The 5 Invitations – Moving Through the Grieving Process


One of the best books I’ve read on how to move through the grieving process is called The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Frank Ostaseski. Here, I share five different tips from his book for moving through the grief and healing process.

“In the old days, people used to wear black armbands to let each other know they were mourning because grief is like being in an altered state,” writes Ostaseski in The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully. “In the first days and weeks after someone you love dies, don’t expect yourself to be able to function fully. Ask for help.”

The Blossom Tip: Learn how to move through the grieving process. It’s not a series of stages or steps, nor will it ever be “over.” But your grief will change. And you will change with it.



SheBlossoms Laurie Pawlik Kienlen







The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully is a helpful, inspiring read for people who aren’t necessarily in the depths of grief. I loved the parts about holding life loosely, always aware that people and places and pets come and go. Nothing is permanent.

If you’re a recent widow, read Help Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies. You’ll find comfort and support – especially in the comments section. You’ll see you’re not alone.

How to Move Through the Grieving Process

Frank Ostaseski has a Buddhist approach to grief and loss. He cofounded the Zen Hospice Project, and in his books shares many beautiful stories about death and dying. The following five “Blossom Tips” for moving through grief are adapted from The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully.

Let your heart be crazy

How to Move Through the Grieving ProcessPart of moving through the grieving process is feeling like you’re losing it. You may feel crazy, distracted, unfocused. When my grandma died, all I could do at work was stare out the window. I didn’t even feel guilty because I had no energy or space for anything else but to stare blankly outside. That was part of how I moved through grief.

Expect loss and grief to unfold slowly over time

“Losing can go on for weeks, months, even years,”  writes Ostaseski in The Five Invitations. “When someone we love dies, we keep on losing that person over and over again, especially at holidays, in times of difficult decisions, and in those little personal moments we long to share.”

We also miss the role our lost loved one played in our lives. Maybe he was the cook or the vacuum cleaner at the dinner table. Maybe he was your prayer partner or tax accountant. Moving through the grieving process involves recognizing that you didn’t just lose a husband…you lost a practical helpmate. Life is harder on all levels without him.

Rush up to the falling telephone pole

A parable in The Five Invitations:

A burly middle-aged man explained that he once had a job installing telephone poles. “They’re hard and heavy, standing up to forty feet high. There’s a critical moment after you place a pole in the ground; it’s unstable and might topple over. If it hits you, it could break your back.”



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His first day on the job, he said to an old-timer, “If this pole starts to fall, I’m running like hell.”

“But the old-timer replied, “Nope, you don’t want to do that. If that pole starts to fall, you want to go right up to it. You want to get real close and put your hands on the pole. It’s the only safe place to be.”

Moving through the grieving process is exactly like that: if you want to survive it, you have to get up close to it. You can’t escape the suffering — you can run, but it’ll  just take you by surprise. Then you’ll be both tired and sad. To move through grief, move towards the feelings that hurt. Put your hands around the base of the pain, and hold on. Gently. Let it crash to the ground…and you will be safe. Scared, but safe.

Let your body heal slowly

“Ask for help,” writes Ostaseski in The Five Invitations. “Let somebody else make the meal and do the laundry. Cancel your appointments. Take time. Walk if you can. Your body will be rebelling in all sorts of ways. Incredible fatigue. Your legs will feel like lead. Restlessness will rule. You may not want to sleep or eat. Or you might want to sleep all day.”

Listen to what your body needs, and give yourself time, love, and attention.

If you need energy to care for others or do your work, read Why You Have No Energy When You’re Grieving – and How to Re-Energize.

Let your brain be fuzzy

You’ll lose things. You’ll forget routine tasks, drop balls you’ve juggled for years, and forget why you walked into a room (even more than normal!). Your brain will be fuzzy and foggy — this is part of moving through the grief. This is how the healing process works.

Moving through the grieving process takes time — but time all by itself doesn’t heal. It takes time and attention to work through grief.

How to Move Through the Grieving Process“Some begin this process by writing letters to the person who has died, speaking what was left unsaid, or repeating whatever they feel needs to be said again,” writes Ostaseski in The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully.

“Others make scrapbooks or photo albums. Rituals can help. I usually recommend that people find some place in their house to create an altar. Place a photo and some special objects of the person who has died. Spend some time there each day. Talk to the person, tell them how you’re feeling, maybe spend some time in mediation or prayer.”

I also enjoyed Ostaseski’s discussion of letting go. He said we can hold on too long to our suffering. When you cling too tightly to the past, you aren’t just holding on to memories. You’re clinging to old hurts and emotional states, things that have passed and aren’t part of your life now. They can’t be, for they are over.

How is your journey through the grieving process? Are you moving slowly or standing still?

If you’re willing to move through the grieving process, The Five Invitations will help you heal.

“Bury me when I die

beneath a wine barrel

in a tavern.

With luck

the cask will leak.

– Moriya Senian, 1838

The Blossom Tip: Learn how to move through the grieving process. It’s not a series of stages or steps, nor will it ever be “over.” But your grief will change. And you will change with it. 

If you’re dealing with guilt or shame, read How to Deal With Regret After Someone You Love Dies.

xo



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