Healing after a loss…..
I am a survivor, I have been living with bereavement for the last 10 years, I have buried Helen my infant daughter, Amy-Hampton my beloved sister, and Nana my amazing mother. This was a grief journey no one expected, especially me. I was supposed to be a loving wife, mother, and businesswoman. I now walk every day as a loss survivor and mental health advocate.
Grief is sticky and extremely uncomfortable and creates a wave of fog and confusion. This place of bereavement is best described as a sticky mud puddle on a very wet and cold winter day. Moving through this puddle is the only way to process the unimaginable loss of life and dreams. While grief is easier when in the community it is a private experience that cannot be shared or transferred to anyone around you. Your grief journey is a private story of the person you loved, the relationship with them, and your journey to the other side.
How do we move through the mud…Resilient Grieving by Lucy Hone, Ph.D. describes four steps to finding strength and embracing life?
- Progressing towards acceptance
- Recovery and defining the new normal
- Reappraisal seeking hope
- Renewal of self, life and finding joy
These steps are not linear but rather complicated, sporadic, and in constant motion. A bereaved mother once described life after loss as “life in a washing machine”. Grief work takes time and can be done in the privacy of your heart. American culture has shifted over the past years to remove the pain of loss from the workplace and force us to turn inward for healing. Grief work can include a supportive partner, friend, spiritual advisor, or pet. Grief work requires adequate sleep, water, and nutrition. Lastly, the bereavement process can continue to move as you learn coping strategies for managing the brain fog. Do not forget the weight of the unexpected memories and longing that hit unexpectedly, leaving you paralyzed. As Dave and I learned to navigate life after Helen’s death several tools were a must before leaving the house.
- Decide on a plan, set a time for the activity
- Listen with a compassionate mind
- Honor our grief journey
- Have an exit strategy
What can you do to feel better? Take an inventory of what you would like to be different. Journaling and writing down your intentions can help get the ideas out of your head and allow more space for grieving. Make a plan, seek a resource, find a therapist, or develop a strategy to get out of the mud. Setting goals based on your intentions can hold us accountable for recognizing how we have changed and helps us see where we want to go. Build a new routine that includes reflection, action, and embrace the memory of your loved one. Writing to Helen after she died helped me parent her and continue my relationship allowing me to create memories and tell my story.
Sherokee Ilse taught me to “Maximize my memories and minimize my regrets”. This mantra applies to any bereaved individual as we seek to remember a loved one and create a new identity for the relationship we have lost.
by Lucy Hone PhD and Karen Reivich PhD