How Do I Deal With Loss?

In 1981, my father asked me to meet him at Baskin Robbins ice cream store, near my mom’s apartment where I lived. He bought me ice cream, probably a Banana Royale with Pistachio ice cream, hot fudge, and bananas and whip cream. As I ate my ice cream, my dad told me he had cancer. I was on 18 years old and did not expect such adult news. A few days later, I was playing football with friends. I began talking with my friend Chris about traveling to Los Angeles to see the preseason Monday Night Football game between New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams. By 7:00pm, we were at the airport and waiting for our airplane. We checked into the Newporter, a resort, in Orange County. I let my sadness carry me all the way to Southern California. I remembered in the middle of the trip that my father was having exploratory surgery. I called home and heard he was ok.

When the doctors at Kaiser Permanente Hospital surgically opened up my father’s body, they could see that cancer was riddled throughout his lymphatic system. His doctors simply closed up the incision and told my father that had six months to live. I cherish the time I had to spend with him until his death on June 10, 1984.

I had four people close to me die from April 1984 until August 1985. My response to all of these tragedies was to avoid my sadness. Later in my life, I had to learn to do the work of grief. Sadness has an important function in the grieving process. Grief turns us inward. We can lose energy, poor concentration, experience sleep changes, lose motivation and experience changes in our appetite.

Grief not only has to do with death, but also with the ending of relationships of all kinds, including marriages. Daniel Goleman writes, “The main purpose for sadness is to help adjust to a significant loss, such as the death of someone close or a major disappointment. Sadness brings a drop in energy and enthusiasm for life’s activities, particular diversions and pleasures, and, as it deepens and approaches depression, slows the body’s metabolism. This loss of energy may well have kept saddened – and vulnerable – early humans close to home, where they were safer.”

Whenever you love someone and you are no longer able to spend time with them, you naturally feel pain. Yet there is a difference between the pain as a result of loss and the suffering as a result of false beliefs and avoidance. David Kessler said, “One of the biggest problems is that you might try to push aside or ignore your feelings. You judge them as too little or too much. You carry a lot of bottled up emotions, and anger is often one that is suppressed. In order for it to heal, however, it must be released. We’re not speaking only about anger associated with death, but about anytime we feel anger. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the renowned grief expert who identified the Five Stages of Grief, said we could feel anger, let it pass through us, and be done with it in a few minutes. She went on to say that any anger we feel over 15 minutes is old anger.”

What is the journey to healthy grief and eventually to resolution? I have learned to lean into the sadness as well as other emotions. By acknowledging and consciously experiencing the sadness, we can let go. Our loses need to be integrated psychologically. Grief enables us to update our consciousness with reality. The current loss reveals other losses – not integrated – that lie beneath. Grieving can take time. Eventually, we can remember the wonderful parts of the past and not experience the pain. Janet Childs who works for the Centre for Living with Dying, in Santa Clara, California, USA, said “grieving is like the ocean tides. The grief can come and go. Some days can be harder than others.”

We all experience grief differently. When I am grieving, it really helps to let myself be. I like to pay attention to my body and follow my inclinations. When I am able to minimize my obligations, I am free to follow my inclinations. As long as it is not self-destructive, I indulge myself. If I am tired, I sleep. If I am hungry, I eat. If I just stare off into space, it is ok.

Having empathic and accepting people to listen are invaluable. It helps to have a few good listeners – too not overburden any one person.

During a loss, We may discover that our thoughts are negative. When we break up a relationship, we may think “I will always be alone.” “Why do bad things always happen to me?”

Sadness can be subtle. It is very important and its power as well as the power of all other emotions should not be underestimated. Daniel Goleman writes that sadness is “grief, sorrow, cheerlessness, gloom, melancholy, self-pity, loneliness, dejection, despair, and when pathological, severe depression.” Please watch this video by Janet Childs on grief and loss:

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Blogs by Daniel Davis, grief and loss
Janet Childs
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David Kessler
Judith Peterson
appetite, changes
Baskin Robbins
Centre for Living with Dying
concentration, poor
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energy, lose
ice cream
Kaiser Permanente Hospital
lymphatic system
motivation, poor
sadness, definition and purpose
sleep changes
Monday Night Football


Do You Know the Secret to Joy?

“Perhaps ultimately, spiritual simply means experiencing wholeness and interconnectedness directly, seeing that individuality and the totality are interwoven, that nothing is separate or extraneous. If you see in this way, then everything becomes spiritual in its deepest sense.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

What is mindfulness? I define my mind as a process in my body that is related to others and myself that regulates the flow of energy and information. Also, the tasks of the human mind are to monitor and change things. Mindfulness includes different exercises that improve my ability to monitor and modify my internal world. The basic element of mindfulness is focusing on something or some process. We can focus on our breath during mindfulness meditation. In yoga, we focus on our postures. During tai chi, we focus on movements. In qigong, we focus on the sense of motion of energy. While practicing centering prayer, we focus on words. During walking meditation, we focus on our feet. Daniel Siegel writes, that “over 100 years ago, the father of modern psychology, William James (1890/1981), said that such a practice of returning a wandering attention back to its target again and again would be ‘education par excellence.’”

