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Bereavement and Learning

For many people, life is made more meaningful and enjoyable by learning. They always seem to have their noses stuck in a book and spend hours watching documentaries. The world around them fascinates them and they seem to spend all their time trying to understand both it and the reasons why they behave as they do.

For someone with an inquisitive nature, bereavement can be a time of intense learning. Consider this wonderful quotation from The Once and Future King, by T.H. White:

“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

Your bereavement offers you many opportunities to learn about yourself and from those around you. It's almost like a school course – one where you are the only student and classes are held 24/7. This analogy seems to work for many. When they see the grieving process as a learning experience, they start looking for the lessons hidden within the feelings and experiences, and it benefits them greatly.

Todd Kashdan, of George Mason University found that "people who exhibit high levels of curiosity experience higher levels of satisfaction with life, and find a greater sense of meaning in life - leading to sustainable, lasting happiness."

If you're not a curious person at heart, you can still cultivate a sense of curious fascination in the following ways:

  • Reframe common situations and experiences. Look for intriguing characteristics in the people around you and your environment. Always look within for those emotional details that define the experience.
  • Don't let fear stop you. The inquiring mind asks tough questions and when ready tries new things. When you're ready, don't shy away from engaging in the world around you.
  • Bring forth your passionate interests. If you love needlepoint, take on a project which requires you to learn a new stitch. Whatever you enjoyed doing before the death of your loved one, bring it back into your life. This allows you to be in the flow, which calls up feelings of well-being.
  • Relentlessly ask questions. If you're feeling extra sad one day, don't fail to ask why. Whether you're out in the wider world or simply sitting at home, always remember, who, why, when, when, where, and how are your best friends right now.

In keeping with the spirit of self-development, do your best to honestly answer this question: What have you learned today? Reflect on your new discoveries in your journal writing.