Raymond Moody on Grief

Grief, says Dr. Raymond Moody, is a blending of multiple feelings and emotions. “It’s not an illness,” he says. “It’s a normal spiritual experience that is felt in the case of loss, the process of coming to terms with the death of a loved one.”

When his first child died just 36 hours after birth, Moody understood that grief is not only mental and spiritual but it has physical effects as well. It can affect the body’s digestion, can even mimic the symptoms shown by the loved one who has passed away. Acute grieving — rather than slipping away, when death is sudden and unanticipated — leaves a feeling of shock and numbness.

The most common reaction is tearfulness or sadness, Moody, a regular speaker at Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas says, although sometimes the reaction is anger, and people are often baffled about why they’re angry. Sometimes there’s guilt, because we might, even when we love someone, have hated them.

There can also be denial, especially in the case of a sudden death. “What you explain in that case is that while analytical levels of the mind understand what is going on, on the deep level of mind, we cannot separate death from abandonment. In the case of denial, crying breaks the spell.”

Another, more unusual grief reaction and all the more poignant, is forgetting that your loved one is dead. “Some people never do get over grief,” he says. “People will tell you that after someone dies they’re looking for their lost loved one knowing full well that they’re dead. Or they might unconsciously take on characteristics of the deceased.”

Unfortunately, Americans are much less tolerant of unusual manifestations of grief, Moody says. And what helps grief most? “Crying is the most important thing to do, and women do that better, they talk and cry. Worry most about those who keep it to themselves.”

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