by Barbara L. Fraser, MA
“You need to keep busy.”
“Don’t talk about it.”
“Go out and meet someone else.”
“Take a long vacation.”
These remarks, and many others similar to them, are well intended, but they are not helpful for grievers. The advice, of course, may help ease the pain for a short while. However, for long term recovery from grief, the most important steps are to accept our feelings and then express them. Too often, we ignore our grief or keep it “stuffed” inside. We do this because society at large teaches us that we must “be strong”, that we need to “get over it”, and that we “shouldn’t feel badly.” We need to debunk this type of thinking and learn to truthfully express our grief. As we REALLY FEEL our range of emotions, we will be able to reconcile our loss and thrive in the face of loss.
There are a number of ways to express your feelings during grief. Most importantly, a person needs to find a safe environment to share emotions. For example, you can turn to a trusting individual or find a grief support group. It’s important to be honest with your feelings. For instance, not all grievers just feel sad. Some people also feel relieved, angry, or guilty. Whatever the feelings, be sure to reveal your honest reaction to the loss. Other ways to express your emotions are to journal, to write a letter to the person who has died, and to create traditions that focus on sharing memories of your loved one.
Much of grief is about undelivered communication, which is painful. As they reflect, grievers explain that they wish they had said things, but just never did. Grievers are often frozen in this pain of wanting something different, better, or more. In order to detach from this pain, grievers can find relief by exploring the relationship — remembering both the happy and sad times, the ups and downs, the sweet and sour. Once they have journeyed through the relationship, they can take the time to verbalize the joys and disappointments to an empathic friend, family member or therapist. They can also focus on saying significant emotional statements like “I miss you”, “I love you”, “I forgive you for…,”I apologize for…”. This outpour of emotions can also contribute to the core content of a letter written to the loved one. Ultimately, the overwhelming weight of grief on their shoulders will seem to float away.
Grief is normal and natural. It is the reaction to a loss of any kind and a disruption in an attachment. In fact, grief doesn’t just occur when someone dies. There are over 40 types of losses. Divorce, a breakup of a romantic relationship, major financial changes, moving, pet loss, loss of a dream, loss of health, infertility, loss of career, and loss of faith are examples of other situations that can result in grief.
Most people have experienced several losses once they reach adulthood. Take a look at your loss history and check in with your own feelings about these losses. Is it time to feel the pain?
If you would like to speak to a therapist about this subject or about any other issue you may be experiencing, contact the Maria Droste Access Center at 303-867-4600.
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Barb is a registered psychotherapist and a licensed school counselor. She specializes in grief counseling and is a Certified Grief Recovery® Specialist. Her private practice, Fraser Counseling LLC, is located at YOUnique Counseling offices in the DTC and Littleton locations. Barb also provides counseling at Maria Droste Counseling Center as a pro bono therapist.