Grief Toolkit: Strong Back, Soft Front

My hope is that anyone experiencing deep grief can somehow encounter my “grief toolkit” here.  I am going to list the tools that I used as I was with my husband, Roger, during his cancer diagnosis.  These tools aren’t a panacea for grief.  The truth is that, quite possibly, if you are the grieving person, the emotions that you are experiencing are the most intense and painful that you have ever known.  This can be if you are grieving the actual loss of a person, a pet, anticipating the loss of someone, or undergoing the loss of a relationship or a job.  There are so many ways that we experience loss, yet oftentimes we don’t understand our own coping mechanisms (or what we can do) when the pain hits.

***You can hear the Strong Back, Soft Front meditation listed below by clicking here and listening to the podcast at minute 18:30.***

Strong Back, Soft Front—especially good for caregivers

This meditation is from Joan Halifax’s “Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death“.  (All quotes and page numbers are from Joan Halifax’s book.  She is amazing and the book is amazing.  I read it over and over and over when Roger was facing the end of his life.)

•The “Strong Back” represents equanimity.  The strength of your spine allows you to “uphold yourself in the midst of any condition.” (p.14)
•The “Soft Front” represents compassion, a tender, open feeling in your chest that allows you to be present with your suffering and with the suffering of others.
Sit quietly in a chair and feel the groundedness of the earth underneath you.  Take three deep breaths and rock back and forth, noting the strength of your spine.  “The strength of your spine allows you to uphold yourself in the midst of any condition.  You can remind yourself of this strength by silently saying, ‘Strong back.’  Your mind and your back are connected.  Feel the sense of uprightness and flexibility in your mind.”
Next, move your attention to your belly.  Take three deep breaths into your belly.  “Feel your natural courage and openness as your breathe deeply into your belly.  Shifting your awareness to your chest, touch the tender, open feeling of this space.  Let yourself be present to your own suffering and to the fact that, just like you, others also suffer.  Imagine being free of suffering and helping others to be free, too.  Feel the strength of your resolve rising up from your belly.  Let your heart be open and permeable.  Release any tightness  as you allow your breath to pass through your heart.  Remind yourself of your own tenderness by saying, ‘Soft front.'” (p.14)
The place in your body where these two meet—strong back and soft front—is the brave, tender ground in which to root our caring deeply when we begin the process of being with dying.” (p.17)

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