“Beginner’s Mind” & Grief

Before sitting down to write, I googled “Beginner’s Mind in Writing”, and there were several sites that came up, including not surprisingly Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”.  I have it on my shelf, among other books about writing.  

Continuing on the theme of “Beginner’s Mind”, I searched for other areas of interest that this Zen concept has been applied to:  

Sports – https://keepitsimplegolf.com/2020/05/01/a-beginners-mind/ 

Music – https://www.beginnersmindmusic.com 

Yoga – https://yogalondon.net/monkey/using-beginners-mind/ 

Cooking – https://www.spiritualityhealth.com/articles/2018/04/23/the-beginners-mind-of-a-master-cook   

Sex – https://sexandrelationshiphealing.com/blog/the-beginners-mind-an-essential-tool-for-recovery/ , https://www.meetmindful.com/using-beginners-mind-to-keep-your-sex-life-fresh/ 

Grief – https://omh.ny.gov/omhweb/grief/griefcounselingresourceguide.pdf 

The last one on grief only brought up one link that addresses grief with a “Beginner’s Mind” applied.  It was written in 2004, and it is a resource guide on grief counseling.  The reference to “Beginner’s Mind” was only in the first paragraph.

Defining “Beginner’s Mind”, the Zen Master, Shunryu Suzuki.  wrote,

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.

As it applies to grief, the handbook says,

As bereavement workers we must meet the grieving without expectations about what should happen or what they should be feeling. There are no experts in this work.

– AUTHORS: Susan Wheeler-Roy, Ed.D. & Bernard A. Amyot, M.S., M.A.

I’m still stifled by these words.  My thoughts, emotions, my entire being still freezes when I think of my own grief.  I like that… “my own grief”.  I’m owning it.  I’m not passing it on to anyone else.

Today, someone reached out to a friend asking for my contact information as this person had just recently found out about my husband’s (Bruno Herve Commereuc) death that happened more than three years ago.  It’ll be four years in January 2022.  I imagine how horribly sad and shocking it must be for this person to have just found out. She has pictures of her baby in Bruno’s restaurant, “Angelique Cafe”. Her baby is now a 25-year old man. Bruno had many lifelong friends. He was that kind of a man who was unforgettable and took a big bite out of life. He lived big. He was bigger than life.

They’re now beginning their process of bereavement.  I put myself in their shoes, but it’s not the same.  It’ll never be the same between any two people who knew the same person.  And then there’s this space of time between then and now.  

The five stages of grief, as identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, are: 

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Maybe the normal (if there is a “normal”) flow is from 1 to 5, but my experience is it is fluid from one state to another at any given moment, but definitely time is a big factor in processing the loss.  Either time just helps to forget the pain if I don’t want to deal with it (denial), or it just allows me to move along the timeline to be angry, to bargain, to be down and feeling lost, and then after all that, fatigue sets in. I surrender and just accept it.

Then… it could start at anger again, if something pulls me there. But this is when awareness is important. Perhaps having a “Beginner’s Mind” – to be open to possibilities. I have choices. I can choose to be present and just allow the storm to pass and carry on with life again, like everybody else is doing. I’m not the only one who’s suffered. We all suffer. Why hide our imperfections? There are no mistakes, just lessons.

Learn the alchemy

true human beings know.

The moment you accept

what troubles you’ve been given,

the door will open.


I found the information in the resource guide (“a field manual” for bereavement workers), published by the New York State Office of Mental Health to be very good.  Chapter 4 on “Sudden Death Loss Issues” to be quite accurate.  Amongst the identified issues were:

Inability to comprehend– the disbelief of the event does not allow the individual to grasp what has actually happened. There is a searching for “why” and “how” this happened in the initial period following the death-loss event.

The ability to cope is diminished due to the shock of the event and the additional stress that has just been imposed on the individual.  

All true.  I couldn’t cope well with processing information and events.  It was as if I was a new born baby, having to relearn to comprehend.  It was a strange sensation, because I could see myself as the forest, and not in the trees. I witness/ed that I had become incapacitated, and I couldn’t understand how to learn again.  I struggled. I had to regrow neural paths to cope, to survive, to learn to find joy and thrive again.  Talk about “Beginner’s Mind”.

Thank you.  Thank you for trying to seek me out.  I look forward to meeting you and I anticipate I’ll be learning new things about my Bruno.

(Dedicated to a new friend).

4 thoughts on ““Beginner’s Mind” & Grief

  1. Thank you for your powerful writing. As a traveler in grief, impacted or anticipated, this was very meaningful to read.

    1. Hi Cynthia, Thank you for reading and commenting. That year, 2018, I sat next you at the first Geffen event. Someone had shouted out for my name looking for me, but I didn’t want to acknowledge the call, as I just wanted to be a mole. I sat listening to you talk about your art, and that was enough for me. You were so kind just being there.

Leave a Reply