How we deal with loss affects our body and spirit

How we deal with loss affects our body and spiritWriting a column to go out on 9/11 brings to mind the obvious significance of this day for Americans. We tend to feel the weather, remind ourselves of where we were when we got the news of the towers falling, and airplanes crashing into the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. The horror and the sadness of that day come alive every September, especially if the day is crisp and beautiful.

What does this have to do with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or living with any autoimmune disease?

We often think about stress and what impact stress has on our illness. I also think that grief takes a toll.

There are our personal losses and the way we grieve for what has been or what will not be again. In a similar way we experience collective grief which has an often unseen or unacknowledged pull on our emotional and physical reserves.

How do we deal with any loss — on either a personal or group level — will affect our body and spirit. It can be threatening to allow ourselves to know that we are in emotional pain. Many of us were taught to “stuff it down,” repress it, or pretend that we don’t feel anything. When we do that our sadness and hurt grow and will force their way into some expression:  a physical symptom, an ongoing dullness or low grade depression. We know this about personal experiences, but it is also true about shared traumas. They require our attention and intention in order to heal.

Many of us were taught to “stuff it down,” repress it, or pretend that we don’t feel anything. When we do that our sadness and hurt grow and will force their way into some expression:  a physical symptom, an ongoing dullness or low grade depression.

If you were to pay respect to your feelings about 9/11, or any other large painful tragedy that has wounded your psyche, how would it be best for you to do it?

Some of us write or journal, others paint, draw, or sing. Some people I know have taken time to meditate, do a small ritual of sharing with others,  listen to music or burn a candle.

Any of these gestures — or one that you create from your spirit, has the potential to heal. That healing is not just for you personally — but any healing space or time we set apart resonates in the larger world with the invitation to be restored to wholeness and peace. As we work together on that level, it has enormous potential for physical healing, as well as soothing our hearts and minds.

I invite you this day to make a space for some practice of healing. Letting any grief you have, any loss that haunts you to be lifted up and held and then, gently, let go. Do something physical to ritualize it. Allow yourself to feel sadness for a few moments — the sadness will not overwhelm you. Then remind yourself of the power of healing all around you to comfort you in your loss. In this way we release our bodies and minds from having to contain the unexpressed. We allow room for healing and hope.

May that be a gift to you on this day.

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