Grief and The Monastic Life
Many things can happen over the course of our lives that can cause us grief. The loss of a loved one, the end of a romantic relationship, or drastic changes in our lives are all things that likely have grief attached to them.
So how does the modern day monastic process grief in a way that is conducive to one’s mental health, as well as being able to move beyond grief to a place of joy?
Let’s start with the most basic element of a monastic life, prayer. A solid prayer practice is the cornerstone of any monastic observance. If we are rooted in the practice of prayer, we have a stable foundation which allows us to explore and process our emotions while simultaneously turning them over to our higher power for healing.
Another practice which can help a monastic move through grief is meditation. The quieting of our scattered minds allows us to observe and identify muddled feelings and emotions, and to name the things that may be buried beneath anger, sadness and confusion.
One practice that I can not stress enough for dealing with grief is forgiveness. A monastic ought to readily work toward forgiveness whenever possible. Harboring resentments only serves to hold us back from the work of learning to live in love; it can also make us extremely bitter and cause divisive behaviors to take root in our lives. Working toward forgiveness means that we choose to be merciful so that we can know peace.
Finally, honesty is key when taking on the process of moving through grief. Being honest with ourselves is good form, but it also allows us to see things as they are and not as we want them to be. Honesty with others allows us to reach out for help when it is needed, and shows that we are worthy of trust and honesty from others.
When these things are combined as part of one’s daily monastic practice, the way through change and grief can become plainly clear. It is my hope that each of you would consider these practices as essential to your monastic expression not simply because they make for a good roadmap through difficult emotions, but because they point the way to love, which the world needs more of.
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Reflections from the monks and nuns of OES.