Sunday, March 31, 2013

The End of Grief

I could not sleep last night. Grief was compelling me to stay up and investigate. In the darkness, in between breaths, I was able to see grief as the hindrance that it is, an extreme manifestation of aversion to the nature of life itself. Mind wanted to keep on telling stories about my mother and how she used to be, and how I wish she would still be, and how I was not ready to face the final nature of our parting. I noticed how much I was getting lost in those thoughts, and I remembered what to do when faced with a hindrance. You focus on the hindrance itself, not the object. Stepping back one notch, away from thoughts about my mother, I turned my attention to the aversion and I asked myself, what is the thing that keeps it going? Beneath, I found clinging and magical thinking, a deeply seated delusion about life not ending, or only on my own terms. This is where contemplation is such a great companion practice for mindfulness. One needs to meditate over and over again, on the fourth remembrance:

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

This, is the antidote to grief.

Later, during dinner with my daughter, I could feel the temptation of grief threatening to take over and spoil those precious moments with her. And  I realized the foolishness of indulging such mind state right then. The situation called for no less than appreciating the tenderness between us, and the joy of our good meal together. 


  1. A lot of things arise with a loss like this. Certainly for me there is attachment to that loved one, desire for their company. My mother was almost inique in my life in her appreciation of my successes.

    When someone dies unexpectedly i am always dealing with the raw perception of fragility - it could be me, it could be Tom or my daughter or grandson. I'm on that tilting board. I know it's supposed to be the ground of awakening but ai prefer solid ground.
    With a bow.

  2. To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart, and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.
    -- Thomas Chandler (?)
    So true, when we look at aged persons such as our parents – they have done so much with love and kindness, and thoughtfulness when they had good memory, energy and capability. This is also true in the context of persons who are angry and upset, and have forgotten the song that is in their heart.

  3. You really go into detail, thank you for sharing. I write about mindfulness as well, although, I am quite envious of your writing abilities.

  4. Did you grieve when your daughter stopped being a baby, when she said "no" to you? Propably not, because in some ways you were prepared for this, so why is it we can't prepare ourselves for the loss of our parents?

  5. Thank you. This is very insightful and helpful to me in trying to understand my resistance to letting go of relationship that changed. What is great about the forth remembrance is its universality to any situation of perceived loss or resistance to change. It is hard for me not take such things personally (Why is this happening to me; What did I do wrong; What can I learn, etc.?) instead of objectively (Why can I not accept what is, without analysis?). Nice blog.

  6. Jeanne, yes, I too came to the realization of the unique nature of my mother's love for me. I cannot think of anyone else who loves(d) me as unconditionally as she did. And it took me years to fully appreciate her love and receive it. That is the part that brings up most grief. Now, being a mother myself, I get to feel what it is like to be on the other end . . .

  7. Beautiful quote from Thomas Chandler (?). Thank you.

  8. Was Once, you are wrong about the children part. I have done my fair share of grieving as they separated from me, and let me know in no uncertain terms.

  9. jwyerman, I heard a hospice social worker once describe life as a continuous goodbye . . . We are grieving all the time. This is my understanding of impermanence and dukkha. Only some times are harder than others, depending on the depth of our attachment. Parents and children are the toughest.