Does the grief you are experiencing seem to be relentless? Is there no end in sight? That feeling is not unusual for many. A common experience for mourners is not to be able to find a nurturing support system, the confidence to deal with change, and reliable information to help deal with their loss.
There is good reason for this. At root, education about coping with loss is nearly nonexistent—until a major loss occurs. Then the search is on at a time when the disorganization and stress of grief is high.
However, it is never too late to begin the task of finding out that there is a wide range of normalcy among grief reactions, that there are proven ways to deal with loss as long as you persist, and that despite your deep hurt you can learn to confront your emotions and find peace of mind.
Where can you start?
1. Begin by considering friends and relatives who have suffered similar losses and how they have coped with them. It is perfectly normal and smart to humbly seek out the wisdom of others. Reach out, and don’t let your pride hold you back. There is much experience out there. Ask specific questions, weigh the benefits and disadvantages of the answers, then decide if you want to use what you have heard or let it go as not applicable to your situation.
2. Search the grief literature for some of the huge quality resources available. Pamphlets and articles on grief are abundant. At your library, local hospice or on the Internet you will find a wide variety of material. You may not feel like reading anything early in your grieving. If so, come back to this resource later. There is so much information from reading alone that can help you. Again, pick and choose what rings true for you and discard the rest.
3. Be willing to join a grief support group. There is so much information you will be introduced to. For example, many grievers do not realize that there are many secondary losses in addition to the major loss that need to be recognized and grieved. Also, you can learn much from other mourners who are at different stages in their grieving. Remember that the fabric of connections you have are unique just to you and no one else. You will sense who to speak to about your feelings and who to ask advice from.
4. Become aware of the damaging grief myths you believe in. Here are some common ones: you should be over grief in a few weeks; crying is a sign of weakness; grief only affects the emotions; you are supposed to let go of the person who died; you will be your old self again. Remember, all beliefs have a powerful effect on behavior, often without you knowing it. There is nothing wrong with discarding unworkable beliefs.
5. Visit a grief counselor. Write up your list of questions before you go. Don’t just go to anyone who does counseling. Look for a professional whose primary counseling load is with people who are grieving. Consult the Association for Death Education and Counseling (www.adec.org) for grief counselors in your area. They can help you uncover your strengths, myths that are prolonging grief, and remove the obstacles to reducing the intensity of your grief.
In developing coping skills to deal with your loss, be assured that the specific information to help you is out there. But you must take action at a most difficult time in order to uncover it. Follow your heart. We need each other; and at a time of great loss it is not a sign of weakness to seek assistance, and through trial and error, move through the grief process and the growth it can surely bring.
Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, the popular Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc. His free monthly ezine website is http://www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com