Recommendations for Grieving w/ Bryde MacLean

My dad died two weeks ago and today again the grief is changing. The shock has worn off, condolences have slowed, family members have stopped checking in with one another like we did in the first couple of days. Less and less are other people thinking about my dad, and so when grief comes it feels lonely. At the same time, I’d rather this lonely grief today than the first day that passes without a touch of it. Grief is a Big Feeling and I’m grateful to be able to feel it.

Every time I’ve allowed myself to connect with and express grief freely, it moves through me and passes and what remains seems to be a consistent lightness of being. Colours are brighter, laughs come easier, the world seems precious and kind. Does deep diving into grief mean that the experience of joy is also more available? Are they the same ache, just flavoured differently by circumstance? 

Here are three practices that have been helpful for my grieving process:

1- If I feel numb and miss the big feeling I go find something of my dad’s. Anything that will reunite me with the achy, visceral depth of my grief will do. One day I try to find the scent of him in his hat, or sort through a drawer of his collection of odds and ends. The ache comes, I have a cry, then I can move on with my day, usually feeling awake and lighter.

2- On the days before dad passed when there were long, stale hours sitting by his bed, I would get up, go outside, move my body, and hum and sigh. I would let my voice break with my emotion. I would breathe deeply into my diaphragm and into the achy feeling and sigh out from there. I would plant my feet and twist my torso side to side, letting my arms hang and swing freely from my shoulders. I would do it for as long as I could and then stop and feel the blood rush through my body. 

3- I prepared my dad’s body for burial. He asked for a green burial. He didn’t want to be embalmed or taken to a funeral home. He wanted to be washed, oiled, and dressed, very ceremoniously. So we did. After he passed, we washed his body and dressed him in a shroud. We rubbed olive oil and frankincense into his feet and beard and hair. I held his eyelids closed until they stayed closed on their own. We said prayers. We lit sage. I cried. We surrounded him with flower petals and wrapped and bound him for burial. It felt right somehow, ancient and appropriate to care for our dead. It was for me a spiritual experience.  

If you’re grieving, or afraid of the grief you’ll feel in the future, I’m telling you, you can do it. Pay attention. It’s a big feeling moving through you. Keep it flowing. Breathe. Surrender to the river of it. You can do it. You’ll go under and you’ll come back out on top. With love. 


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