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Stop the Excuses; Start Grieving and Healing
Author Rabbi Chaplain writes of why people avoid grieving and letting the natural emotional healing process be just that, a process.
Grief is the continued expression of love for a person no longer physically present in our lives. Therefore, to stop grieving over a person is to stop loving him or her. As one widow in a grief support group asked me, “You mean I don’t have to leave my husband in the past? Are you saying that I can take him into the future with me?” The answer is a resounding, comforting and hope-filled “Yes!” You can maintain a loving, healthy, healing relationship with someone who has died. Maintaining a spiritual, emotional bond to the loved one is not morbid or pathological.
Maintaining a relationship with a loved one who has died goes against what others may say to us that we need to let go or detach from the loved one and “move on.” Grief does mean saying goodbye to the physical part of the relationship we had with our loved one and “moving on.” but it doesn’t mean our relationship has ended. The relationship with our friend or family member can never be exactly what it was in the past, but the relationship continues in a new form.
I believe the truth that Grief Is Another Expression of Love and Love Never Dies trumps all excuses for avoiding grief. Remember that grief done in a healthy way honors a valuable life. Here are a few of the common excuses for avoiding grief that I hear from clients:
- Expressing my grief emotions shows weakness or a lack of faith. No, expressing grief is healthy. Mourning and expressing your grief are signs to others you need help and support. Expressing grief purges you of potentially dangerous emotions and physical toxins produced by your body in reaction to the stresses of grief.
- Giving into grief and expressing it just makes me sadder and doesn’t make anything better. This is not true. Expressing grief releases emotional tension and results in emotional healing and a sense of physical well-being.
- There is nothing that I or anyone else can do or say to change things. It will always be this way. Maybe your situation won’t change, but sharing your grief story, thoughts and feelings can change how you perceive your grief and yourself. Given time and space for healing, you can change and heal in your grief.
- I don’t want to cry (lose control, break down, fall to pieces, lose it) in front of others. (By the way, the correct term for all of these phrases is “grief outburst” which sounds much healthier and more acceptable.) You need others’ support during grief. If they don’t know you are struggling with your grief, how do they know to be there for you? Crying and expressing the painful, uncomfortable emotions of grief signals others that you require comfort and support.
- My loved one wouldn’t want me to grieve. Your loved one may have asked you not to mourn after he or she dies, but that is an unfair request. If it were possible for us to visit our own funerals, we would most likely be upset if no one was crying. Mourners not crying at a funeral would send the message that the person who died is not loved or had not impacted anyone else’s life. Show your love for the person and grieve in a healthy way. He or she deserves to be missed.
- I shouldn’t be sad. I should be happy for my loved one (They are in a better place. They are no longer suffering, etc.) Yes, they are in a better place or they are not suffering, but you still miss them. It is healthy and natural to be sad or even depressed over the death of someone who is significant to you. You do not severely miss the loss of a mere acquaintance, but you do dearly miss the loss of a valued, treasured relationship. Your loved one is worthy of your grief.
- No one has time or wants to hear my problems. You need others and you need a support system during grief. You were not meant to go through this dark, difficult time by yourself. Seek out people who love you, sincerely care about your well being and will listen without judging or giving unsolicited advice.
- I don’t want to be a burden to others. In life everyone has times that they need to give support and encouragement to others and times when they need to receive support and encouragement from others. Grief is your time to receive help from others graciously.
- No one will allow me to grieve. Express your grief in places that you feel safe and with people who make you feel safe and cared for. Spend as little time as possible with those people who just have no clue what mourners need.
- My grief comes from my selfishness in wanting my loved one back. Think of your grief as a huge emotional wound that needs care in order to heal. If you had a huge physical wound that required regular attention, it would be ridiculous for others to shame you for the time you spend in changing a dressing on the wound as being selfish. Taking care of your grief needs is self-care, not being selfish.
You can read more of this article at the authors blog page where he outlines suggestions to improve cognitive patterns that complicate the grief process. Personal Development Website
From (c) 2011, Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT in “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” Available on http://grief-works.org/book.php. Also available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore. Available now for Nook and Kindle.
Personal Development Website