Over three decades ago a grief therapist wrote that one of the most significant needs of anyone mourning the death of a loved one is to find safe people and safe places. Why? Because when we are hurting in our grief we are vulnerable and in need of protection that promotes a sense of security and safety.
Sanctuary has multiple meanings, however, I use it here to indicate a special place that provides rest, safety, as well as an informative and supportive environment, at a time when our defenses are down and we need reassurance.
Here’s what you should know to create and utilize your personal sanctuary.
1. Find a place in your home that is away from street traffic and other noises and can give privacy if possible with a view. Rearrange furniture so you have a comfortable chair or couch to sit or lie down on. If soothing music will help you unwind bring in a CD player or your ipod. Turn the phone off. You may want to bring a favorite picture of the beloved to look at. Here is where you can write in your diary to your loved one, read, pray, or simply lie down and elevate your feet.
Form the intention in your mind to use this retreat as your space of peace and quiet. Early in the mourning process, start looking forward to going there at some point during the day.
2. There are no obligations when you go to your sanctuary. Adopt the view that you have the right to have rest, silence, or your particular brand of relaxation. You can do what you want without interruption, be who you are with no pretenses, and display your feelings without concern for others. Say what you need to say out loud or in the silence of your heart. This time is rightfully yours and yours alone.
3. You may also consider using a local church as your sanctuary. Go there at different times of the day to see when the fewest number of people are present. Then plan on dropping in when you feel it is best suited to your purpose. Sit in the silence in a place which gives you most privacy, and let your mind wander to the pictures, statues, or architecture. Close your eyes and rest in the presence of divinity.
As you relax allow your beliefs about the presence of the unseen to give you support and the strength to choose a path to healing. This may also be the place you will want to use to ask for a sign that your loved one is okay, where you choose to talk to your deceased loved one, and to carefully listen to your intuition.
4. Another sanctuary providing great opportunity for comfort and inspiration is nature. If you have a quiet outside area on your property, or in your neighborhood, that you can visit every day (remember, you need sanctuary every day) set it up for your use. Or perhaps you have a porch or lanai with appropriate privacy and a view of birds, trees, and butterflies that is conducive to replenishing. The beauty of nature alone can provide powerful meaning, putting you in touch with the Divine, and bringing peace and comfort.
In summary, a sanctuary is an important need and right for mourners who wish to rest away from the whirlwind of people and demands made in times of great sadness. Make clear to your support system how much you need this type of environment, so that they can assist in respecting the privacy you require. Consider alternating the use of all three sanctuaries suggested.
Don’t feel you are spoiling yourself in this endeavor since grief work is intensely demanding over time, and as the weeks go by, the use of your sanctuary will save precious energy and be instrumental in maintaining health.