Updated: Apr 19
Welcome back to our series on REST. So far, we have covered physical, mental, and emotional rest. We've discovered that a deficit in any area affects our overall well-being. Therefore, we may need multiple types of rest to replenish ourselves.
We would love to hear what suggestions you have found most helpful. Have you discovered an area of deficit that has surprised you?
As we continue the conversation today, we will touch on the fourth type—SPIRITUAL REST.
By definition, to be "spiritual" involves the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than yourself, something more to being human than sensory experience, and that the greater whole of which we are part is cosmic or divine in nature.
We often hear that we need to attend to the body, mind, and spirit to be WHOLE. Research supports a strong connection between the body, mind, and spirit and how they work together to keep us "in sync."
And just like we do things to take care of our physical body and our mental state, it's crucial to attend to our spiritual health.
But what does it mean to be "spiritually healthy?"
"Spiritual health is the capacity and ability of people to seek, experience, and express meaning and purpose in their lives often through love, hope, gratitude, forgiveness, peace, and community to enjoy a sense of the Sacred (as they understand it). Spiritual health provides the sense that life is meaningful, has a purpose, and is defined by the ethics, values, and morals that guide us and give meaning and direction to life." Trinity Health
According to Dr. Saundra Smith, if we struggle with a sense of purpose, have trouble finding meaning, or have experienced a life wound that has left us broken, we require spiritual repair and rest.
As parents of children with "different" needs, we have almost all been affected by the loss, disconnection, or emotional pain of raising our children. This leaves us with aching hearts and wounded spirits that change how we interact with the world.
In our work with parents, we often see this loss and emotional pain (life wound) show up as unresolved GRIEF.
People generally assume GRIEF has to do with death or losing someone we love, but grief is broader and more complex. According to Sarah Epstein LMFT, grief is triggered by the loss of identity (a lost role or affiliation), loss of safety (physical, emotional, or mental well-being), the loss of autonomy (the lost ability to manage one's own life and affairs), and loss of dreams and expectations (dealing with hopes and dreams going unfulfilled).
When we have children who are "uniquely wired," we are all too familiar with the last category—the loss of dreams and expectations. Our vision of motherhood shatters as our dreams for our kids and family vanish. This leaves us mourning for "what could have been."
The pain we experience as parents is REAL, and it needs our attention. We notice parents dismissing their feelings of loss because others have it much worse or feel guilty for "complaining" because their lives are good in every other way.
GRIEF is not complaining. GRIEF is wishing something were different, better, or more. It's acknowledging that life is not as we imagined and that it is perfectly okay to feel sadness, anger, regret, or loneliness.
Sometimes we can feel that life is unfair, and the hand we've been dealt is too much to bear.
We feel like a failure, lose our way, and question everything we thought we knew about raising our children.
Other times we experience deep sorrow because we realize the "dreams" we envisioned, the hopes we carried in our hearts will never be.
All of these are signs that we are grieving. If we ignore our GRIEF, we will stay stuck and struggle to find spiritual rest.
How do you know if you're "STUCK?"
Are you withdrawing from family and friends?
Do you hyper-focus on the "loss" and cannot see possible ways to move forward?
Have you distracted yourself with excessive exercise?
Have you increased the use of alcohol, food, drugs, or cigarettes?
Have you experienced the inability to function in everyday activities-work, socializing, or hobbies
Are you lacking confidence-feeling inadequate?
If you find your grief debilitating, please seek guidance from a mental health professional.
What can you do about it?
Surprisingly, we often avoid the one thing we need to experience Spiritual Rest. We avoid feeling the pain, working through the complex emotions, and processing enough to be at peace.
Sometimes we let the pain become the enemy instead of the GUIDE that will lead us over the bridge to healing.
Consider the following suggestions to help you on your journey:
Be Okay with not being Okay. Self-acceptance for who we are and what we are experiencing is pivotal to achieving spiritual rest. One way to do this is by reflecting on your loss and then validating your experience—not having to explain it, justify it, or make it go away—just acknowledging what you are going through without judgment.
Allow yourself the time and space to feel the pain and sorrow. Once you've acknowledged the pain, it's time to give your spirit time to process. Some people turn to journaling, others to meditation, others to prayer. Do whatever helps you process and release the emotions you are experiencing.
And lastly, offer yourself compassion and understanding. We are so good at caring for others, comforting others, and showing kindness to others—do you offer yourself the same care and compassion? Your spirit hungers for it. We love the work of Dr. Kristin Neff, the self-compassion guru. If you struggle with the concept or the practice of self-compassion, Dr. Neff offers several free exercises as well as a self-compassion test you can further explore here:
Spirituality is such a vast topic, one we could spend weeks writing about. For today, we would like you to examine and consider if there may be unresolved grief holding you back from experiencing spiritual rest.
It can feel overwhelming at first, so we encourage you to start slowly—it is painful to ask the question: What do I wish was different, better, or more? Give yourself time and space to process and try one of the strategies mentioned above.
If you have any questions or thoughts about spiritual rest, don't hesitate to reach out to us or comment below. We would love to hear from you.
We want you to find the rest your spirit longs for!
Vicky & Coco
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