Bit by bit as we grieve, we also begin healing. Some of us take longer than others. Some of us go forward and then slide backwards, which is normal. However, the day comes when we realize our grief and sorrow has become more bearable, not gone but at least more manageable most of the time. Even if no time limit exists for grief, part of the process is to climb from the hopeless pit of sorrow to a better place. Life will never be as before our loss, but we must discover a new life, a new normal. But, how can we rebuild our lives and recuperate from severe grief?
I have had brief spells of normalcy since I loss Robert. The first few weeks, those ordinary experiences were short lived, but they occurred often. The sorrow hit more often and lasted longer. I wanted to find a hole, climb into it, and pull the top to cover me. I began to want to peek out more and more regularly. Today I actually want to live and go forward, without any pretense. I realize I may, and probably will have, bad times and low days ahead, but I know I will progress toward my new normal.
I also realize it is my responsibility to make myself climb from the hole every time I drop into it. Yes, calls and visits from friends and family help and are a necessity for my mental and emotional health, but I can’t hide from life. I can’t expect someone else to “make” me happy.
Will everything be smooth and easy from now on? Of course not. I would be delusional to believe grief is gone, because it is not. A poem can bring pain. Seeing his picture causes my heart to give pause. However, I know that I will survive. I will always miss Robert. I will always love him, but he would want me to continue and enjoy the remainder of my life. I have the hope that we will be together again someday. Therefore, how can I ensure that my recovery will continue?
According to NightingaleCenter.com, ten steps help in recovering from grief:
- Remember there is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. Some people are outward expressive of grief, others are private. Some people want a lot of support and comfort while others need to grieve alone.
- Grief takes as long as it takes. There are no time limits on how long one “should” grieve. Each person’s sadness and redefining life after a significant loss, is different. No one should tell someone else, “Get over it, you have been sad long enough”.
- Grief “comes in waves and hides in pockets”. What this means is that one day a person may feel fine and happy, and the next day overwhelmed by sadness and frustration at their loss. “Out of the blue” waves of distress may be confusing to those around a person grieving. They may “start crying for no apparent reason”. This is a normal part of the grieving process. The waves of sadness do get further apart and less intense over time, but for a long while they may seem to, “just appear”.
- The shortest way to the “other side” of grief is, “through”. A person who tries to suppress their sadness about a loss will eventually have to deal with the anger, sadness and unfairness of the loss. The more unresolved and suppressed grief, the more a person’s life will be emotionally restricted and their grief will come out in “unconscious” ways at those around them. It is important to honor and acknowledge grief and loss and the accompanying feelings, so these feelings are not slipping out at unwanted times at other people or being turned inward and causing physical illness.
- Grief has five stages. Denial (“it can’t really be happening.”) Bargaining (“If only I had…” “If only he/she had…”) Anger (At the one lost, at caregivers of the one lost, at oneself, etc.) Sadness (depression, tears, discouragement, feelings of unfairness, etc.) and Resolution (Finally understanding the loss was not about you and that you will survive and possibly help other people out of that loss).
- Create an outward expression of what you are feeling inside. This is also called “ritual”. When we ritualize a significant emotional event it helps our mind find resolution. Writing a poem, taking flowers, creating a memorial or something in honor of the person or your time together can help in emotional healing.
- Write. Journaling and putting your thoughts and feelings on paper are very useful in going through the grieving process. Part of this is a way to acknowledge your feelings and thoughts, but also it helps process emotions in a different way in the brain by putting words to them.
- Spend time with long-term friends and caring relatives. Having some continuity in life is important. Being able to relive memories, reconnect with the past and have a sense that you are not all alone is important.
- Do new things. Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby. Find out about talent you never knew you had. Meet new people. Join a grief support group or a new class. Add new dimensions into your life.
- Reconnect with your spiritual side. Whatever you do to remember that you are not alone and the world is not random are good things to participate in. Reading inspirational materials, listening to CDs or tapes of inspirational speakers. Attending church, temple, 12-step meetings, and support groups, being in nature, or any place where you feel connected to a “bigger picture”.
Many of the preceding steps have been mentioned before about the stages of grief. Recoveryfromgrief.com offers the following Grief Recovery Method:
- Recovery from loss is achieved by a series of small and correct choices made by the Griever.
- Recovery means feeling better.
- Recovery is finding new meaning for living, without the fear of being hurt again.
- Recovery is being able to enjoy fond memories without having them turn painful.
- Recovery is acknowledging that it is perfectly all right to feel sad from time to time and to talk about those feelings no matter how those around you react.
- Most importantly, recovery means acquiring the skills we should have been taught as a child. These skills allow us to deal with loss directly.
Recovery from grief and sorrow is not quick nor easy. At times we may take two steps forward and three back. One day our emotional sun may shine, and the next the storms may wreak our serenity. Only by persisting in finding our way out of the deep hole of grief can we recover.
Do I have all the answers? No. Have I recovered from the stages of grief and the emotional pain of losing my husband? No. Am I recovering bit by bit? Yes. I know that in time, I will face each new day with a desire to make the most of it. I’ll always remember, but in time, the memories won’t hurt as much, may even become a comfort. Some day I will rejoice again, but not yet.