Who Are You Grieving For?

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As a nation we are in mourning. A collective form of grief.

This has caused me to reflect on my relationship and our cultural relationship with grief.

Different Cultures and Grief

It is obvious that different cultures are likely to have differing attitudes towards grief. Taking a brief look at other cultures I am struck by the difference in mourning periods. 

Christian culture is 2 weeks.

Muslim between 3 days and 40 days. 

Jewish culture is 7 days up to a year. 

Hindu 10 to 30 days. 

Sikh community, a few weeks. 

Buddhists 90 days. 

Humanists/Atheists have no specific period.

What strikes me is that, other than humanists, the christian faith has one of the shortest grieving periods.

Our Attitude Towards Grief

Our cultural attitude towards grief also tends to reflect the mourning period. A person dies and there is a huge upwelling of support for the bereaved from their immediate community. When the funeral is over, however, it is amazing how that support dies away so quickly…because we should be over it, right?

It is as if 14 days of being sad, a service and a wake is all you need.

Many of us need more time to be sad than that.

Our Relationship With Vulnerability

Our attitude towards ours and others’ grief is closely related to our cultural dislike of vulnerability. We are not good at understanding vulnerability and attach shame or stigma to it. This means that when we feel our vulnerable feelings such as fear (stress), hurt, sadness and shame we push them away. They are not welcome in this society that values happiness above all else.

Push Them Away & They Want To Stay 

Bill Spinoza once said “What you can’t be with, will not let you be.”

In other words the more you push your feelings of vulnerability away the more they want to spend time with you. 

This also works the other way around. The more time you spend with them the less time they will stay. Once they have done their work. Once they have helped you process whatever feeling it was, they will go.

That’s why we tell people to “sit with their feelings.” That is the only way to develop a healthy relationship with them and with ourselves.

So Who Are You Grieving For?

It is quite likely that when you watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on19th September there will be moments when you feel sadness. It may be overwhelming and you may feel tearful.  It is quite likely that the feeling of sadness is not only related to our monarch’s passing but also to grief from other losses we have suffered that we have not fully processed. Why? Because our cultural attitude towards grief limits our ability to process it.

If you watch the funeral and feel tearful, let it flow. Don’t add shame to the feelings of vulnerability. Let the tears flow. They cleanse you and help you heal.

As a culture I think we have a lot to learn about working with our own vulnerability. At Calm People this is just one of the areas we work with, either with individuals or groups. This is because we know that those of us that are able to meet their vulnerability and work with   it are actually stronger in the long run than those that push it away, storing up trouble for the future.

If you want to know more about this subject or talk about how we may incorporate it into workshops email julian@calmpeole.co.uk

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