Google Definition of Sanctuary- sanc·tu·ar·y
1.a place of refuge or safety.
“people automatically sought a sanctuary in time of trouble”
synonyms: refuge, haven, harbor, port in a storm, oasis, shelter, retreat, hideaway, hideout
2.a nature reserve.
“a bird sanctuary” synonyms: reserve, park, reservation, preserve
Tenet #2 of Grief Anonymous is about finding or creating a sanctuary for healing. This tenet’s importance is to be understood on many different levels but here is what needs to be explained first in order to get started.
One aspect of a sanctuary is the definition itself. “A place of refuge or safety” is the first definition. I needed this badly when my husband first passed away. We were living in a foreign country that I loved but I was also twelve hours away from any of my own family members. My home became my sanctuary. And I dedicated a room to healing. A place to put all my special things in my life that reminded me of what was important to me. It included things of my husbands, art pieces my son made for me when he was little, books and beautiful elemental stones, scented candles and turkish lights that when lit up caste a vibrant spray of color all around. I needed this place to connect to the core of me and my experience, and a place to connect with my Higher Power, God. What this power is for you is for you to say. But for me it is God.
I think the problem with our mindset to grief is we think staying home is bad. We attribute our long hours in our homes to becoming reclusive and wrong. I have something to say about that. The Native American peoples of this land learned to understand the nature of animals and they applied that knowledge to their understanding of healing, spirituality, and natural instinct for survival. They studied the animals so that we may learn from them. When we are feeling the need to stay home all we have to look to is the instinctual habits of those animals that hibernate. Maybe instead of becoming reclusive and stigmatizing ourselves we need to embrace this time as a time or period of hibernation. Of recuperation. Of surrounding ourselves with those things that bring us peace and comfort~ a place of refuge or safety. We have been tested and tried and stretched beyond our limits with this new emotion of grief and we need to understand it. And creating and accepting a sanctuary in our lives turns this whole process into what it should mean and washes away the negative.
As in all things~ too much is not a good thing. Allowing yourself to feel comfort in this and heal from it will give you what you need in the timing specific to you. You set the season. You set the pace. Go cuddle up in your husband’s shirt or with your child’s favorite stuffed animal and stay there and breathe. Smell them. You are not crazy. You are not strange for wanting these sentimental gifts and belongings around you. You are right to reach for them for as long as you need them.
Lastly~ when you are ready, the second definition of sanctuary will allow you to approach you waking to the world differently too once you emerge from your hibernation and look up and out to what is new and different around you in the outside world. Because grief stops time for us and everyone keeps moving on with their lives it will take you some time to catch up. In doing so, allow yourself then to find a natural reserve or park or path or forest or simple trail through your neighborhood. Connect with the elementals in nature. Breathe the air like a newly emerging person who is getting to experience life anew. And draw from that Source from Tenet #1 to help you with this transition. Go forth, yet stay connected. It really is going to be okay.