The issue of forgiveness frequently comes up in grief. Both regrets and resentments often accompany significant loss. You make mistakes. Others make mistakes, are insensitive, clueless, stressed. Weird family dynamics get triggered.
Regrets are about the actions you took or did not take that you wish had been otherwise. Common missteps of caregiving often top the list, e.g. failure to notice something was wrong or to push harder for medical intervention or losing your temper or being so busy you missed out on quality time. The regrets can go deeper into the relationship itself and all the times you might have been more kind, loving, patient or expressive.
Resentments are the behaviors of others that leave you feeling hurt or angry. The biggest hurt and source of anger is the departure of a loved-one. However, if the departure is do to death, it can be difficult to acknowledge that anger. How can you possibly be angry at the person who died? They DIED for crying out loud. And yet it is natural to feel abandoned and frequently burdened by their departure.
Instead of recognizing the real source of anger, one often attracts the misbehavior of others in order to have a safe target for venting.
When dying involves the medical community there are a lot of opportunities for slights, oversights and outright rudeness by various medical personnel. They are usually very overworked and stressed and you are likely to be over-sensitive. Also, your loved one is dead, who better to blame than the doctor.
If you find yourself attracting a lot of rude behavior from others, chances are you need to do some forgiveness work.
How do you release your anger or your self-blame?
Here are a few things that can help:
WRITE IT DOWN: What happened, your feelings, what you would like to say, your judgments, criticisms and imagined punishments. Write until you are too tired to continue or have nothing more to say.
FEEL IT: Read out loud what you have written and notice how it makes you feel. This is important. Where in your body do you most feel it? Explore the feeling — its character, intensity, texture, rhythm. Only when you understand how awful your anger makes you feel will you find the motivation to release it.
What would it be like not to feel that way?
Breathe into that area and see if you can relax the feeling — like letting go of a clenched fist. With each out breath think or say the words “let go” or “ahhh.”
It is likely that you will need to do this step several time. That’s okay. Anger gets into the cells, the muscle, and the skin. In this conscious inquiry you may notice something familiar, something much older than the current loss or hurt. If this emerges, write about it and repeat this step and those after.
EXPRESS AND EXPEL: Movement and sound can help to access and release the anger of grief without having to get into the psychology of it.
Allow the feeling to grow and expand, then release it with a physical action like stamping your feet, pounding a pillow, tearing up paper, chopping wood, pounding nails with a hammer. Add vocalizations to the movement — shouts, groans, curses, whatever feels right. The action will feel very releasing and the accompanying sound very satisfying.
Take care not to injure yourself or anyone else in the process.
BURN IT: Make a ritual of releasing your anger. Burn, bury or drown your writings. This is a ritual of cleansing. Speak your intention of release: I release you to the earth (or sky) to be transformed into positive energy.
REWRITE THE STORY: Write a story that explains why the person did what they did. The story does not need to be true, it only needs to stir your compassion or give you an understanding of their reality. It does not mean you condone what the person did, only that it releases you from taking it personally. You might want to come up with some ideas about how the injury is actually of benefit to your own development, to learning something significant about yourself. Would this apply to dying? Yes, indeed.
VISUALIZE PEACE: If you are still feeling angry or agitated, imagine being in a safe, loving beautiful place. Be very specific in your mind about the details. Breathe as you imagine this place, what it looks like and what you are doing.
Sometimes the anger is so imbedded in the body that it is necessary to create a practice of relaxation so that new neural networks can become established.
Grief Transformation Coach Michelle Peticolas, Ph.D. helps people transform their grief with a holistic approach to mind, body and spirit that heals trauma, reframes past attachments and releases limiting beliefs while uncovering a true life purpose and direction. If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at www.secretsoflifeanddeath.com