The process of grieving for the loss of a loved one is something that we all go through eventually. My intention in this article is to provide you with some simple psychological and spiritual guidelines and tools from my decades as a Medium providing counseling to others. While there is no shortcut to get through grieving, it’s my sincere hope that you will find something here to make things go a bit easier.
A client came to me a few weeks ago, deeply troubled over the death of her husband of over 30 years. I would say they had a good marriage. He had passed about six months before she came to see me. Through her tears she said, “All my friends are telling me I should be over this by now. They say its time to move on.” This is a statement that I have heard hundreds of time over the years from those who have gone through a similar loss. The statement makes me angry. Really angry. The truth is, there is no magic formula as to when one should be “done” grieving. Every single person is different in this regard. If you are in the throes of grieving, please hear this: It is completely normal and natural. There is no date or time frame by which you should be finished. Take you time. Giving yourself the time to grieve is not only normal, it is healthy and vital. You will know when you are starting to emerge. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve seen people who are unable or unwilling to give themselves this permission. What so often happens is that they deeply bury and suppress their emotions. This can so often lead to major stress and health issues down the road. Grieving has no time limitation. There is also no right or wrong as to how to go about one’s journey.
Two of the best books on the subject are by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross entitled, “On Death and Dying” and “On Grief and Grieving.” It is the result of her groundbreaking work with terminally ill children, AIDS patients and the elderly. She helped thousands of people to come to terms with their own deaths and those of loved ones.
She describes five stages we go through:
1. Denial and Isolation.
During this first stage, in learning either of a terminal diagnosis or the loss of a loved one, people will create a mental and emotional barrier to truly experiencing the reality of the situation. It is an attempt at self-protection.
As the inner defenses of the first stage begin to fade, anger emerges. It can be directed almost anywhere; at the doctor who was unable to keep a loved one alive, at our friends and family, at ourselves and at God for “allowing this to happen.” Its good to remember at this phase that health professionals also grieve over the loss of their patients.
Here people will attempt to set up a “deal” with God in an attempt to postpone or avoid their own or a loved one’s death. It is not uncommon during this phase to judge ourselves harshly for not treating the dying person better. All of these measures are a move to avoid the pain of the situation.
This stage is complicated. We are seeking a way that is appropriate and loving to bid our loved one goodbye. In addition, we often experience overwhelm at the thought of the many things that need to be done, such as bills, handling of financial matters and being there for family and friends.
This phase is very different from that of depression, but on the surface, can sometimes be confused with it. This is the stage where peace has an opportunity to appear and grow. If a loved one has passed quickly or unexpectedly, the survivors might not be able to enter into this cycle until much later. In the case of a person who has been suffering with a long-term illness, they may appear to retreat into themselves. It can be characterized by them appearing silent and withdrawn. For the survivors, there often comes a peace that can look like withdrawal.
Knowing each of these stages cannot save anyone from the pain of having to go through each of them. But it can provide some comfort in knowing that you can eventually heal from a loss.
I would like to leave you with two simple spiritual processes that have proven greatly helpful in my own life and in the lives of my clients.
First is a prayer from the 12-Step programs, which have empowered people internationally to overcome addictions. I find this is so much more powerful when stated aloud:
The Serenity Prayer
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
The final process is one I have used for many decades with great success. This is a short, effective prayer to the Archangel of Peace.
“Thank you Archangel of Peace,
For filling my mind, emotions and body with a deep sense of peace.
Thank you for walking with me, as I go through life.
Thank you for your friendship, blessings and love.”
If you say this aloud when needed, you will find it quite powerful.
Wishing you well on your journey,
In addition to the two books stated above, one can check with a local bereavement group for support.
In the US:
Compassionate Friends (After the death of a child) http://www.compassionatefriends.org
Grief Haven (After the death of a child.) http://www.griefhaven.org
Grief Share (general support) http://www.griefshare.org
In the U.K:
The Bereavement Centre (general support) http://www.bereavementsupportgroups.co.uk
Bereavement UK (general support) http://www.bereavementuk.co.uk
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