Thoughts and beliefs-both of which are choices you make-are the underpinnings of attitude. They are the major factors in how you will cope with your loss and to what extent you will experience additional and unnecessary suffering.
Regrettably, many of us have been heavily influenced to believe half-truths and false assumptions about death, loss, and reinvestment in life. These influences were deeply implanted in our psyches early in life by parents or other significant adult figures. The result leads to behaviors that complicate and increase the intensity of our grief work.
However, a common experience when we are confronted with major changes in life is we learn, grow in wisdom, and reevaluate the way we conduct our lives and think about the world around us. Frequently, without fully recognizing the transition, we alter beliefs some of which we have accepted for years as “the way it is. "
Here are some of the beliefs that have helped others when grieving and have proven useful in adapting to a new life without the companionship of your loved one.
1. Believe coping well is a choice. You are not destined to follow some prearranged path in grief as you learned from observing others. You can choose how you wish to deal with the inevitable changes to be faced. Your ability to choose, after wise deliberation and consultation, must never be minimized. It is your grief and your loss and you can steer your course through your dark night.
2. Believe there is no such thing as perfect grieving. Dump the word “perfect. " You will see yourself as having fallen behind at times. Grief is like that. But remember what the well known psychotherapist Thomas Moore wrote: “If you're leading a full life, you're going to fail some every day. " Let it go. Don't get discouraged. See yourself doing better at the next opportunity. Here is where this next belief becomes key.
3. Believe in the importance of making new friends all your life. Start today looking for new friends. You are not giving up your old friends; you are adding to your circle of friends. Why? Because the research is abundantly clear: we are social beings, and friends are a crucial part of life and our physical and mental health. We need each other.
4. Believe in the critical importance of achieving. Doing something that ends in good results for you or someone else is powerful lifelong medicine. Getting something done is food for inner strength and self-esteem, which we all need. Set goals for various parts of your life and go for them. Start small, little successes first, and work your way up. No couch potato for you. Reach out.
5. Believe in giving your all. Not 95% or 99% but 100% in what you seek to achieve. Effort is the engine leading to success and achievement in managing your grief and reinvesting in life. You must take unfettered action, and not in a half-hearted manner. Giving your best effort will result in progress, a little at a time.
6. Believe in always persisting. Like a pesky fly, keep at your task. When you falter on occasion, pick yourself up, reevaluate, and go back into the fray. You will reach your goal.
7. Believe that love never dies. Although changed, you will always have a relationship with your deceased loved one. Relationships don't die. You can talk to your loved one as you see fit just as millions of others do. Many pray to their loved ones or Higher Power. Remember what Gandhi, the Indian political and spiritual leader said: “Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most powerful instrument of action. "
There is that word again-action. It all depends on what you choose to believe about yourself and where you can go. The power of your choices, the friends you make, the failures you bounce back from, your untiring efforts and commitment to action will assure you that you can adapt to the next chapter of your life. Let the loss you have experienced and the changes you face bring new awareness and insights into your life.
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