting on and celebrating his life.

When my husband first told me of my Nana Ji’s death, I took it quite casually. ‘He was senior, he was unlikely to have survived from Covid-19, at least he had a nice long life’ I thought. I went about my daily life the next hour or so like nothing major had happened.

Then things started to get messy.  Relatives started messaging and the situation started to become real. I realized I was actually experiencing shock and disbelief. I wasn’t really taking in what had happened but was instead minimizing my emotions to act more spiritual. 

I started to let go of the spiritual pride and instead allow myself to experience the grieving. My grandfather, who I had grown up with since childhood had passed away. Who took me to basketball games, was always gardening in the backyard, the calming presence of him.  From this sadness I then experienced a very sudden wave of guilt and anger – I just wish I had seen him just one more time, one more hug. I wanted to learn so much more from him!

I quickly restrained my mind from going down that rabbit hole.  I knew I had to save myself from getting into a toxic thought pattern.  So I instead distracted myself for a while until I was feeling a little calmer.  The guilt and anger started to fade and I focused on the fact that I had last seen him on good terms with a very nice, long hug. I was grateful that at least I had started to show my love for him more openly the past year.

This is where spirituality started really helping me. Learning from Gurbani wisdom daily had made me understand that death was a natural part of life, and we are all here on borrowed time.

(This was about stage 5-6 of the Grief Model).

I realized the anger I felt had rooted from unhelpful thinking that the death was not meant to be – relatives were messaging me saying my grandfather lived a life too short, that it was unfair. These comments didn’t sit right in my soul so I distanced myself from the outside world and instead embraced my own way of grieving.

I started reflecting on my relationship with my Grandfather, the life lessons and family values I had learnt from him, how much my being had been influenced by him from a young age, where my interest in gardening rooted from and so on.  I intuitively came to accept that my Nana Ji was no longer in this world, and life would keep going. I would keep going with his memories to smile at and continue to inspire me.  I felt in me a very wise, calm Self guide me back to equilibrium. I started talking to my siblings, closer relatives and friends who were also grieving in this more open-minded manner.

It’s really important to note that these stages of grief were not linear. I kept going through these stages like cycles, a spiral like nature for the next few weeks, where each time I needed a smaller amount of time to process my emotions, reflect, reconstruct and accept.

Healing is not linear.

In this way, I feel spirituality helped me better come to accept my grandfather’s death. Without it, I feel I would become stuck in more negative feelings like anger or sadness and find it harder to move forward. Instead I know the natural path of my inner self is to let go, keep moving forward and above all be grateful.

I still get teary, emotional, sad but it passes and I know better than to identify with these emotions for too long.

I hope reading this post was insightful or perhaps even motivating to help you start your spiritual journey.  Often times we don’t fully understand the importance of strong spiritual foundations. In times like these, we realize that spirituality is an investment into ourselves and a safety net for more difficult times.  

I will forever love and cherish you Nana Ji.