I recently attended the 33rd conference of ADEC (The Thanatology Association), which this year was combined with the International Conference on Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society. The conference was held in my hometown of Miami, Florida.
The information and education I received throughout the week was just wonderful. I attended many workshops and confirmed that the most meaningful value a person can possess when helping others in their grieving process is compassion. Compassion is to understand the worldview of the other person at a soul level, leaving aside personal agendas. It is being present without judgment or expectations. Compassion is offering a loving heart and an open hand.
This is just one example of the many valuable messages shared by the multiple presenters. These are some of the topics that were also of great value when facing a loss: rituals, meditation, compassion fatigue, and spirituality. I would like to explore, very briefly, each of these issues:
Rituals: Engaging in rituals can help the grieving person in many ways. These rituals can be performed to connect with others, to honor one’s loved one, or to find meaning.
Meditation: We all have an inner space. Meditation is a wonderful way to access this space and let go of anxieties or fears. It can help us to get in touch with our grief, embrace it, and then let it go.
Compassion Fatigue: Many of us take care of others. We are caregivers and may not take the time to take care of ourselves but as important as it is to be compassionate with others, we need to start with ourselves. We can not give what we do not have.
Spirituality: Our spirituality greatly influences our beliefs, our hopes, and our way of handling life events. When we face a loss, this dimension can be of great help in the grieving process.
I invite you now to take a moment and reflect on the following questions:
• Are you engaging in any kind of ritual?
• Do you take time to meditate on a regular basis?
• Do you take care of yourself?
• Do you pay attention to your spiritual dimension?
I hope you take the time to reflect on each of these questions because engaging in these practices can really make a difference in your life.
Each time I attend an ADEC conference, I leave with a sense of fulfillment and joy. It is fascinating to see how, as we face our mortality, we can develop a sense of gratitude and love for life. As I reflected on this, I came to the conclusion that the more we learn about death, the more we appreciate life.
Dr. Howard Winokuer, in his farewell message, left us with this quote by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. It touched my heart so much that I wanted to share it with you. Read it with an open heart.
“It is the denial of death that is partially responsible for people living empty and purposeless lives; for when you live as if you will live forever, it becomes too easy to postpone the things you know you must do. You live your life in preparation for tomorrow or in remembrance of yesterday; but meanwhile, each today is lost. But when you fully understand that each day you awaken may be the last you have, you take the time that day to grow, to become more of who you really are, to reach out to other human beings.”
Ligia Houben 2011.