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Written by Jimmie Burroughs Email this article to a friend
I have dealt with grief many times in my life, but the hardest grief I have ever had to deal with was the lost of by wife who was also my very best friend. Not only did I have to lose her to death, but I also had to see her suffer the pain and anguish of cancer and die a slow and agonizing death. All of us must experience grief at some point in our life. I want to help you if you are experiencing grief now, or when you do at some future time, by sharing how I dealt with the greatest grief of my life, and what I did that helped me the most.
Grief is the physical, emotional and mental conditions experienced by a loss of someone close. It is the body’s natural ability of healing our emotional injury. Grieving can be extremely hard if there is a lack of understanding. Normally it is experienced in three distinct phases which lead up to a final acceptance and ability to continue on with life:
- The first phase is Shock or a denial of what has happened. This may last only a short time or can be extended almost indefinitely. The sooner one can come to grips with the reality of it, the better.
- The second phase is The Expression of Grief which can take many different approaches such as anger, depression or an over whelming feeling of loss. This can last for several days, or for some even several years. I have known some who were never able to get past this phase.
- The third and final phase is Acceptance. The purpose of grief is to move a person gradually along through all three phases until finally they reach the point of acceptance. At this point they are now ready to resume their life, or seek a new direction for their life.
Understanding grief and knowing how to Deal with it is extremely important. It is not that uncommon for a person to grieve themselves to death. Sometimes when a person loses a loved one, they also die within a few months because of the stress it brings to their body. Even though grief is a healing process in itself, if it is not understood, and if care is not taken to let it do its natural work, then the results can be devastating. The objective is to deal with grief in a way as to bring healing in a reasonable length of time.
Different ways of responding to grief
Grief is a normal and natural response to any kind of loss, particularly to the death of a friend or loved one. Individuals respond to loss in a variety of ways. Some ways are healthy and others are not quite so healthy. Grief, itself, is a coping mechanism, but it is easy to hinder the grieving process by not understanding it and not knowing how to work through it. Grieving is not a matter of just forgetting, nor is it a process that needs to continue forever.
There are several emotions that different people feel at the loss of a loved one. I had only a few, but each person will have a different experience; some will experience few emotions while others may experience many. The best way is to let emotions run their course. Here is primarily what I experienced when I lost my wife to cancer:
- An occasional Bout of crying
- A sadness in my heart
- A feeling or sensing the loved one’s presence
- An occasional need to tell and retell stories about my loved one and the death experience.
- An occasional feeling of restlessness
There are a number of other emotions that you might experience and that is quiet alright; each of us experience grief differently.
Things I’ve done to help deal with my grief
- I tried to give myself an adequate amount of time to work through the grief process before making major decisions or changes in my life. The time factor is different for each person; some are able to get through it in a few months and others take longer. For the most part I feel that I was at the point of acceptance and ready to move on with my life in a year. I don’t mean to say it was completely pass in a year but it was acceptable. I’m not sure a person ever gets completely past it. I haven’t yet and it is nearly seven years since my wife died.
- After you have worked through the initial grief, it might be good to restructure your life, or to better define who you are now. Death of a close loved one, like a spouse, has the tendency to change our view of ourselves as well as life. This was true for me and I found that I was ready to make some major changes in my lifestyle. It took nearly a year to work it out, but once I did it opened up a whole new life that has brought much satisfaction.
- I let go of objects that reminded me of my loss. I felt a need to give away most of my wife’s personal belongings. I kept some of her jewelry but plan to give it all away over time. You might want to keep a few mementoes. For me, however, I feel I will need to let these things go little by little. I feel by doing so I will also be letting my wife go, and letting the grief dissipate even more. I know my wife would not have wanted me to waste my life pining away for her. She would have wanted me to carry on with my life as soon as possible.
- I found that writing about my experiences in my blog helped me to see through the bad and see the good. If you don’t have a blog, use a gratitude journal; it will do miracles in helping to overcome a broken heart. There is a lot of misery and pain in life but there is also so much to live for that over shadows the negative.
- I started a new hobby. I began to learn how to play the guitar and sing county and gospel songs. It has added hours of enjoyment to my life. I take time each day to practice the new songs I’ve learned and it also gives me a challenge and is a good source of exercise for my brain. It has been a source of healing for me.
- I joined a support group with those who also were experiencing grief. Usually the larger churches have an ongoing support group. I joined one in my church and it was very helpful to learn how others were dealing with their grief.
- I accepted the help and support of others. I had a brother-in-law who helped me a lot by keeping in touch with me during the difficult times. There are those who love you that are concerned about you and they want to help you. Let them even if it does not turn out help you that much, they need to know they are trying to help.
- I have a relationship with God. Of all the things that have helped me, my relationship with God has been the most helpful. God promises his grace to help us in all kinds of negative experiences that we go through in life. That includes the death of loved ones and even the time when we must face our own death.
- I never used medication during my grief and would never consider turning to drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol only suppress grief; they keep the process from moving forward so that a person becomes frozen in the state of grief and are unable to let it do its healing power.
- I became a volunteer to help others. This is another thing that helped me tremendously. I joined an organization that did volunteer construction and maintenance for institutions and individuals that could not afford to hire it done. It required me to travel in my motorhome to the locations and spend several months there. This may not be suitable for most, but there are also plenty of opportunities for volunteer work in your own town or city.
Factors that hinder the healing process
- Never avoid or minimize your emotions. They are there for the purpose of helping you work through your grief; let them do their job without resistance.
- Don’t use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate or prescription drugs either if you are able to avoid it. They only delay the process of healing and never help move it forward.
- Don’t avoid your feelings by using work, school or socializing as a distraction. Facing up to our feelings allows us to deal with them and to get them behind us rather than having them hanging around in the background to always be taunting us.
I realize that each of us are different and have different needs, and to generalize the grief process is not going to satisfy all needs for everyone, but I do believe that a general understanding of how it works is beneficial for all. I hope that this post has been a help to you as you go through grief or the time in your future when it does come. If it has been a help, please share it with someone else. If you are experiencing difficulty or you feel that you just can’t handle your grief, don’t hesitate to get professional help.
About the author: Jimmie Burroughs is a motivational speaker and author who has been involved in teaching Christian Personal Development for more than 30 years. There are hundreds of articles to help you on this website, Website Contents ,in your person growth. Be sure to take vantage of the FREE offer to get the eBook “The 4 Pillars for Personal Development” while available.
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