overcoming grief

Guest Post – David Miller – http://heart-in-diamond.com/

Overcoming Grief: Steps You Can Take to Forge Your Own Path from Grieving to Healing

Grief can be all-encompassing. In the midst of it, life grinds to a halt. The mental, emotional, and physical energy you used to devote to your daily tasks is now devoted to grieving. When my sister died in a car accident seven years ago, my grief was so demanding that I took an extended leave of absence from work a year after her death, just to deal with the overwhelming loss.

During this time, grief consumed most of each day. As a result, I could only manage to accomplish one or two things a day: Take one phone call, wash a sink-full of dishes, do a load of laundry.  On the worst days, my grief felt like a leaden weight, confining me to my apartment or my bed, where I spent the day missing my sister. Grief was not so much an emotion as much as a full-time job, without the pay and none of the benefits.

Grief does not always fade with time.

The old saying, “Time heals all wounds,” gives too much credit to time. The passing of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years can put space between you and the death of your loved one. But it cannot take away your grief. For many people,  the sense of loss and sadness remains even many years after the death of the beloved friend or family member.

Believing that time alone can bring healing also puts mourners in a difficult position. Immediately after the loss, friends and family are present to cook meals, plan the funeral, take care of logistics, and offer comfort. But, just a few short weeks or months later, the mourner is expected to resume their daily life. Admitting the depth of their continued grief can feel difficult in the face of these expectations. But carrying the burden of grief around indefinitely can also seem like an impossible task. What is the grieving individual to do?

I chose a leave of absence from my job, but only because my performance was so poor I risked losing my job if I continued trying to work while feeling so much emotional pain. Even then, I was unable to look my boss in the eye when I told her about my reasons for taking the leave. And only a few of my friends and family offered support instead of some version of “That loss was so long ago. I’m surprised you haven’t moved on yet.”

Handling grief, therefore, does not mean passively waiting for negative feelings to pass. It means, instead, actively moving toward healing.

Time by itself cannot heal grief, because grief is not something that just happens to us. Instead, as many psychologists point out, grief requires our participation. It is like hiking out of a deep woods, or swimming through the ocean toward the shore. Unless we put in effort, we will be lost in the forest forever, or remain adrift in the water.

What time does offer us is the space we need to work through our grief. Active grieving takes time; it takes patience; it takes an effort. But eventually, active grieving does lead to healing. Of course, each person’s path to healing will be unique. What I needed to do to come to terms with my sister’s death might look different from what you have to do. But what I can guarantee you is that you must DO something.

Starting with a grief counselor, support group, therapist, or psychologist can help you to identify which actions you need to take to gain power over grief.

For me, healing only began when I contacted a grief counselor. This person became a light in the darkness of my grief, because she showed me how to start actively grieving. Friends and family can sometimes offer a listening ear and encouragement on your journey through grief. But often, it takes a more objective perspective and more experienced guidance to help you figure out exactly how you need to grieve. Plus, because everyone’s grief journey is different, having somebody to help you think through your own needs, goals, and desires as a mourner can help you to pinpoint the unique actions you should take to move through your grief.

Engaging in self-care can help you to find the emotional, physical, and mental strength you need to grieve.

Grief can make it hard to take care of yourself. You might not feel like you have the energy to take a walk, or you might feel guilty for spending an evening playing board games with your friends. But, taking care of yourself is one of the ways you gain the strength to move through your grief. By creating times when you can do something you find comforting or enjoyable, you create times when you restore and refresh yourself.

When I was grieving the loss of my sister, I found that reading just a few pages in one of my favorite novels each day left me feeling refreshed. A few moments away from the reality of my loss gave me strength to face it head on when I closed the book. Your self-care might look different, but hopefully you can find ways to get the same result: Greater power to deal with your loss.

Memorials allow you to remember your loved one without being tied down by your grief.

We want to remember our loved one, and it might feel like we are forgetting them if we start to heal from our grief. But, building a memorial to them can help us to remember them and move forward with our lives. Some people find comfort in grave-sites and urns. Others find comfort in creating a diamond from ashes. Still others choose instead to scatter ashes, create photo albums, or engage in other activities that help them remember their loved one.

Regardless of the specific memorial you choose, the key is to select those things that give you peace when you think of them. By doing so, you allow yourself a place to remember your loved one, and knowing that space is there can help you to move on with your life.

Ultimately, actively grieving can incorporate innumerable approaches, from writing letters to your loved one to doing things they once enjoyed in their honor. But in order to successfully gain power over grief, you must confront it head on, talk to those who can help you identify the unique ways you can move through your grief, take care of yourself, and find meaningful ways to remember and memorialize your loved one. And, eventually, steady, gentle work will yield a grief that is manageable, that allows you to move on with your life, and that allows you to remember your loved one in exactly the ways that you wish.

 

Guest Post – David Miller e-mial <davidmiller@heart-in-diamond.com> http://heart-in-diamond.com