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  • Sand Story: Grief and Loss

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    Grief is an excruciating pain. The loss of a loved one and emotions it conjures up has been humanity’s greatest puzzle unresolved. Cultures from ancient times to the  present create and re-create rituals to ease and integrate the world of the living and the dead. 

    Scientists in the modern world race with the ticking of the clock in the illusion that by finding technologies that can help you live forever (or longer); the gripping pain of grief would loosen its hold on humanity.

    Humans are wired to move towards pleasure and away from pain, And, fortunately there is nothing more rewarding to our brains and bodies but the close connection you have with another human being. It’s not just for the sake of this cozy feeling called love, but from a neurobiological perspective that connection allows your body to be in parasympathetic mode (relax state), allowing your digestive and respiratory system to work properly. 

    If you’re in a state of stress, your body will do its job by curbing its natural function  so that you will have enough reserve for your actual/perceived stress. If you’re disconnected with others and pervasively lonely, you might still be able to find some solace in your personal space, but your body doesn’t get the multivitamins and connection supplement it needs and can easily be susceptible to stress and diseases

    In exchange for connection, you build memories, and enrich the life of others, as they, with you.

    Of course, no relationship is perfect but your continuous pursuit of reconnecting with others is what makes you human. In this same token, losing someone you love creates a hole in your heart. Remembering fond memories form a curved smile on your lips while a pool of tears collects in your eyes all in the same breath. 

    You have loved. 

    Grief, indeed, is love persevering.



    Most of the time the grieving finds a way to modify  life without their loved one. Imagine potting new plants, adding borders and flower beds to a garden while noticing an empty space somewhere in the garden. 

    Grief is not something to get over with,  for the invisible string that connects you and your loved one remains alive. The garden can both be beautiful and enriched, and with an empty space.

    grief and love

    Trauma and grief are different although it’s possible that they can co-exists. You might have a traumatic experience based on how your loved one died, for example, or you have unresolved trauma in the past that stifles your ability to process your grief. In this article, I will focus mainly on grief separate from trauma.

    Trauma is usually something you have to transform, move or process. Grief is about processing emotions but there is more stillness (acceptance) in the process. Trauma may be moving your garden to a new location or changing all your plants altogether. Grief is the same garden but adding life to it while an empty space remains.

    In this podcast, I shared a story of Snail and Ant, a story of Friendship & Grief. 



    In a previous article, How Not To Grieve: The Lost Art of Mourning, I gave some pointers on how to grieve, which ironically, there is no right way. Your love expression is unique and the way you grieve someone you lost is as unique as a snowflake. Every snowflake has six sides but no one design is the same as the other.  Meaning, grief is a universal phenomenon, but how you’re designed to process it, is completely yours. Read the article, How Not to Grieve: Lost Art of Mourning here.

    In addition to the article above, here are some more practical ways to support the grieving:

    • Be with them physically. There is no substitute for this.
    • In the beginning, call them regularly at a particular time of the day (morning, evening). When losing someone close to you, you also lose your routine with them. To support the grieving, create a simple routine with them. Even a morning text is a good start.
    • Encourage them to move. Schedule a walking phone call or if you live close by, walk with them.
    • Encourage them to notice something different in their life. Ask: what is the better (best) part of your day?
    • Allow them to tell their story over and over again. Ask questions even when you know the answer. Communicate interest and empathy.

    If you prefer to listen, there is a podcast episode related to the article of How Not to Grieve: Lost Art of Mourning, listen to the Pinoy Love Language Podcast #28:  Grief: the Story of Ant and Snail.


    Many cultures hold rituals and traditions that allow for communal grieving. In America, there seems to be a less ritualized process to integrate the living with the dead. The next day of the funeral, people are expected to behave business as usual, and we do, while our hearts continue to grapple with the grief we cannot sit with.

    So, you are in grief for many years rather than simply allowing yourself to grieve.

    When our family lost someone we dearly love, it was instinct for me to use my sand tray to allow both children and adults to express their grief. 

    Sand tray is a tray filled with sand where you place miniatures as symbolism to what can’t be expressed wholly in words. It allows you to ritualize a loss, complete an incomplete interaction with a loved one lost,  or to capture a memory in the sand. It’s  dynamic because pieces can be moved or removed. 

    Here are some photos of our family’s Sand Tray Story during a time of grief.

    Sand Tray for Grief

    This is our family’s sand tray story during our time of grief. The Story can change everyday or not depending on what each family members decide to add or remove from the tray.


    Sand Tray Story for grief and loss allows you to create or recreate your garden (life). You will receive an emailed copy of all your sand tray stories. Sand Tray Story is therapeutic, but I don’t consider it as therapy due to its come and go nature.  It usually takes 1-3 sessions depending on you. If you’re interested in scheduling a consultation to see if this is a good fit for you, click here.


    Grief is love persevering beyond this time and place. The heart-wrenching feelings of loss can keep you awake at night, and yet a romantic love budding for the first time can also give you this similar feeling. The invisible string that ties love and grief cannot be denied.

    The process of grief is not about forgetting but in remembering. 

    It’s not about moving past it but moving with it.

    In the pursuit for a life of connection, allow yourself the experience of grief. It’s what makes you human and your experience incredibly enriching.

    If you or a loved one needs support in their grief, or, in particular, want to create a Sand Tray Story, schedule a complimentary consult here.


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