Practice through grief and trauma

James, modified 3 Months ago.

Practice through grief and trauma

Posts: 3 Join Date: 11/30/20 Recent Posts
Three weeks ago my father commited suicide. The pain, guilt, shame, imagery, emotions, and thoughts are all overwhelming beyond comprehension. My practice has been what I've relied on in the past when things have become difficult. This is something I'm failing to navigate and quite possiblly I just need to take time away from practice to grieve and deal with the trauma. I guess I'm looking for ways of dealing with the images of my father taking his life and if there is anything that can help me through this time. Any recommendations or books would be greatly appreciated.

Currently reading:

MCTB2
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
Seeing That Frees by Rob Burbea
The Science of Enlightenment: Shinzen Young
Practical Insight Meditation by Mahasi Sayadaw
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Practice through grief and trauma

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Break free "through" Nirvana.


​​​​​​​Sorry for your loss.
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Josef C, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Practice through grief and trauma

Posts: 72 Join Date: 6/16/20 Recent Posts
Hello James !

I am very sorry to hear of what happened to your father.  I just would like to clarify , are you also seeing a therapist right now? Practice in conjunction with therapy is for me the gold standard when it comes to delicate and sensitive issues like this. Please dont be too hard on yourself and treat yourself with utmost kindness , like you would treat a friend going through the same thing emoticon(  I dont want to add to your grief with platitudes like this so you can take this advice as you will)  I can only imagine how this event could ever be processed by  anyone   emoticon  . When it comes to books I have seen these books to be highly recommended (especially the first one ) : 
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It's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand
Grief Day By Day: Simple Practices and Daily Guidance for Living with Loss
Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief

Take care James and may you properly process your grief . 
Eudoxos ., modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Practice through grief and trauma

Posts: 80 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
I am sorry for your loss, it must be very difficult for you.

You be the judge of the following suggestions and drop whatever does not fit.

In general, stay in touch with your experience including feelings, always steering the middle way between drowning in them (depression) and dissociating from them (running away).

Give yourself compassion, as you now need to be a support to yourself; this is something quite trainable; I like Kristin Neff's guided meditations (e.g. the "Soften, Soothe, Allow" is meant for difficult stuff, check it out — 15 minutes). Keep reminding yourself that feeling bad/confused/... is normal, it is allowed, perhaps give yourself appreciation for bearing all that. This is not something you are "failing to navigate" (though you may well have feelings of failure); it is just quite a rough ride. There are some regularities in the grieving process, as it seems (see Kübler-Ross' five stages of grief at Wikipedia), something like that might be unfolding for your as well; you might be getting a lesson about patience. Be mindful about reactions to feeling bad, such as thinking that the practice is failing, that it is your fault you can't handle this more gracefully, blaming (anyone) for what happened etc — and don't follow them.

As a part of self-compassion, you might seek help outside — talking to friends, various support groups in your area or online (DhO included), therapy or other professional help etc. Know that you are not alone. The experience of dear person passing away is something universal (with variations) and connecting to this universality of human suffering sometimes eases the contraction around one's own stuff and the feeling of isolation. There is actually a sutta about this: Kisagotami Theri (the first paragraph of the introduction recounts the well-known mustard-seed version of it).

Adjust your insight practice to the situation: see for yourself if formal insight practice is okay for you at this point, though, and feel free to drop it temporarily. It might be too much. Experiment mindfully, perhaps only do walking meditation. Perhaps only do informal practices, like noting gently during the day, during long walks etc.  Grounding in the body is helpful for some (yoga, bodyscanning), just as grounding in nature and changing environment, all while staying mindful. OTOH, some decide to go to retreat after events like this — but consult that with someone who knows your practice well already, if this is your inclination.

Seeing your reading list, I'd be very careful to have balanced insight practice, to not abuse it to bypass stuff. For instance, you might at times (be tempted to) put your full energy into noting like crazy, stroboscopically deconstructing every feeling before it even assembles; but perhaps the mind is blind to the grief, frustration and avoidance which is thrusting you to practice that way in the first place. So always check out the energy which is driving the practice.

May you be happy, free from suffering, diseases, grief and protected from all misfortune _/\_
Eudoxos ., modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Practice through grief and trauma

Posts: 80 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
Incidentally, I just watched a video entitled "The Freedom of Knowing How You Feel" with Trudy Goodman and Jack Kornfield as guests; they respond to a question about grief from the audience (towards the end) which feels like relevant to what you are through: https://youtu.be/rydv0OzeR1U?t=2623 .
Eudoxos ., modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Practice through grief and trauma

Posts: 80 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
Hi again, James; I just hit an announcement in the cyberspace about Thich Nhat Han's Plum Village doing 3-day online retreat entitled "How to grieve", June 29—Aug 1. Might that be something for you? I never practiced with them personally myself, just know a few who appreciated them. https://plumvillage.org/retreats/info/how-to-grieve/ . Best wishes for your difficult times.
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Nicky2, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Practice through grief and trauma

Posts: 51 Join Date: 4/18/20 Recent Posts
James Three weeks ago my father commited suicide. The pain, guilt, shame, imagery, emotions, and thoughts are all overwhelming beyond comprehension.... I guess I'm looking for ways of dealing with the images of my father taking his life and if there is anything that can help me through this time. Any recommendations or books would be greatly appreciated.

Hello James.

I am very sorry to hear about your loss. While i was not close to him, my neighbour recently hung himself and was discovered by his partner, of which i heard her scream. The previous recent time i spoke to him, he had some health issues but I don't know anything about any reasons for his motives. I imagine the image in the mind of his partner is very strong. But many friends have supported her since. 

Buddhism teaches about the social attitudes of the Four Brahma Vihara, which are friendliness, compassion, sympathetic joy & equanimity. The training in equamimity is to reflect: 'beings are the owners of their actions'. What this means is, ultimately, individuals make their own decisions. If we impart or grant this self-autonomy onto others, it can assist us maintaining some balance of mind (equamimity) when we are unable to help another person. 

For example, even in my own family, there are occassions when i try to help famiy members but ultimately am unable to. Often i think about the worst that may or will probably occur in the future to them but I must fall back on the reality there are situations where i cannot help another person, even though I wish to or even though i actually try. 

I think in your case you can try to separate your pain & loss from any sense of guilt & shame. Often, all of us, cannot even help our family members therefore if you try to practise the equaninity training, of course in a sensitive way, you can free your mind from any unnecessary and unwarranted guilt and shame. In Buddhism, we try to not blame ourselves for the actions of another. 

Then, if your mind can drop the guilt & shame, it hopefully will be much easier to manage your feelings of pain, sorrow and loss towards your father. 

​​​​​​​Best wishes. With metta  

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