Growing through Grief

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Last October I had the privilege of attending a beautiful training IMG_2595on Mindfulness for End of Life Providers put on by the Metta Institute. It was a deeply rich and inspiring experience. I want to share one of the pearls I gleaned from my time at the training– a grief ritual. This is a transformational ritual in response to the pain of a death.  This simple ritual has become a practice that helps me to reflect deeply on losses I’ve experienced in my work as a hospice acupuncturist and in my own family, and to learn and grow from each one. It’s a tool that is continually transforming me into a better provider and a more aware person. It is also a resource that I love to share with patients and anyone else navigating the death of a loved one.

It is a simple ritual for grief, growth, and turning toward our experience just as it is.

One teacher at the training was Rachel Naomi Remen, MD (physician, author, therapist, teacher, healer, and pioneer in holistic and integrative care, among other incredible things). Rachel created this ritual and shared that whenever a patient dies, she does this a week later for that patient. She invited us to do this after any loss— the death a loved one or a patient, after a relationship ends, etc. Family members can do this individually after a loved one dies, journaling about their experience. They can also choose to come together to share their insights with each other. Sharing in this way can expand the intimacy, the honoring of the loved one, and the growth for everyone involved. Repeating the ritual over time can reveal new layers of insight. This simple inquiry can be a profound support, carrying us deeper into our inner wisdom, deeper into our own heart, deeper into compassion for ourselves and others. Rachel facilitated this exercise for a room full of us. She asked us to choose someone from our own lives that we have lost and she walked us through these questions as we sat, contemplated, and (some) wrote. As she walked us through this ritual, she walked me through some tears and into a new and deeper peace and understanding.

My deepest gratitude to Dr. Remen for sharing it with us, for teaching us to cultivate ourselves in this beautiful way.

The Ritual…

Begin by lighting a candle.

Imagine the person you lost. Picture them in whatever way comes to mind. It may be them as you last saw them or you might picture them as they were long ago.

With your hands empty and open, ask yourself:

1. What learning am I taking with me from this ending?  (with regard to life, death, work, love, etc.) Take the time you need to listen inward with each question. When you have your answer, move to the next step.

Picturing your person again, bring your hands together, and thank them:
“I thank you for this gift. I honor you for it.”

2. How have I grown or been changed by this experience and this learning?

Picturing them and bringing your hands together:                                                                        “I thank you for this growth.”

3. What do I regret or wish had gone differently?

Again picturing them and bringing your hands together, offer an apology:                                   “I did not want it to be this way. I’m sorry and I ask for your forgiveness.” 

After this, take some moments to listen. Is there anything they want you to know in response to this?

4. What do I wish for them on their journey?”

Bringing your hands together, say to them:                                                                               “This is what I wish for your on your journey. I bless you with this gift.”

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Susan Wilmoth Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Portland




, LAc, MAcOM
Susan Wilmoth Acupuncture
(formally Seeds of Health, PC)

5525 E. Burnside
Portland, OR 97215


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Susan Wilmoth, Seeds of Health PC
Photography Credits: Jeff Amram Photography and Kelly Nordahl