Growing Through Grief – You Can Make It!

WOW! I don’t think I ever recall so many natural disasters occurring within such a short span of time – ever. Earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes are affecting so many people’s lives. A client reminded me of an article I had written several years back in response to a particularly tough period in my life. I, like countless others, have experienced grief and loss. None of us are exempt so I took my experiences and wrote down some things to do with them, kind of like “When life gives you lemons…”. I have decided to reprint this piece in hopes that some of my processes might benefit others.

A few weeks back, I had occasion to be really stopped in my tracks by one of life’s more extreme forms of heartache – loss. I have had it happen before, that some event just knocks me to my knees and left uttering the eternal question, why? We all experience these times. It’s part of the human condition. Loss is the cost of living if you are doing it well.  Even psychics have to experience some shockers, as strange as that seems. We are tried like everyone else and given the opportunity to grow through adversity. Perhaps it’s because empathy is an acquired skill and we in the healing arts must know pain, as deep as it gets, in order to truly help others.

Loss comes in many guises, like a thief in the night, robbing us of our sense of security and justice in the world. Be the loss emotional, financial, or physical, one is never truly prepared but there are some things that I can suggest to help to facilitate the way to strength and wholeness again.  I call it “Growing Through Grief” and it’s a series of actions that assists in turning loss into a positive and meaningful evolutionary process that you will come to appreciate as vital to true spiritual development. Inspired by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler – Ross’s monumental work “The Five Stages Of Grief”, widely accepted model of emotional and psychological responses that many people experience when faced with a life-changing situation, I have created a few suggested ways to get from A to Z after any event rocks your world.  You can take one step or all and pop it into your life skill toolbox. If we are lucky enough to stay here in our beautiful existence, each of us will be touched in our sore spots and know the pain inherent in life on earth, a pain that takes away with one hand but gives back much in return if we move through it and transcend. So here they are…

1. DON’T PANIC! -Take a couple of deep breaths. The first response to loss is shock, so expect to feel pretty screwed up at the start. Life has turned the tables on you and that never feels nice. You may feel sleepless…at the very least you’ll have restlessness and discontent. On the other hand, you may just want to sleep all the time to escape and that’s ok too. Be really kind to yourself now because you have been dealt a blow. Drink some chamomile tea and take some aspirins and just stare at the heavens in disbelief. I call this first stage “WTF!”. You will be asking yourself all kinds of questions to try to make sense out of what feels senseless. This is the prelude to a time of tears.  The amount of time that you spend on this step, and those to come, is entirely dependent on the nature of the loss. Some take days, some years but hang in there because this stage, and again those to come, will pass into the next and you’ll be one step closer to breaking through to the other side.

2. CRY, CRY AND CRY SOME MORE – According to William H. Frey, a biochemist at the University of Minnesota, crying gets rid of the stress hormones and that makes us feel better.  The sage advice to “go and have a good cry” does have its basis in fact. I have always felt worlds better after a good wailing cry. It is the body’s release mechanism and we should just let it work to cleanse us. I have walked around on the brink of tears for ages. I was always ready to shed tears at a moment’s notice because of loss. Tears are loss’s language so open up and gush. Cry it out as often as is necessary…till the well runs dry. This purging activity can go on for years and be the only lingering symptom of loss, tears because sometimes the heart just cries out. You are being gently led to the next stage which is verbal.

3. TALK IT OUT –  This is when your friends are most welcome. Once through steps one and two, you are more inclined to open up and reach out to tell your story. Most often this will be in the search for validation and understanding, “Did this really happen to me and why?”. At this juncture we may be talking in circles, repeating the same words again and again as we try to connect the dots of our heartache. It is of utmost importance that we speak with others at this time. If we don’t have a ready audience of support then seek out support groups. It is the bridge that will help carry you to happiness again. It also helps us to know that we are never truly alone.

4. WRITE IT OUT – Many of my audience know that I prize writing as the number one way to get to know oneself. It helps to bring control of an experience back into your hands. It is also a great tool to mine the rich fields of life’s lessons and puts you in touch with exactly what you need to learn. In the loss, I recommend writing letters to all involved. These letters will never be sent so you can vent all of your feelings. Write letters that are a combination of blame and forgiveness, always ending with forgiveness. Write down your feeling good and bad, pretty and ugly. Writing it out, like the previous two steps, is an act of catharsis that assists you in working through loss.

5. GETTING ON – I have never liked the term “Getting Over” when applied to loss. In my experience we never really get over losses, each one becomes part of our personal story. I do very much believe in getting on with one’s life. After the necessary steps of grief, it is important to stake your claim back in the world of the living. Even if you find yourself not wanting to do a thing, make an attempt to get back to things that you once enjoyed. There is an old saying about getting back on your bicycle after you have fallen off. Loss feels like falling off your bicycle multiplied by however deep the loss. You will be able to pick yourself up and start living again no matter how impossible it seems at first.

By the time we have reached adulthood most of us will have experienced a loss of some kind. If you are reading this, you have come out the other end of, at least, one of life’s disappointments. Time is a terrifically in helping to feel better and more normal again. With each passing day, you will begin to feel that life is becoming manageable again. Even if only a minute at a time, it is essential to acknowledge the time that you do feel better because this will help you to recognize it again. Moments begin to add up and then before you know it, you have triumphed over the consequences of loss.