Buddhism, grief, and loss

September 30, 2014

Ancient Buddha head without body in Sukhothai, ThailandRecently a meditation student who’s only just begun practicing wrote to say that she’d experienced a bereavement. She wondered if I had any suggestions to help her through the grieving process.

I have to say first of all that I’m not a grief counsellor. I’m just a meditator who has ended up sharing what he’s learned about working with pain. And I also would like to add that I’m hesitant to give advice in such situations because I know how feeble words can be in the face of powerful emotions. I long ago gave up on the notion I once held that there is some magical form of words that will make everything better.

Despite … Read more »

Defending against loss

March 4, 2013

Ocean waveThe Buddha taught that we spend most of our life like children in a burning house, so entranced by our games that we don’t notice the flames, the crumbling walls, the collapsing foundation, the smoke all around us. The games are our false refuges, our unconscious attempts to trick and control life, to sidestep its inevitable pain.

Yet, this life is not only burning and falling apart; sorrow and joy are woven inextricably together. When we distract ourselves from the reality of loss, we also distract ourselves from the beauty, creativity, and mystery of this ever-changing world.

One of my clients, Justin, distracted himself from the loss of his wife, Donna, by armoring himself with … Read more »

This precious human birth

April 25, 2011

When one of Sunada’s best friends from college lost her brother recently, it served as a wake up call for her. It was a reminder that life is short, and there really is no time to lose.

My friend Cecily recently lost her brother to illness. He had just turned 50 the week before he died. She is devastated.

Cecily is one of my best friends from college. We’ve known each other for 32 years. It’s that rare kind of friendship where even if months pass without connecting, we still pick right up where we left off. We’ve never lived anywhere near each other since graduation, but we’ve stayed in touch through all our ups … Read more »

The Blue Poppy and the Mustard Seed, by Kathleen Willis Morton

October 1, 2009

Blue Poppy and the Mustard SeedThere can be few things more painful than the death of a child. Can Buddhist practice help us cope even with this level of suffering? Siddhisambhava reviews a new book chronicling loss and letting go.

The Blue Poppy and the Mustard Seed is the tragic story of Kathleen Willis Morton and her husband, Chris having a longed for baby boy who dies seven weeks later. The story is extraordinarily difficult to read sometimes because it’s so painful. It’s also a very tender book, so you don’t want to rush it.

It’s hard to write about grief well. In writing The Blue Poppy, Morton joins a canon of grief and bereavement literature that has some … Read more »

Waking up in the midst of loss

February 27, 2008

When life pulls the rug out from under us, we have a choice. We can either look backward at it as a disaster, or look forward through it as an opening toward something new. Sunada tells her own story of how she woke up in the midst of a personal crisis.

This week, I closed a major chapter of my life. I watched as my beloved Bösendorfer grand piano, which I had just sold, was wrapped up and carted off to its new home. This piano had once represented my dreams. It was no ordinary grand piano. It was a top of the line, artist’s instrument. Beautiful to the eyes as well as the ears. … Read more »