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Grief: How to Recover From Grief

Marsha Johnson

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The death of a loved one, a broken home, a tragic illness and a catastrophic disaster are losses that occur daily. With such loss comes tremendous pain. In a world which now communicates through email, takes photo’s with phones, delivers packages across country overnight and finds true love on e-harmony dot com, it is not surprising that when it comes to pain, a quick fix is not only expected, it is demanded.

I do not know of one person who looks forward to suffering through such pain with patience. Like all other journeys in life, humans want to know how long the journey will be. The journey through grief is no exception. The question of how long it will take to travel through grief is the first one asked. Unfortunately, there is no timetable and there are many variables to recovery. The length of the journey will depend on the severity of the loss and the method used to deal with the pain.

Truly, there is no short cut to recovery. The only way to recover from loss is to first walk through grief. When it comes to walking this road, I can share a few of my experiences and interject a little of what I have observed these past few years. I have discovered that in the long run, the best way to deal with the pain of loss is often the long hard way. One cannot zap it, send it, cram it, shoot it, dot com it, email it or even overnight it. The best method of getting through the pain is the old horse and buggy way.

Before my journey of living, loving and saying goodbye I preferred dealing with pain in a more traditional means. I preferred, drinking, sleeping and working my way through loss. Drinking on the weekends, to numb the pain, sleeping pills at night to insure the days ran together, and long hours at work to avoid facing the loss. After all of that, who had time to feel anything, let alone the pain?

The first step to overcoming grief is to make a commitment to walk through the suffering rather than run from it. The previous ways of dealing with pain only postponed the inevitable - facing the loss. However, as much as I wanted to make a change in the way I dealt with the pain, I was unsure if I was capable of allowing myself to physically and emotionally attempt a different way.

Facing the grief upfront requires that the pain is felt, seen and heard. The process often takes hours longer and, many times, requires the help of others. This method involves kicking, screaming, crying and perhaps throwing things at loved ones. The pain seems to be unbearable. However, when the process is through, it is finished. The entire amount of pain was paid upfront, leaving the process complete. There are no withdrawals from having had drugs, no incisions or scars as a reminder of the pain. Within a short time, you go home to recover. And that is the goal. As we end our journey of grief, we are free to move on to the road of recovery.

Below are some ideas and suggestions that can be used to get through the pain.

  • Find a support group or start one.
  • Volunteer. Helping others is a pain reliever.
  • If necessary, see a doctor. Sometimes medical attention is needed in difficult times.
  • Find a new interest. Take guitar lessons, learn a foreign language or enroll in a cooking class. Try gardening or even writing a book!
  • Give yourself permission to hurt.
  • Start a new lifestyle of eating healthy and exercising. It is a joy to see the body respond positively to change.
  • Look all losses in the eye. The next time fear rears its ugly head, deal with it and face the fear head on.
  • Accept help from others. Avoid suffering in silence.
  • Take breaks.
  • Make a statement of love.
  • Do not be over critical of yourself or others. If something can be changed, change it and then let the rest of it go.
  • Avoid becoming discouraged with the painful process of grieving. Do not allow others, although well meaning, to dictate a specific time frame.
  • Keep from making hasty decisions of any kind, especially when it comes to finances. If nothing else, lock monies and assets away. Save financial decisions for a time when thinking will be clearer and less emotional.
  • Stick with normal routines as much as possible. Now is not the best time to start a new career or make major, life changing decisions.
  • Cry when need be. At work, simply find a quiet area.
  • Get plenty of rest. Those first few weeks it may be difficult to sleep, but adhere to and stay on a normal bedtime routine.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. If sleep is needed see a doctor or a pharmacist who could recommend a non-addictive sleep aid.
  • Learn to ask for help. There will be many willing people who will be there.
  • Try not to take things too personally. Well-meaning people are just that - well meaning.
  • Watch funny movies or read entertaining books. It is a bad idea to rent sad movies or the favorite movies that were shared with a loved one.
  • Stay involved in activities and with others. Withdrawal and seclusion lead to major depression and prolong the grieving process. It is tough, but it can be done.
  • Find some ears! Find a trustworthy person, who will listen.
  • Take the time to visit the past, just do not make a home there.
  • Refrain from replaying all the “what ifs”. When this begins to happen, stop, relax and breathe. Then change the thought pattern to focus on the one thing that will make a difference. The present.
  • Do not hold grudges for things past or present.
  • Try not to mourn forever. Mourning takes time, and take all the time that is needed, but if the process is not moving forward seek outside help. Remember that mourning is a journey and someday the destination will need to be reached.

    Marsha Johnson is a writer, speaker and the author of Emerald’s Garden – How to grieve, mourn and recover from loss. See to sign up for your free Grief Recovery e-newsletter.

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