We have a choice. Do we view loss as a negative event, which has taken something away from us? Or, do we view it as a life shaping, transformative event, which has the possibility to positively impact our lives, giving us greater perspective and focus. Adele Vincent advocates practising appreciation and the importance of mindfulness in helping us overcome grief. Death doesn’t have to be the end; it can mark the beginning of a journey to understand our greater purpose.
After we experience the death of a loved one we may experience emotions like anger, confusion, remorse and regret. Although these feelings are a normal part of the grieving process, they often slow us down, making the entire experience of loss all the more difficult. Everyday activities become obstacles and former passions may seem lacklustre. Make no mistake, death changes the way we think about life. It may take years before we feel we have returned to our former selves. Many people are forever marked by the experience of loss, especially when the person they grieve for is a parent or child. How do we negotiate the different feelings loss presents us with in a challenging period?
Appreciation plays an instrumental role in how we negotiate the experience of loss and the conflicting emotions we may experience after the death of a loved one.
Appreciation encourages spiritual growth. When we pause to consider our blessings, especially after the loss of a loved one, we gain perspective. Perspective navigates us through uncharted waters, ultimately deciding our course. Practising appreciation daily will help focus your energy towards accomplishing a goal or facing a specific challenge. This is so important after experiencing the loss of a close friend or family member. We often find it difficult to confront situations without the physical presence and assurance of a loved one. Think of appreciation as one way of boosting your spiritual self-confidence. Look around and start noting how many positive things and people you have in your life. Appreciation is one step towards your life purpose. Every day you practise appreciation, you get closer to realising that purpose. Appreciation isn’t just about gratitude; it is also about savouring the moment.
Ways to practise appreciation
• Prayers of thanks
Saying prayers of thanks or counting blessings helps order thoughts. If you are prone to worrying before you fall asleep, this will focus attention on appreciation versus anxiety. Food, a warm bed, a loving partner are simple pleasures we often take for granted. Count every blessing, even the smallest; this will deepen and prolong your appreciation, ensuring you live more richly.
• Make a list
Writing our blessings down helps us realise how fortunate we. If you are going through a difficult period, take time out to write down your blessings every day. Make a comprehensive list and place it on a wall or desk, so you can look at the list often throughout the day. You will be surprised how quickly negative thinking is replaced with positive affirmations.
• Record the moment
Make hard copies of digital photos. Seeing your life in pictures allows us to relive our happiest moments. Capture the moment and the feeling. People have the tendency to remember the negative events of their life over the positive ones. This distorts thinking and prevents deeper levels of appreciation. Video recordings or voice recordings are also good ways to record the moment.
• Thank loved ones
Often we forget to thank those closest to us for their support. Expressing gratitude to friends and family promotes appreciation in our relationships. Once appreciation is expressed, it is often reciprocated, deepening a connection. If you find yourself wishing you had thanked your loved one more before they died, it’s never too late to write them a letter. They will hear and feel your appreciation through mindfulness.
The role of mindfulness
In a way, appreciation is like an active meditation. Practising appreciation involves focusing your mental energies throughout the day. Often people ask, ‘Are you a glass half full or half empty kind of person?’ In my mind, the glass is neither half full nor empty; it simply is. To truly appreciate what we have, we need to accept and understand all aspects of our life, good and bad. To label the glass as half full or half empty is to negotiate the value of the glass and its contents. This comes back to judgment. As humans, it is very hard to supersede judgment. It is one of the most basic and innate instincts we possess. It is linked to fear and animal survival instincts.
Practising appreciation is about embracing and loving the positive aspects of our life as well as the negative. Most of the techniques I listed earlier involve focusing mostly on positive aspects; this is because grief can be a very negative and isolating experience for many people. To counterbalance this experience, it is necessary to focus on the positive aspects of the griever’s life. However, I’d like to point out that true appreciation is blind. To really appreciate life, one has to embrace both the positive and negative aspects in order to learn and grow spiritually. This is true of loss as well. When we lose a loved one it may feel like the end of the world, but it is also an opportunity to begin a new world.
Adele Vincent is workshop leader of Ask Angel, which helps women explore their spirituality in a safe environment. She works as a copywriter and non-fiction editor for clients all over the world, publishing their real life stories. She is author of A circle of light: transfer grief into a unique opportunity for guidance. London, E11 2QB, UK | +44(0)7834997765
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