The Grieving Process and the Alexander Technique

by Joan Diamond

Over time with the Alexander Technique, we come to live with a constant awareness of our backs, then of our spines, and finally of what is essentially ourselves; it is a kind of observation which enables us to see what is essentially us and what is passing through us. Grief is a process that passes though us. This is something I have learned through study, observation and personal experience. It has been helpful to my students and may be helpful to you.

In Britain we live in a culture that deals with grief by repressing it: ‘shut up and get on with it’. The trouble with this system is that it often results in illness, such as IBS (misery guts) and heart trouble (broken hearts).

In other cultures, grieving is allowed and a grieving person is given instruction on how to live with the process of grief.

The first image is one of a tree that has suddenly lost a limb. It takes time for that cut to seal over, for our nervous systems to learn new paths. Like the tree, we need need to absorb the shock and then to find new ways of growing and living. Two years is considered about right. One year to get through the shock in each season, to survive, and another year to learn how to live differently in each season. And often more time is needed.

Grief needs to be allowed to come through, in its own rhythm, in its own time, just like waves of the ocean; it will comes as and when it comes. In the early months, you are often advised to lie down and let the wave of grief pass through you, or over you. During the lying down, after a while, you will begin to notice what is essentially you and what is passing over you. And these waves of grief hold swirls that are intense moments of shared being, emotive memories, that break through with their own strong rhythm like breaking surf; and they pass in their own time. The skill here is to let them pass though. To allow grief. Again and again it is important to notice that what remains after the crash is essentially you. You are still there. You did not drown. You were not obliterated by grief.
While the early stages go on, it is often advised to eat simple, easily digested foods, like porridge and soups.

In the first year it often helps to mark each third month, each quarter, each season of grief, and to see in this slow procession, how you are leaving it gradually behind you.

There may well be moments of remorse, and if they too are allowed and even spoken through, it can often seem as if the one you lost is beside you as a listening, understanding and forgiving presence. A kind of intelligence passes between you, like an invisible bridge of understanding.

You are in a sense communing; that bridge will come more and more easily, you are starting to meet differently, essense to essence, intelligence to intelligence, slowly over months and years you are learning a different way of being together. In thoughtful communion.

Into your quiet moments come islands of peace and communion that would never have been there if you had not let grief through and given it time.