Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Haniver
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Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by Haniver »

My non-Buddhist wife is losing a loved one, and she came to me for comfort. My responses were "She was good, I'm sure she'll have a good rebirth", which is dishonest, because I can't be sure of something like that, and "Don't fight it; acknowledge your experience and let it pass", which would work for me, but not for her. What would you have said?

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mikenz66
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by mikenz66 »

I'm not so good at this in practice, but I think that it is very important to acknowledge the other person's pain: "It's tough, isn't it? [hug]". Try to get over the feeling of having to do something - to "solve" it. Just "being there", and, in particular, listening, is what people often need in such circumstances.

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Mike

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Nicolas
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by Nicolas »

:goodpost:

This came to mind: This is not a surprise, it's normal, the way of things, nature. We can't fight the inevitable, we must accept it. If we try to fight against the truth, we will only suffer. The truth is we will lose everything, we will all die. We must be in harmony with the way things are. We knew this was going to happen. This is normal. Let go, let go.

... which was kind of in the spirit of the following:
Ajahn Chah wrote: As soon as we are born we are dead. Our birth and our death are just one thing. It's like a tree: when there's a root there must be branches, when there are branches there must be a root. You can't have one without the other. It's a little funny to see how at death people are so grief-stricken and distracted and at birth how happy and delighted. It's delusion, nobody has ever looked at this clearly. I think if you really want to cry it would be better to do so when someone's born. Birth is death, death is birth; the branch is the root, the root is the branch. If you must cry, cry at the root, cry at the birth. Look closely: if there was no birth there would be no death. Can you understand this?

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mikenz66
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by mikenz66 »

I find recalling this cartoon useful when approaching difficult situations. I'm not sure that the choice of terminology (empathy/sympathy) is quite what I'd use, but certainly the message of connecting rather than making statements that are disconnecting is helpful.

https://www.teachthought.com/learning/d ... -sympathy/

As I said, I have real difficult following such advice, but when I do, it seems to work, so I'm trying to follow it... It's difficult, because when someone else is suffering it's difficult for me to bear. So I do often rush into trying to "solve" it to make me feel better.

:heart:
Mike
Last edited by mikenz66 on Thu Jan 30, 2020 4:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Mkoll
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by Mkoll »

mikenz66 wrote:
Wed Jan 29, 2020 11:36 pm
I'm not so good at this in practice, but I think that it is very important to acknowledge the other person's pain: "It's tough, isn't it? [hug]". Try to get over the feeling of having to do something - to "solve" it. Just "being there", and, in particular, listening, is what people often need in such circumstances.

:heart:
Mike
:goodpost:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

Haniver
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by Haniver »

mikenz66 wrote:
Wed Jan 29, 2020 11:50 pm
I find recalling this cartoon useful when approaching difficult situations. I'm not sure that the choice of terminology (empathy/sympathy) is quite what I'd use, but certainly the message of connecting rather than making statements that are disconnecting is helpful.

https://www.teachthought.com/learning/d ... -sympathy/

As I said, I have real difficult following such advice, but when I do, it seems to work, so I'm trying to follow it... It's difficult, because when someone else is suffering it's difficult for me to bear. So I do often rush into trying to "solve" it to make me feel better.

:heart:
Mike
I'm following your advice. Thank you very much, Mike. :anjali:

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mikenz66
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by mikenz66 »

Haniver wrote:
Thu Jan 30, 2020 10:55 pm
I'm following your advice. Thank you very much, Mike. :anjali:
I hope it works. I certainly don't find it easy! It's tough out there...

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Mike

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retrofuturist
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,

Assuming that the person dying has positive qualities, I find it useful to reframe it as a blessing to have known, to have been able to engage with, to have been able to support that person.... a bit like a platonic version of "it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all".

Not only is this pragmatic, but it also orients the mind away from grief and sorrow, and towards mudita-bhavana... an under-recognised Buddhist practice.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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cappuccino
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by cappuccino »

Haniver wrote:"Don't fight it; acknowledge your experience and let it pass"
Embrace impermanence.

Haniver
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by Haniver »

retrofuturist wrote:
Fri Jan 31, 2020 2:30 am
Greetings,

Assuming that the person dying has positive qualities, I find it useful to reframe it as a blessing to have known, to have been able to engage with, to have been able to support that person.... a bit like a platonic version of "it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all".

Not only is this pragmatic, but it also orients the mind away from grief and sorrow, and towards mudita-bhavana... an under-recognised Buddhist practice.

Metta,
Paul. :)
That's beautiful, Paul. And very useful. Thanks.

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mikenz66
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by mikenz66 »

It is good. And it's also useful advice for interacting with people who are dying. Remind them of the good stuff they did, rather than letting them dwell on regrets. Not in a lecturing way, but a conversational way: "Remember when ... and you helped me out with ...?"
I've heard various people (Buddhist and not) talk about this, but I don't have many specific references. Thanissaro Bhikkhu's talk Bedside Dhamma on this page:
https://www.dhammatalks.org/mp3_index_current.html
may be helpful.

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Mike

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Bundokji
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by Bundokji »

Many good advises. :heart:

Its good to provide comfort and consolation whenever we can, but even this is better done with moderation.

Allowing sorrow to express itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Reminding oneself that even this will pass would allow grief to take its natural course until its time is up.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

nirodh27
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Re: Providing comfort to a grieving non-Buddhist

Post by nirodh27 »

Even if it's late, I want to add this useful source from Thanissaro Bhikku that I found very helpful:

https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Wri ... /Grief.pdf

This is the relevant part of the article, the rest is even more insteresting, but I think it really needs a Buddhist mindset:
The Buddha’s immediate response was to teach him three things to do to manage his grief.
The first was to reflect on the universality of loss. No one anywhere, no matter how powerful, can arrange for what is subject to change notto change, or for what is subject to death not to die. To the extent that there are beings—past, present, and future—change and death happen to all of them. This thought helps take some of the personal sting out of the loss, allowing you to acquiesce to what has happened and not to waste energy in trying to undo what can’t be undone.
The second step the Buddha taught to the king was that as long as he saw thattraditional funeral observances performed a useful function in giving skillful expression to his sense of loss and to his appreciation for the person who was now gone, he should arrange them. The Buddha never advocated that his listeners try to smother their grief with feigned indifference. As long as they felt aneed to express their loss, they should try to do it in a skillful and healing way. Among the observances he mentioned as potentially useful were eulogies, donations, and the recital of wise sayings. If you actually want to help the personwho has passed on, you do good and dedicate the merit to your loved one. To heal the wound in your heart, and to encourage goodness in the people still alive,you show your appreciation for your loved one’s goodness. Weeping and wailing accomplish none of this. They destroy your health, cause distress to thosewho love you, and please those who hate you.
The Buddha mentions this last point as motivation for gathering energy for the third step, which is to remind yourself that there are still good things to accomplish in life, and that for the sake of your true well-being and that of others, you need to get back to the good work that the loss has interrupted.
In practice, point one could also mean to share very gently and softly the pains of your own past losses with the grieving person, this is especially powerful if you can share a similar type of grief (same disease, same age) so that you can establish a true connection. Point two is important, people want to honor dead relatives in the best possible way and should be encouraged to do so and they also love to see them honored and respected. With a friend that was a painter, we have organized a small exhibition of his paintings, the family was very happy to see friends cooperate to remember him well. Another option is to donate or support in any way a beneficial cause dear to the person that passed away.

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