Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Grief & Loss

The following statements come from the book, Healing Your Grieving Heart--100 Practical Ideas, by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. 

“Grief is the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings we have when someone loved dies.” 

“Mourning is the outward expression of grief”. 

Everyone with the ability to give and receive love grieves when a loss is suffered, but Dr. Wolfelt contends that “if we are to heal, we must also mourn. Over time, with the support of others, to mourn is to heal.” 

Have you been mourning your loss, or have you restricted yourself to grieving?

It is important to learn self compassion. Realize you are in uncharted territory and there is no rule to follow in grieving. Each person’s grief is unique. 

Dr. Wolfelt lists Six Needs of Mourning:
  1. Acknowledge the reality of the death. This acknowledgement will likely first be only in your head and in time also in your heart. Talking about the death will help you with this need.
  2. Embrace the pain of the loss. The common reaction is to push away and against, but in embracing your grief, you will learn to reconcile yourself to the loss. You will likely need to do this step slowly and in small doses.
  3. Remember the person who died. Your loved one lives on in your memory. Don’t allow others to take your memories away in a misguided attempt to save you from pain. “Remembering the past makes hoping for the future possible.”
  4. Develop a new self-identity. You may have gone from being wife to widow or from parent to bereaved parent. The way you and others defined you has changed. “You need to re-anchor yourself, to reconstruct your self-identity.” This is difficult and painful work. Although difficult, we often ultimately discover that the person we evolve to is more caring and less judgmental than our previous self.
  5. Search for meaning. “You will probably question your philosophy of life and explore religious and spiritual values as you work on this need. Remember that having faith or spirituality does not negate your need to mourn.” “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
  6. Receive ongoing support from others. The love and understanding of of others helps us to heal. It is OK to need others and to accept help from others. Unfortunately our society is usually focused to “getting and accumulating” and seldom teaches about loss. “Grief is a process, not an event, and you will need the continued support of your friends and family for weeks, months, and years.
Be aware that numbness is normal after a traumatic event. Mourning can feel like it is just a dream. And, be aware that certain events (birthdays, holidays, etc.), certain places, certain smells, and other things can trigger deep emotional responses. 
“Be aware that grief affects your body, heart, social self, and spirit.” The toll of grief is complicated and painful. It often results in social discomfort. Sometimes we may feel that life is not worth living. These are all normal reactions to grief and loss. 

In this book, Dr. Wolfelt lists many many ways for you to work through your grief and pain. Just a few are writing a letter to the person who died, keep a journal, drink lots of water, pet a pet, and ignore hurtful advice. 

In addition to Healing Your Grieving Heart, another great book is Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert, Chuck DeKlyen, Taylor Bills and Pat Schweibert (Jun 1, 2005). 

Remember to practice self care. Do not feel guilty to ask for what you need to take care of yourself. Good things to do:
  • B R E A T H E ! The breath provides much healing. Spend 10-20 minutes daily (all at once or in 5 minute increments) breathing deeply and fully and just noticing--your breath, your body.
  • Drink plenty of water. Stress taxes your body--water washes out toxins and keeps you hydrated.
  • Exercise daily. Physical exercise directly affects mental health. When you move your body, you help your mind and your spirit. Walking, stretching, biking, elliptical, and especially yoga (because it combines strength training and deep breathing) will improve your overall health.
  • Seek out social connections--even when (especially when) you don’t want to. Sometimes you can “fake it til you feel it.”
  • Pamper yourself--massages, pedicures, manicures, haircuts and styling, etc. It is OK to take care of yourself!
It has been my pleasure to share with you today. Should you need help in your grieving journey, it may be useful to see a counselor. You will know what you need. Just listen to your inner voice. If you feel like you are out of control or are not able to cope, contact a counselor for assistance.

Glenda Goodwin, M.Ed., LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor)
Logos Counseling Services
817-812-2880 (Office)