Impacted By Coronavirus? Here’s The Ayurvedic Way To Grieve Healthily
Are you grieving a loss due to the coronavirus pandemic? Don’t brood or bottle up your feelings of injury, whether it is the loss of your son’s prom experience or the death of a loved one. Digesting emotions is a necessary step for healing. Be present, feel, and take actions to process your grief healthily. Grief from this pandemic will be a nearly universal experience; we need to address it head-on.
The last time I found myself in deep grief was after the death of my Mom. I had to tune up my emotional agility, learn to recognize my feelings using grief models, and process my pain with the help of Ayurveda. Understanding grief and taking action to digest feelings healthily can help you.
Loss, pain, and uncertainty generate grief
I missed being present for my Mom’s death by about 30 minutes. I was on the highway, driving as fast as I could, praying I would make it and say goodbye. She died the way she wanted, surrounded by family, her husband, her brother, and most of her children. Her disease-ravaged body no longer worked; a big part of me is grateful she left her body and all that pain.
When I rushed in that morning and saw her body, it was an empty shell. Her death, while not unexpected, knocked me off my pins. Ayurveda helped to stabilize me against the onslaught of feelings that were part of my grief. My dinacharya daily routine was in place as healthy habits before she passed. The stability of a daily routine moved me through grief in a way that felt healthy.
Initially, the loss of my Mom created an emptiness, quickly followed by a hailstorm of pain. I had to keep going – write her obituary, assemble pictures to share the story of her life, and support my dad, sisters, brother, nieces, and nephews as we all moved together into grieving this loss. Healing from grief is like driving through a storm. First, there is darkness and uncertainty, followed by light.
COVID-19 is a global source of pain
As this pandemic works its way across the country, I feel the need to grieve once more. How about you? The darkness of loss and uncertainty are all on the rise in many lives. When I am stuck in tamas or the dark, I draw on my background in Ayurveda to find information to forge a path forward towards the light. The paradigm of Ayurveda, a scientific yet also profoundly spiritual approach to life, helped me grieve more healthily than blocking my feelings or just ruminating and brooding. Ayurveda gives me the perspective to take action in my own best interest based on my mental state as viewed through the Gunas.
Use the gunas of ayurveda to help you heal
Mental Gunas (quality of our thought patterns) often shift when dealing with pain and loss. The journey varies in time. People heal as individuals. It is not necessarily a one-way path; you can also loop back around and experience different stages many times as you heal. The stages of grief take us through the three mental Gunas.
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler developed a model for the five stages of grief abbreviated as DABDA(M). Through the lens of Ayurveda, the first D,(denial )is a form of stuck tamas; anger is rajas, depression is tamas, bargaining is rajas, and acceptance is sattva. David Kessler, in his recent book, added a new stage, “meaning,” which to me is also sattvic in nature.
Professor George Bonanno developed a separate and distinct model for grief, that looks at the places people land emotionally, post grieving. Chronic dysfunction means a tamasic lack of recovery with prolonged suffering and impairment. Delayed pain or trauma is when symptoms or emotions increase months after the event. In response to feeling powerless, people in a rajasic state can lash out in anger and frustration, which helps no one. Dr. Bonanno coined the term “coping ugly” to describe “unproductive reactions” due to grief.
Recovery is tamas to rajas when emotions and behaviors begin to change for months or longer before moving to pre-grief happiness and activities over time. Resilience is the sattvic ability to find the positive fairly quickly and sustain normal healthy life while processing the loss. Healthy habits and daily routines support a sattvic approach to life.
“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” – Havelock Ellis
Blocking, brooding and depression was a big part of my grieving process. I can be stubborn and stayed in denial for months. I kept thinking I could still call and share when good things happened or get guidance when I needed clarity. Anger didn’t happen, I was relieved my Mom could finally let go of her broken pain-ridden body, but I saw a lot of resentment in others.
I guess I tried to bargain to stay close to her. Depression set in when I could not maintain physical and emotional closeness with a dead person. I began to remake my world without the model and emotional anchor of my Mom in my life. I count this as acceptance. Right now, I am working to stay present with the uncertainty due to the pandemic and keep a positive approach in my daily choices. Skip the coping ugly, cope, and recover.
Dinnacharya – A massive source of stability in the face of the pain of grief
When in deep grief, it can feel like a monumental task to get out of bed each day. An established daily routine can help you get through the nitty-gritty of dealing with the daily effects of isolation. Restful sleep is often elusive during grief. Healthy sleep habits are essential to support digesting grief. Living on the doshic clock builds alignment with healthy sleep. Self-massage is a soothing way to release feelings of loss. Daily meditation gives us the emotional space to heal. Finding Ease in the face of difficulty is a light in the darkest part of grief.
At some points in my grief process, my habits started to slip. Food has been an emotional crutch my whole life, and I gained weight. I clung to my keystone habit of daily meditation to keep me aligned with the understanding that my Mom had moved from the physical world to the spiritual. It is comforting to feel that she did not cease to exist, and I can touch her energy and feel her love. During this pandemic, we all need to anchor our day with practices to maintain and maintain a present, spiritual perspective.
You can even use additional tools in Ayurveda to move through grief.
Aromatherapy is generally helpful for releasing the gamut of feelings associated with grief. The smells head straight into the brain and act to shift our experience. Balancing oils that reduce anxiety, stress, and worry are lavender, chamomile, clary sage, lemon balm, rose geranium, rosemary, and sandalwood. Be sure to use the best quality oil you can afford.
Shake things up
A regular movement routine to shake things up, release toxins, and tamas from your cells. Daily walking can help, but you can also use a mini-trampoline to bounce and shake each day to help. Vibration moves you from tamas to rajas.
Grief support group
Work with a grief counselor or find a support group if you need to talk out issues or develop a plan to move through the emotions of your loss. Find one that works online. If you are defaulting to isolation, connection to your peers will give you a way to stay connected to your community and move toward sattva.
Tarpana is a ceremony to connect to and heal ancestral connections. This practice helps resolve intergenerational communication gaps and close the distance between the embodied and the spiritual.
Take time to digest the experience and reactions you have in dealing with loss. Grieving is an essential part of healing. The lens of Ayurveda will help us understand our tendencies in responding to loss. A healthy daily routine will help hold us steady against the storm of loss and grief until the sun shines more brightly.
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