Finding a Place for Sanctuary

By Linda Lehmann, M.A., L.P.

As you move through your grief, you will need to find yourself a sacred space to help you heal. This space is not only a physical space, but also an emotional and spiritual space. It is a place that is yours alone and no one else's. This is a place of sanctuary. A place of sanctuary is a space that has special meaning for you. It is a physical space that shelters you so you can be with your authentic self. It is also an emotional and spiritual space that you carve out for yourself to address the deeper aspects of your grief journey.

Too often survivors don't allow themselves a place of sanctuary because they fear what they might think and feel there. You may worry that if you give yourself permission to slow down and take a journey inward that it will bring you down. In fact, spending time in a place of sanctuary gives you an opportunity to address your thoughts and feelings and to take stock of where you have been and where you are going. It needs to be a place that you are deeply committed to, and will not let anyone or anything to distract you from the important work you need to do there.

Think about a place that is easily accessible to you where you can comfortably spend some time without intrusions or distractions. Think about what you can surround yourself with that will enhance the pleasure of being in this space. How can you stimulate your senses in a way that helps you to be calm, centered, and quiet? Think about what you want in this space that is pleasing to your eye. What smells do you want in this space that will calm you and remind you of beautiful moments in your life? What are the sounds that you want to surround you that will help you to listen to your soul?

What will you put in this space that you can touch that will bring your comfort? What is a taste that you enjoy that you might want to have available to you in this space? What are some objects that have special meaning to you or remind you of your life with you loved one? You may want have a picture of your loved one near you. Place these things in an arrangement close to where you will sit. You may want to find a doily or cloth to put your things on. Then create a space of time everyday to be in this place or at least once a week.

Once you have created a physical place of sanctuary, you can begin to create a spiritual and emotional space for yourself. You may want to begin your time in this place with a small ritual. This ritual may include lighting a candle, smelling the things that you have placed there, spending time in quiet prayer or meditation. Then, you may want to hold or look at your loved one's picture. You may want to speak to him or her and say what's on your mind. You may want to put on some soothing music and write your thoughts and feelings in a journal book.

Spend some time getting in touch with your feelings. Reflect back on the day or week before. What feelings did you experience? How did you cope with your feelings? Do you want to change how you dealt with your feelings? Cry, rage, do whatever you need to do. Can you recall moments in which you felt joy, amusement, gratitude, love, and peace? If so, write them down so you can remember that you have had the blessing of these "breaks" from your grief.

Ask yourself how you have changed? What values and beliefs remain despite your tragedy? What parts of you are no longer with you? What are news aspects of yourself that you like? Don't' like? Reflect on what you have learned about yourself, or about others? How can you rise above your tragedy to reach out to others in ways that honors the memory of your loved one? Allow yourself to see yourself one year from now. Two years from now. Five years from now. Depending on your spiritual belief call upon your higher power to guide you.

Be quiet and listen to that wee, small voice inside of you that is screaming for you to pay attention to it. Listen to that part of you that is wise and authentic. Trust that voice.

Having a place of sanctuary gives you a space in which you can honor your grief and honor the memory of your loved one. It also offers you the opportunity to meet yourself right where you are. Think of yourself as a work in progress changing, evolving, growing and yes, grieving.

Give yourself the gift of a place of sanctuary.

Linda Lehmann, M.A., L.P., copyright, 2000