There is a difference between concentration and mindfulness, according to Dr. Roger Walsh. Concentration allows us to direct our attention to whatever we wish to experience. Mindfulness enables us to explore our experiences sensitivity. Mindfulness is where we bring greater awareness to each activity. We are more present in each moment. Another gift of mindfulness is that we catch subtle experiences of which we usually remain unaware.

Dr. Walsh writes mindfulness “enhances our awareness of relationships, the world around us, and the world within us.” It also frees us from our automatic mindless reactions and heals the mind. According to the National Institutes for Health, there are 18 million Americans that practice meditation of some kind. Meditation improves the health of our body as well as our mind. It lowers the risk for cancer and heart disease. Meditation makes us happier.

Please watch this body awareness mediation video with Judith Peterson and learn about the path to joy.

Most of our thinking is subconscious. Only a small part of our brain is engaged in conscious thinking. The areas of your brain that are engaged with consciousness thinking will process about forty nerve impulses per second on a normal day. The brain areas which are involved with activity outside of your consciousness will process forty million nerve impulses per second on a normal day. Only a fraction of your brain is engaged in conscious thinking.

Donna Eden and David Feinstein write that “your subconscious mind is the storehouse of the lessons life has taught you as well as your natural abilities and intuitive wisdom. Along with countless automated actions as mundane as putting on your shoes, your subconscious mind holds innumerable instructions for more complex actions and has access to transcendent sources of inspiration for solving the bewildering problems life presents and for pursuing your most creative aspirations. While your subconscious mind is an enormous sound guidance that is available 24/7, it also stores past hurts, self-limiting beliefs, unresolved conflicts, and dysfunctional behavioral strategies. So it doesn’t always work to your advantage.”

Bruce Lipton cites studies that reveal 65 percent of our thoughts are negative or repetitive and unnecessary. Our mind is thinking thoughts that are not important and disturbing most of the time.  Additional studies indicate that people spend 50% of their time awake not thinking about what they are doing, but something else. When our mind drifts away from what we are doing, we become unhappy. There is another problem with a mind that strays from the present moment. As our mind wanders, our subconscious mind takes over. This is when we do things that interfere with our own success. We undermine our desires, because of our subconscious thinking.

We have repetitive patterns in our subconscious thinking that lead to behavior that is not flexible and responsive to our present set of circumstances. For example, a husband may be talking with his wife and experiencing fear from a memory about his dad when he was 5 years old. Fear is a signal of possible danger. His thinking and energy is preparing his body and mind for crisis. He may not be able to listen well, because he is scanning for what is dangerous in what his wife is saying. He may want to end the conversation and leave, because he is afraid. These reactions and his poor listening have an effect on his wife. She doesn’t feel understood. Her husband’s reactions do not make sense to her. The more that he has conversations with her where he is not present, the less trust the husband and his wife will have with each other.

Dr. Ron Siegel traces these type of reactions to the harsh lives of our ancestors who lived and survived great dangers millions of years ago. He describes the mechanisms of our brain that make us miserable. These are the reactions:
1. Focusing on what is bad
2. Being stuck in a stress response – heart beating faster, muscles tense, sweating, acid released to stomach for digestion
3. Comparing myself to others
4. Avoiding what is unpleasant
5. Envisioning a future with assumptions of what could go wrong

The good news is that our brains are flexible. At any age, we can acquire new information, process the new knowledge in our brain, and develop new ideas. As a result of our learning, we think differently and our brain physically changes. The idea that “I am who I am” is false. You can remake yourself, like remodeling a house. The name of this is plasticity. Our brain changes as a response to each new experience, each new thought, and every new idea we learn. At any age, our brain is like playdough; we can move it and shape it.

Dr. Joe Dispenza writes that meditation can change how the brain works. He described the research. Meditation alters brain wave patterns. Another benefit of meditation is that it grows “new brain cells that are the product of inner mindfulness . . . . Most of the participants (in the research study) were average people with jobs and families, who meditated only 40 minutes a day.”

Please watch this video by Santa Clara County’s first Poet Laureate, Nils Peterson on the gift of focus.

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Bruce Lipton, negative and redundant thinking
Nils Peterson, presence
Judith Peterson, mindfulness
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Daniel Siegel, mindfulness
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“Do You Know the Secret to Joy?”

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