Grief is multifaceted, and I’ve realised over the years that our society does not acknowledge many of its aspects. Along with profound grief the death of a loved one brings us, we all experience many other types of losses as we go through life.

There are small and not so small daily losses. Perhaps our injured knee backtracks after we’ve worked for months to strengthen it; maybe we’ve had intimate relationships end badly; maybe we’re living one lifestyle but longing for another. We may not even realise that these are losses, or we may choose not to acknowledge them.

In a similar way, we tend not to recognise as important the feelings that overcome us when we grieve for a place where we’ve felt totally at home, or for experiences that uplifted us. When I left India after my first trip in 2007, I found for many months that I didn’t want to be back at home. Although the trip was hard, it awakened something in me and I felt a pull to return.

On our recent trip there from October to January, we spent our first six weeks in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, home of HH the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. We did volunteer work with young Tibetans, mingled with Indians and Tibetans in the streets, attended teachings with the Dalai Lama, and spent as much time as possible with the Tibetan family we’ve become close friends with.

Leaving McLeod Ganj didn’t seem as hard as I had anticipated, but five days after we moved on to the state of Rajasthan, I began to grieve for all I’d left behind. The feelings passed but they didn’t disappear.

When I returned home, it took me quite a while to bounce back; I was tired beyond the usual jet lag period. My partner, whose intuition has grown over the years, said he felt there was an emotional aspect to my tiredness. My friend concurred, saying that it was natural after being in such a different culture for such a long period of time.

Suddenly the penny dropped, and I realised my grief was causing the tiredness. I grieved for India overall, and I particularly missed and yearned for the healing energy of McLeod Ganj and for the warm-hearted, courageous Tibetans who became our friends there. The people and the town had claimed a place deep in my heart.

After my epiphany, I was able to feel the sadness right inside my heart. There was pain but I also felt a warm heart opening. Rather than an overall body tiredness, I felt the love in a centered, soft place inside me. It was not unlike the powerful and emotional heart openings I experienced during my first days and weeks in McLeod Ganj. My tiredness began to melt away.

When we lose a loved one, we don’t just lose the person, we lose the relationship we had with them. We grieve for them and we also grieve for the times we spent together, for the experiences we shared. We know these experiences will not come again in the same way.

Once we are able to get in touch with these aspects of our grief, we can begin to review our relationship, revisiting the time spent with our loved one, the places we went, and the special things we did together. Then we’ll gradually come to feel relief within ourselves and, over time, some completion.

copyright Ellen Besso 2010

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Ellen Besso

Ellen Besso holds a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology, is a Martha Beck Certified Coach and a Registered Clinical Counselor. She specializes in helping women access their joy and passion as they navigate the challenges of midlife, including caring for their elders. a href=>To Listen to Ellen on Open to Hope Radio

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