Grieving skillfully

At some point in our lives, we all have the experience of death, when the pain seems so great and the suffering so deep that we question how we’ll survive. And while we have a perfect mechanism for healing—called the grief process—very few of us grant ourselves the permission, time or space to use it. 
 
The grief process tends to unfold in three phases: first we retreat away from life to grapple with our new reality; second we work through it and face the pain; third we resolve to move on and re-organize our life. 
 
Taught to conceal their feelings, men typically have great difficulty with grief—especially phase two of working through the pain—as they have limited language for their emotional states. And now studies are revealing that such avoidance can cause significant illnesses like heart disease and depression. Not a skillful option. 
 
I’ve recently reconnected with a friend who lost his wife three months ago. As a business leader with four young children, he’d be perfectly justified in denying his pain or contracting away from life in order to cope—but he’s not.  Instead, he’s surrounding himself with community and openly facing his situation head on. Interestingly, he says that people are quite surprised by his willingness to talk about his pain and fear in moving forward. To simplify, he’s bravely demonstrating the quality of vulnerability.
 
In our emotionally constipated western society, we often perceive the term vulnerability as weakness. On the awakened path however, vulnerability is considered a noble virtue, which requires great strength and courage. You see, to be truly vulnerable is to surrender to the reality of the moment and be fully present to what is unfolding emotionally. 
 
In the future, when we are faced with a death in our own lives, we can be reminded of my friend’s courage and walk through our own stages of healing with presence and vulnerability.