The sanctuary is the nurturing womb where you are cradled as you grieve. Here you have the opportunity to work with the intense forces and emotions that have been aroused in grief. The first step is to find and establish a sanctuary; whether it is in your home or in nature, it must be a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. You may want to set up an altar where you can place pictures of your parent, special objects, candles or flowers. What you choose will change over time.
After you have prepared your sanctuary, set aside a period of time each day to be there. Like many of my clients, you may initially feel some resistance to sitting in your sanctuary every day. It is difficult with all the stresses and demands of daily life to set that time aside. However, this is a critical step. Start with ten minutes if you need it, and build from there as you experience the benefits for yourself.
This is a special time, devoted to your grief. It is important that you not be interrupted or pulled away. Put on the answering machine or take the phone off the hook; put a note on the door. Protected from outside disturbances, you are now ready to open to the experience of your grief.
At first you may dread the time alone, for this is often a frightening experience during grief. The death of a parent does make us feel excruciatingly alone in the world. If even for small periods you can open to the experience of the aloneness, entering into its very heart, you will find in the dark space of that inexhaustible void a way back to a source of life from within. It is at this source that you come upon the resources to move through the passage of grief and ultimately to transform the experience into a healing.
—From Losing a Parent
Sit quietly in your sanctuary bringing your full attention to your grief. Take a few minutes to reflect on your parent who is dying or has died, acknowledging this loss. Feel where the grief is residing in your body right now. Note how it surfaces in your thoughts and feelings. Grief changes from month to month, from week to week, from day to day, even from moment to moment. Give it your full attention. Don't assume that what you felt yesterday is what you are feeling today. Be present with your grief as it is right now without judging, without criticizing, without trying to change anything. If feelings surface, let them flow. Trust them as they present themselves. Don't push them back, don't push them away. It's safe here in your sanctuary. If you are feeling numb, you may at first feel that nothing is going on but if you look closer you may discover that even numbness involves a complicated set of sensations and experiences . So don't judge yourself for feeling numb. Explore the feeling.
Give yourself permission to cry, express anger, be crazy or quiet, to feel a lot or to feel numb. This is your protected sanctuary where you can fully acknowledge the loss of your loved one. Your loved one is dying or has died. Your world has changed both within and without. Cradle yourself in your grief. You need your love, your protection. So be gentle with yourself and take your time. Let yourself be however you are in this moment.