At first glance, a number of characteristics could be used to describe the way ‘grief’ operates, and none of them produces an effect consistent with the words ‘refuge’ or ‘sanctuary.’ The very nature of this process that leads us toward healing when we choose to enter into it is the reason everybody needs a sanctuary during grief.
Grief crashes upon you like a wave. It bounces you around and twists you inside out. Grief sends your emotions into a tailspin, and up and down like a roller coaster, until you’re emotionally spent. Grief is unruly, messy, and disorderly. You’ll go forward and then backward. At times, you’ll question your sanity.
And then, you may feel empty, disconnected, in a fog. One moment you’ll want to talk. The next, you don’t want to talk to anyone. You’re ravenous, and then the thought of food nearly makes you sick. Completely out of the blue, you’ll start to cry. Sometimes you can’t even figure out why. You may be anxious about your future, confused about what to do. You’re distracted. Overly sensitive. And often exhausted.
The force of grief is impressive, for sure. Yet, grief is exactly (and purposely) designed as your means of healing and restoration. You cannot (and should not) experience the full force of grief 24/7—yet you need a safe place (a refuge or sanctuary) where you can retreat and allow yourself to truly ‘feel’ what you’re experiencing.
A Refuge or Sanctuary
You need a place where you can take off the face you present to the world and just be who you are at the moment. You still have to function in the world—at work, in your family, at other places where you have responsibilities. Yet you need a place where you can let your guard down. You need a place where you don’t have to make conversation. You need a sanctuary where you can replenish your energy and release your emotions safely, where you can sob it that’s what you’re feeling and punch your fist into a pillow if it will make you feel better. You need a place where it’s safe to be yourself – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Getting all of this ‘stuff’ from the inside to the outside is part of the healing process, and it’s how you’re able to work through it and finally let it go.
My home was my sanctuary. For a long time, it’s the only place where I felt truly at home with myself and where I didn’t feel out of place. It’s where I could relax and just ‘be,’ whatever that meant at any particular time. I was relieved when I came inside and closed the door. Yes, at times I was very lonely. But there was peace at home. And I needed peace!
Everyone needs a sanctuary—but take care that your sanctuary of peace doesn’t evolve into an excuse to over-isolate yourself. Isolation is a temptation that is oftentimes easy to fall into during grief. There’s a fine line between ensuring that you have time alone to rejuvenate and to process your grief versus spending too much time alone because it’s just too hard to make the effort to be around people.
I think the entire idea of a refuge, a sanctuary, can be summed up in a quote I read from Alan Wolfelt, and it was my inspiration for this article: “Sanctuary – A place of refuge from external demands. A space where the mourner is free to disengage from the outside world. A place where the need to turn inward and suspend will not be hurried or ridiculed.” Especially during grief, a place like this is essential.
Think about your sanctuary. Be sure you have such a place to retreat to. And don’t feel guilty about going there. See your sanctuary as a positive place – because it is!
Blessings to you on your journey to healing.
Author: Judy Brizendine
Photo courtesy of fotofrenze