Today, I woke at the beach in Destin. I watched a heavy wind come straight from the south to make the surf angry with the shore. A few days ago, I looked up to the sky and saw Venus hanging bright and low in the early evening; so close it was to a bright crescent moon that the two looked like the design for a pendant that would hang against the skin of a brown-skinned woman. Both of these sights brought the pleasure of beauty mixed with the swirl of pain. In both cases, seeing something very special brought to mind the absence of a person. Don't be mistaken, I will laugh today. I will collect the warmth of the sand on my feet when I walk the shoreline. I will be happy. But, I felt a moment of sadness that brought to mind one of the most powerful challengers to your health--grief. With the deepest pleasure, sometimes will come the intrusion of the memory of people who have left your life forever.
I'd like to offer a tool that has been of help to me and one that has been of help to my healthiest patients. You'll see the tool being offered in today's scripture reading. So, I can't take credit for this tool. It's been used for at least the past 3,000 years. But, maybe I can offer a few ideas about how to make use of the technique.
Everyone suffers loss. As a child, you may lose your favorite toy and (if you're lucky) that may be the extent of your loss. But, every adult will eventually lose a person. This will be the most powerful challenge to mental health for most people.
If you lose your home, lose your job, lose your financial buffer, you still can rebuild, retrain, or recollect. You will suffer but there will be an element of hope. Even in these times you will find this tool useful, but the place you'll see the technique used most often in the scriptures (and the place that I've found to be most helpful to me) is with the loss of a person. Most would give up home, job, finances, even health to keep close and well the few people most precious. Because every person is unique and every relationship is unique, with the loss of people, there comes the heavy dread of forever being without that person. There comes the feeling of forever losing the pleasure of the other's company. This loss cuts more deeply since if the person is an important part of life then most hopes and plans are seasoned with the idea of sharing with the other person. Has you look forward to the savor of every day, you realize that every slice of pizza will be without the garlic of that person's smile, humor, love, and encouragement. No other loss cuts as deeply.
With the deepest relationships the grief reappears sometimes at the happiest times. You do something of which you're proud, you look up to see a special sight, and with the pleasure you feel the loss.
In today's scripture reading, we see how the Jewish people dealt with loss, "And they took his bones and buried them...and fasted 7 days." [1 Samuel 31:13 reads]
There's a time for feasting and a time for fasting. I think grief is a time for fasting. Recent or distant, pain will be tempered and health preserved with fasting. Trying to dull pain with feasting, alcohol, or drugs delays the resolution of grief and leads to decline of health. Many people whom I treat will make progress toward health and then will disappear for a few weeks to months. Reappearing, the reason they give for weight gain is grief; but these people have used feasting as a way to treat grief.
As a boy, a person in my neighborhood committed suicide. I (not knowing what else to do) simply cut the grass for the widow. I'm not sure she ever knew who cut the grass for her. I never charged her, but was paid many times over. When I cut grass, I would pick up trash. When I put the trash in this man's garbage can, on the day after I say his widow weep over the stretcher as he was brought to the ambulance, I found the can full of empty beer cans. I wondered as a boy (and still wonder) if he would have killed himself had he not been drinking. So, as a child I vowed to never drink alcohol when I was sad. Eventually, I decided to not drink alcohol at all. But, as a young man, I never drank any alcohol when I was sad; I'm not sure but I think that rule may have kept me from trouble. The same rule applies to food. I think it's better to preserve feasting for happy times and fast when sad. If you choose to drink alcohol, reserve it for happy times, fast on water or dilute juices when sad.
For a simple guide to fasting, I'd recommend the classic The Miracle of Fasting by Paul Bragg.
"Fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within."--Paracelsus (15th century physician)
Walk 3 miles___________
Eat 5 fruits or vegetables___________
Read 1 Samuel 26-31________________
Virtue: Humility, Love, & Outreach: Do something good for two people per day. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
One virtue is reviewed every day for a week in the Daily Strategies. Then the next week, the next virtue is covered.