In no particular order:
“You don’t get over it; it changes. It gets different.”
You’ve heard the expression “time heals all wounds”? I despise that expression! Time changes the wounds, but there is usually a nasty scar left in its wake. There are always reminders and memories and moments when the grief feels fresh…no matter how much time has passed. However, it does get different, less intense, less acutely painful over time.
“There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is only your way.”
We are all unique individuals (thank goodness!) – with unique personalities and backgrounds and influences. You grieve the way that is most natural, most comfortable for you. Now, that said, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to grieve. As a counselor, it’s my job to identify any red flags and help you navigate through them.
“It’s all a mind game. You can’t control your feelings, but you can control your response to them and your thoughts.”
Your feelings are what they are. They sometimes come out of nowhere, with no apparent trigger or thought. That’s absolutely natural and it can leave us feeling powerless over them, but you do have the power to control how you respond to them and how you think about them — or anything else for that matter. Look up cognitive-behavioral therapy. It explains the connection between our feelings, actions and thoughts. I use this theory often to help my clients gain some control over their thoughts during the grieving process.
“Doing well with your grief means becoming well acquainted with your pain” – Dr. Alan Wolfelt
This man is – BY FAR – my favorite bereavement person. I highly recommend his books. So often in grief, we want to avoid the pain, run from it, keep so busy we don’t have time to feel. He says to lean into the feelings, become acquainted with them, give yourself the time to really feel them.
“When the feelings surface, label them. Name them. Learn to recognize what happens to your body as you feel that feeling. Then marinate in it for however long it takes.”
There are studies that show that by simply labeling an emotion, it diffuses it. So notice exactly what your body is doing in that emotional moment, then label it. Anger? Jealousy? Yearning? Then marinate. I use that word often. To me this means to just let it seep into you, let it go in and out of every fiber of your being. As Dr. Wolfelt says, become acquainted with it.
“It’s often up to the griever to tell those around them what they need. Be specific.”
When we lose someone close, we expect certain people in our life to ‘be there’, to know what to say and what to do. So often, those very people disappoint us. There are countless reasons why this is, but suffice it to say that it stinks. It helps to identify one person with whom you can be open and honest and emotional – whenever and wherever you need them.
“You’re not crazy.”
Oh, if only I had a nickel for every time I said this! It is not crazy to kick the garbage can, cry and swear while dragging it to the curb because this was his job and he left you to do it. It’s not crazy to wake up for the first few months and forget that she’s not beside you in bed. It’s not crazy for months and months and months to think that when the phone rings, it could be your mom. It’s not crazy to dread Tuesdays because he died on a Tuesday. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask 🙂
“Grief does not happen in stages; it is messy and chaotic and painful and surprising.”
Everyone who has ever grieved knows this. There is no rhyme or reason. No neat stages. Some days/hours/moments are intense and some days/hours/moments are less intense.
“Grief is a full body experience: body, mind and soul.”
We are physically, emotionally and spiritually effected by our loss. Every fiber of our being is transformed, at least for a time. We are in flux, changing, becoming different – not better or worse – different. It is not possible to experience a significant loss and be the same. And that’s okay.
“You will get through this. It won’t always feel that way, but you will.”
So often the pain of the grief can be overwhelming and it feels like this is how you will feel the rest of your life. Sometimes it feels like you don’t have the strength to take another breath, let alone make it through another day. This is where your support system comes in. Lean on the people you’ve identified to help you through those moments when it’s too painful to walk alone. Whether that support system is made up of friends, family, co-workers or a professional counselor, lean on them. And keep reminding yourself that
it won’t always feel this way…
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2014 Translating Grief, LLC, Lisa B. Wolfe, LMSW