106 West Main Street
P.O. Box 146
Phone: 906-475-4631
Fax: 906-475-5561

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Overcoming Grief

It’s All about Giving Yourself Permission to Mourn

Someone you love has passed away. You are now faced with looking after all the details of resolving their accounts and informing various government agencies. And you’ve got to find time to feel the emotions, and think the thoughts surrounding the passing away of the person you’ve recently lost.

You’ve simply got to mourn. It’s just that simple. It is a key part of overcoming grief. You are beginning a journey that is often intimidating, painful, overwhelming and sometimes lonely. We have some practical suggestions to help you move toward healing in your individual grief experience.

Realize Your Grief is Unique

Not everybody will grieve in exactly the same way as you. Your experience is going to be influenced by a variety of factors: the relationship you had with the person who passed away, the circumstances surrounding the death, your emotional support system, and your cultural and religious background.

As a result, you will grieve in your own unique way. Please don’t attempt to compare your experience with that of other people, or make assumptions about how long it should take to overcome grief. We recommend taking a "one-day-at-a-time" approach that allows you to grieve at your own pace.

Discuss How You Feel

By discussing your grief outside yourself, healing occurs. Ignoring your grief won't make it disappear; talking about it tends to make you feel better. Allow yourself to speak from your heart, not just your head. Doing this doesn't mean you are losing control, or going "crazy". It happens to be a normal part of your grief journey.

Find caring friends and family members who will listen without judging what you say. Seek out those individuals who will "Walk with, not in front of, or behind you" in your journey through grief.

Stay away from people who are critical or who attempt to discount what you are experiencing. They may tell you, "keep your chin up" or "carry on" or "be happy." Although these comments may be well-intended, you do not have to listen, and you certainly shouldn’t try to keep your chin up. You have a right to express your grief; nobody has the right to take it away.

Be prepared to Feel a Mixture of Emotions…at Unexpected Times

Experiencing a loss affects your mind, heart and spirit. So you could experience a variety of feelings as part of your grief work. Confusion, disorganization, fear, guilt, relief or explosive emotions are just some of the emotions you may feel. Occasionally these emotions of grief will follow each other within a short time period. Or they could occur at the same time.

As unusual as a few of these emotions may seem, they are in fact normal and healthy. Allow yourself to learn from these emotions. And don't be shocked if out of nowhere you all of a sudden experience surges of grief, even at the most unexpected times. Consider these beautiful words:

It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses." ~ Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

Most of these grief episodes can be frightening and leave you feeling overwhelmed. They are, however, a natural reaction to the death of someone loved. Find somebody that understands your feelings and will allow you to talk about them.

Feeling Numb? It’s OK…in Fact, it’s Expected

Feeling dazed or numb when someone cherished dies is often part of your early grief experience. This numbness serves a useful purpose: it gives your emotions time to catch up with what your mind has told you. This experience helps create insulation from the reality of the death until you are more capable to accept what you don't want to believe.

Be Tolerant of Your Physical and Emotional Limits

Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you really exhausted. Not just that, your potential to think clearly and make decisions may be impaired. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Nurture yourself. Get daily rest. Start eating balanced meals. Reduce your routine as much as possible. Looking after yourself doesn't mean feeling sorry for yourself; it means you are practicing tried-and-true survival skills.

Build a Network of Support

Don’t separate yourself from others. We realize that reaching out and accepting support is sometimes challenging, especially when you hurt so much. But the most compassionate self-action you can do during this demanding time is to discover a support system of caring friends and family members who will provide the understanding you need. Find those people who motivate you to be yourself and recognize your feelings, both happy and sad.

Engage the Healing Power of Ritual

The funeral service was important, but so are those small, private rituals that we create nearly out of thin air. The lighting of a candle at night ; writing a letter to a loved one, and then burning it, symbolically sending the messages of love up into the heavens. Don't feel embarrassed - your personal rituals are just for you, to help you feel better, and discover a spiritual connection to your loved one.

The Hopi Indians of Arizona believe that our everyday rituals and prayers literally keep our planet spinning on its axis. Through little rituals and thoughts we construct a life that speaks to each of us, even in the darkest of times.

Therefore, if you're motivated to do so, create small rituals to allow you to express your feelings and pay tribute to someone who was, and always will be, loved.

Embrace Spirituality

If faith is part of your life, communicate it in ways that seem acceptable to you. Allow yourself to be around people who recognize and encourage your religious beliefs. If you are upset with God because of the passing away of someone you loved, accept this feeling as a normal part of your grief work. Find someone to talk with who won't be critical of whatever thoughts and feelings you have to explore.

You may hear someone say, "With faith, you don't need to grieve." Whatever you do, don't believe it. Having your individual faith does not insulate you from wanting to talk out and explore your thoughts and feelings. Keep in mind that to deny your grief is to invite problems that build up inside you. We heartily recommend expressing your faith, but express your grief as well.

Search for Meaning

You may find yourself asking, "Why did he die?" "Why this way?" "Why now?" This search for meaning is yet another normal part of the healing process. Some questions have answers, however some do not. Truthfully, it’s not important to get clear answers. What's important is to realize that healing occurs in the opportunity to pose the questions, not necessarily in answering them. Find a supportive friend that will listen attentively as you look for meaning, without feeling the need to offer their views unless you ask them to. An English writer and poet living in the 19th century, Martin Farquhar Tupper, said it best: "Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech".

Treasure Your Memories

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after someone loved dies. Cherish them. Discuss them with your family and friends. Recognize that your memories could make you laugh or cry. Nevertheless, they are a lasting part of the relationship that you had with a truly special person in your life.

We frequently suggest that, when the time is right, you create a Book of Memories™ in honor of your loved one. If this interests you, give us a call. We’ll be happy to help you get started, or return to one started earlier.

Move Toward Your Grief…Not Away from It

The writer George Eliot (whose given name was Mary Ann Evans) penned these beautiful words…“She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.”

When we meet with families, we often discuss this imagery with them. It communicates the work, in this case the "wrestling" one has to do with the emotions of grief, as well as the long-term objective of the work: becoming comfortable with griefE; to sit with it, to embrace it. And, more importantly, to identify it as your ally, and a natural part of loving someone.

In fact, the capacity to love requires the necessity to grieve. You can't heal until you openly express your grief. Denying your grief will only make it become much more confusing and overwhelming. Embrace your grief and heal.

Reconciling your grief is not going to happen immediately. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Have patience and tolerant with yourself. Always remember that the death of someone loved affects your life forever. It's not that you won't be happy again. It's simply that you will never be exactly the same as you were before the death.


Colette Quotation

Martin Farquhar Tupper Quotation

George Eliot Quotation