“The darker the night, the brighter the stars, The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”
– Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
The idea of suffering and grief with death and loss is deeply ingrained in our cultural landscape. In spite of this our rituals have changed over the centuries so we know there is no one “perfect” way for how to deal with grief. And in fact emotions activated with loss may range from love to guilt to relief.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Yes, context counts and there are effective ways to heal traumatic grief.
This article is a short one and cannot cover the many types of deaths and situations but if you are grieving I encourage you to read on as there may be ideas here that will be of value to you.
Past and present
In 1969 Elizabeth Kubler Ross hypothesized states of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) as a way for a person to face his/her own death. Others began to use these ideas for those who experienced the death of a loved one.
Now, research studies have shown that most people do not grieve in stages at all. And there is more. Ruth Davis Konigsberg in New Ways to Think About Grief (2011) writes;
“….what the science is beginning to tell us: that most people are resilient enough to get through loss on their own without stages or phases or tasks.”
Here are 4 ways to cope with the pain of death.
The grief of heartbreak where no death has occurred may feel the same and yet there are some differences in how to cope with it. (Stay tuned for another article on this).
1. Forget everything you know about grieving and emotions – Look up and keep breathing
When you hear the news that someone has died and won’t be coming home the shock is a full body and mind experience. Waves of grief take over any attention and everything may seem unreal.
Do what comes to mind to do and include taking care of yourself just as it you were recovering from a surgery. Consider that just looking up and breathing can help regulate the body’s systems so that daily life can continue.
It’s time to put all those mindfulness ideas into practice.
When you drink water, eat something or brush your teeth, pay attention just to that and nothing else. Paying attention to what is happening in the moment is like a self righting device in a boat.
Research shows that the passage of time makes a difference to the intensity of grief and about six months is when most people are feeling some joy again. (In fact this is more important than if you talk about the loss or not). (Konigsberg, 2011).
2. Remember love – The connection between people is love and grief can get in the way of feeling that.
The work of Dr. Jon Connelly includes helpful ways to clear the mind of a few thoughts that are troubling.
For example the quotation at the top of this article is troubling as it implies if I don’t grieve deeply, I am not close to God.
Isn’t love the connection? So it is with people as well.
We only get the time we spend with them and our memories. Since we have that we can’t lose it (the past) and since we can’t lose what we don’t have (the future) we can adjust to what is happening in the present in a way that is beneficial and possible for us.
“Suddenly at the very moment when, so far, I mourned H. least, I remember her best… and now she seems to meet me everywhere.”
– C.S. Lewis: A Grief Observed
Sensing the presence of a deceased loved one and even having a conversation with him or her is now a preferred process to;
“Letting go of the loved one.”
It’s more than just a memory of a conversation as the goal is to invoke the positive feelings and impressions you felt at that time.
The goal is an internal ongoing connection that is beneficial to daily living. This is in contrast to an attempt at a connection where all of the deceased belongings are kept forever.
4. Make Living Memories
Telling stories using writing, art, or music to highlight your loved one’s legacy makes clear the ongoing connection for you (and others) through love to the deceased.
Using social media makes this more possible today than ever before and if you wish to go that direction it’s easy to share with others beyond what you imagined. In fact, this can help you help others deal with the pain of grief.
Good resource: An amazing book by Courtney, Armstrong, M. Ed., LPC called Transforming Traumatic Grief brings together the latest research (as of 2011) in a practical and usable way.
She shows the process by which each of us can move past grief and trauma into renewed meaning of our own life.
Putting it all together
Being in the present moment, remembering love, connecting with those we love, and making living memories right now is a good prescription for dealing with the pain of grief.
If you are interested in sharing your grief stories, feel free to contact me. There is so much more to be said!
Connect with Expert Dorothy Rodwell.