On Grieving the Loss of a Loved One

Post by guest blogger Adrian Molina, founder of Warrior Flow and a Kula for Karma teacher based in Miami.

When my mother passed away I experienced a rush of adrenaline with everything that needed to be done. Saying goodbye, literally and emotionally. Dealing with hospital administrators. Funeral arrangements. Not to mention everything that needed to be done during the final weeks before her death.

After she passed away I was high on adrenaline and in shock. I was desensitized from the magnitude of what had happened.

In the months to come there were tears every day. Driving in the car was synonymous with crying. I couldn’t see pictures of her or have conversations about her.

After the long absence from work I'd taken while caring for her in her dying days and then dealing with her death, I felt rushed back to work, as if I had to pull it all together and function like nothing had happened. This seems to be a common experience. How many days of absence do employers give us for the loss of a loved one?

I'd never lost someone so important in my life, so I had never really experienced grief before. It has been an intense, eye-opening journey. And you don’t really know yourself and the depth of your humanity until you've lost someone you love.

Losing someone you love opens a new door in your heart, the door of unconditional love. It reaffirms that love goes beyond physical forms. But it takes time for that affirmation to dawn.

In the meantime, there are times when grief impairs your mind.

Trying to soothe my grief, I made bad decisions in the heat of the moment, as if by making external changes I might lessen the deep pain in my heart from losing my mom. I learned from my mistakes. And I learned that grief takes time. Lots of time.

I learned that not everyone is comfortable talking about it. Many times I wanted my friends and family members to be there for me. But we were all struggling behind closed doors. I've come to believe that it's really important to talk about these things, and the main reason for this article is to encourage someone who may be grieving not to lose hope. And to reach out.

If it weren’t for my anchors, my support system, I couldn’t have made it back from the depths of grief. The loss of a loved one is devastating for the small, individual human mind. But week after week, we slowly reassemble the pieces of the puzzle called Life, and understand a little better the cycle of humanity. In that process, we might find the love that we had for the one we lost reflected in a sunset, a cool breeze, an invigorating run, or a friendly encounter with a stranger.

When the pain subsides, we can feel their presence all around us and within us, almost as if they never left. We can talk to them. We are not alone. Love is bigger than our minds can comprehend. Love is the strongest link between souls.

Grief is part of life, just as death is part of life, and it brings its own gifts and lessons along with the pain. Humility. Patience. Connection. Compassion.

Don’t rush through the process of grief. And don't expect others to rush through it. Be there for those in pain. Let them know they are loved. Acknowledge their struggle. Lift them up when they need support, but let them grieve however they want to grieve.

Self-Care Is Primary Care

Kula for Karma has been operating programs in hospitals since we first began offering therapeutic yoga to patients, 11 years ago. One of the most alarming trends we've observed in more than a decade of working in clinical settings is the rise in stress, burnout, depression, and suicide among physicians, medical residents, nurses, and other caregivers.

As a result, we began to turn our focus to offer therapeutic yoga, mindfulness, and stress-reduction classes not only to patients but also to the medical personnel who care for them. And the demand we've seen for this offering has been growing exponentially.

Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash.

Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash.

Stress and burnout can lead to preventable medical errors and patient deaths, and they can spiral into a depression that's all too common among doctors but rarely spoken about because of the prevailing culture within medical institutions.

In an article published on July 12 in Thrive magazine, Arianna Huffington noted that "Almost two-thirds of doctors in the U.S. say they're burned out, depressed, or both." And according to a study in The Lancet, the suicide rate among physicians is more than double that of the general population. A report published by ABC News puts the figure for physician suicides much higher, at three to five times the rate of the general population.

That's a statistic—and a reality—that we, as a society, cannot afford to look away from, or avoid talking about. This is a public health crisis hiding within our very health institutions, affecting everyone, medical personnel and patients alike.

Fortunately, there is growing awareness among hospital administrators, doctors, and chief medical officers that medical personnel need to practice regular self-care in order to prevent burnout, manage stress, and be able to adequately care for patients. One tool that hospitals can offer to their staff to help them practice self-care is therapeutic yoga and mindfulness.

Kula for Karma is on the leading edge of these hospital-based programs for caregivers, with three additional programs starting up this summer at leading hospitals in New York City and Miami, and numerous other programs in the works.

These weekly classes are not for hospital patients but exclusively for doctors, medical residents, nurses, and other hospital staff. Therapeutic movement and stretching, mindfulness, breath work, and other forms of relaxation are taught to help medical personnel learn to regulate their stress levels and cope better with the enormous challenges they face on the job.

Clearly, there is an enormous cultural change that needs to take place within medical institutions in order to better care for the professionals who care for the rest of us. As everyone who's ever flown on a plane knows, "put your own oxygen mask on before you try to help someone else." Doctors and other medical personnel need to practice self-care, for their own benefit first of all, but also for the benefit of every patient they see.

Physician, heal thyself! Kula for Karma is here to help.

 

Dennis Hunter
Marketing Director
Kula for Karma
dennis@kulaforkarma.org