When Things Fall Apart: Finding Peace In The Wake of Loss

By Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT

Posted: August 11, 2023

Life after loss is not about stitching up the wounds and becoming what you once were, but rather embracing the imperfections, learning, and moving forward with wisdom.

When things fall apart, how do you piece them together again? How do you find peace in chaos, especially when the pain of grief is bearing down on you? This journey may seem impossible, but it's a path many have walked, and you can too.

In her book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chödrön delves into a chapter called "Servants of Peace," where she introduces Buddhism's Six Paramitas. These are actions you can take to create a peaceful way of living and cultivate compassion for others, even when nothing feels certain. It’s scary and true, a paradox that guides us to liberation from suffering.

The Buddhist Nun's insights in this chapter give us the tools to see life through the lens of "prajna" - a wisdom that dissolves our need for solid ground. It’s a protection against rigidity and expectations. As someone who knows grief, you will recognize the truth in this. After your assumptive world is shattered, you need to rebuild. This often leads to changing your way of seeing, and in the best case scenario, it opens your heart to all beings, including youself.

The Six Transcendent Actions For Peace

  1. Generosity: You've faced loss, and you know how important kindness can be. Start by giving yourself time, space, and compassion. Extend this generosity to others. It's not about emptying your wallet; it's about opening your heart.
  2. Discipline: Discipline isn't about restriction but rather making wise choices. You can create healthy boundaries and routines that support healing. It's okay to say no when you need to.
  3. Patience: Healing takes time. You can’t rush through grief. Be patient with yourself and with others who might not understand your pain. It's a practice, not a race.
  4. Exertion: Moving forward takes effort. But remember, it’s not about striving for perfection but engaging in life. Maybe it's a walk, writing in a journal, or simply connecting with a friend.
  5. Meditation: Sitting with your emotions can be a powerful practice. It's not about escaping pain but being present with it. Just breathe, be with what is, and know that it's okay.
  6. Prajna: The wisdom that sees beyond delusions. You've seen life's uncertainty; now you can use that wisdom to liberate yourself from expectations and judgment.

Walking a Path of Peace, Not Perfection

These six actions are practices, not prescriptions. They are ways to cultivate peace without piling on a set of 'shoulds'. You don't have to be perfect; you just have to be willing to try.

At Awaken, we explore these ideas and more in our Perpetual Mindfulness class. It's about living fully after loss and cultivating resilience. We read books like When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, and grow together in understanding and compassion through meditation, movement, and journaling.

If you would like the support of a compassionate community, come join us in Awaken Grief Support Group & Course. Let's walk this path together.

Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT

About the author

Heather Stang, M.A. is the author of Living with Grief and the guided journal, From Grief To Peace. She is the creator of the Mindfulness & Grief System that is featured in the Handbook of Grief Therapies (2023) and is the founder of Awaken, a mindfulness-based online grief support group. Heather also hosts the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, and offers mindfulness-based grief support online through her organization, the Mindfulness & Grief Institute. She holds a Masters degree in Thanatology (Death, Dying, and Bereavement) from Hood College in Maryland, and is a certified Yoga Therapist. She currently lives in Falling Waters, WV.

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