My mother’s death in January 2009, eight months after my husband, teenage daughter, and I moved from India to the U.S. dropped me into a dark hole. I was a stranger in a foreign country. I had no friends. I was learning to drive. And it was my first Chicago winter. As I struggled through my grief, I knew I had to claw my way back up inch by inch from that dark hole of suffering. Here are the 12 things that helped on my journey of healing.
- Books. Books have always been my lifeline. After my mother’s death, my reading tastes changed significantly. Unbeknownst to me, a door within was opening and I was being led to the path I walk today — a deeper connection with the Divine and the healing work I offer the world. The four books that formed the pillars of my life during loss: The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, A New Earth (Eckhart Tolle), The Shift and Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life (Wayne Dyer). These books awakened in me a deep desire to live life with meaning and purpose.
- Grief Support Group. I attended a 9-week support group at a local church. Never having been to a support group, this started off as an intimidating experience (I tell this story in my memoir Losing Amma, Finding Home). But having a space to cry my tears and feel held by a group of women who were all mourning a parent’s loss was invaluable.
- Working with a Spiritual Mentor. This was a profound source of strength, learning, and growth. I worked with my mentor for two-and-a-half years. Not because I was grieving hard that whole time, but because I recognized the need to grow through my loss. So I kept our sessions going and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
- Meditation 101. I learned to develop a consistent meditation practice. It wasn’t easy. But it opened me up in ways that were not just healing, but necessary to the work I felt called to do. Meditation increased my sense of calm and anchored my faith in the unseen.
- Working with seniors. The only part-time position that opened up for me was in a retirement community. Nine years later, I continue to facilitate three groups there, one of which is a weekly storytelling group. Working with the elderly who are in physical and emotional pain, or feeling disengaged and disconnected, went a long way in healing my own heart. I slowed down, learned from them, and received many gifts for my next chapter.
- Writing. Writing has always been my go-to place. Writing (and publishing) two books right after my mother died literally saved my life. It helped me give voice to what I was thinking and feeling. It helped me make sense of how I was changing, where I was headed, and connect with folks walking in similar shoes.
- Crying. I’m a crier. I’ll admit that unashamedly. My soul feels cleansed after a good cry. Every time my sorrow welled up, I allowed it to flow. I made grief a priority, usually at night when the day’s work was done and I could sit with my feelings.
- Forgiveness. I made a conscious commitment to clean up all my forgiveness issues. I made a list of people I needed to forgive. Then I wrote letters and emails, or called and spoke to them. It was so crucial to the healing I experienced. The burden of carrying emotional baggage lifted and my spirit felt lighter.
- Fun friend. As a brand-new immigrant I didn’t know too many people. Plus I was wrapped up in my grief — not the best time to find new friends. But I did have one good friend where I worked. Andy was full of jokes, interested in Indian culture, comfortable around emotions, and made every effort to cheer me up. Every griever should have at least one fun friend — someone who can be a source of healthy distraction in the midst of deep pain.
- Service. When you find someone who is seeking the very thing you are seeking — whether it is love, money, energy, or companionship — and you give it to them, your empty reservoir starts to fill up magically. I visited nursing homes and sat with the elderly. I listened to their stories, gave them back rubs, wiped their tears away, and became a surrogate daughter when the real one wasn’t around.
- My siblings. I am blessed to have 3 wonderful siblings. Although the road with my brother started out a bit rocky, we reconnected when our mother died. Having regular conversations with my sisters in India, crying together, and sharing collective memories was like therapy. It was my safe space.
- Soul Map. Viewing my life experiences from the perspective of my soul brought me a new level of peace and joy. I began to understand that my ego is necessary, but my life does so much better when my soul is in charge. Learning to live by my soul values has been an enriching experience. I love the mystery. I love the mystical life. I feel held, supported, and connected to everything.
Leave a comment below on what’s helping you make peace with your pain.