Grief is never truly finished. When a loved one dies, we will always miss the relationship we had with that person. Sometimes we will re-experience the pain of that loss as we go through annual celebrations such as birthdays, holidays and anniversaries.
Nonetheless, we are called back into the land of the living and our daily responsibilities. Reinvesting in life and significant relationships is the key to getting through our grief. Realizing life is forever changed by the death of a loved one gives us permission to begin building a new life with their memory in our hearts.
Building upon our experiences of the past can lead us to a new future. While the death of our loved one was not our choice, how we respond to that loss is a choice we must make. To move forward we must settle or be at peace with unresolved issues, accept the reality that our life has changed, allow ourselves to let go of guilt and resentment regarding the death of our loved one and recommit to our lives.
How do you know you are moving on? The following signs of healing are adapted from Costa’s Handbook for the Bereaved.
- You can talk about your loved one without getting a lump in your throat
- You can enjoy memories and even look at pictures without becoming depressed
- You can share your feelings with someone and not be overwhelmed
- You feel more in control of your emotions
- Self-esteem returns and you take pride in yourself
- Ability to focus on others and get involved in other activities
- Life holds new meaning and purpose
- You begin to plan ahead and think of the future without dread
- You are able to laugh and enjoy life without feeling guilty
Finally, the goal is to move from grief to gratitude:
- When we are able to see the gift of having had our loved one in our life
- When we appreciate the good and the difficult experiences that were a part of that relationship
- When we can forgive and accept forgiveness for past mistakes
- When we understand the relationship is a part of the fabric of our life
- When we recognize that every moment we spent with that person was a gift
Then we can be grateful for the moments we shared with that person in our life.
Posted by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” available online at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Love-Never-LPC-S-Larry-Barber/dp/1613796005 ), Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-never-dies-lpc-s-ct-larry-m-barber-ct-larry-m/1104364890?ean=9781613796016).
The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa”
Both English and Spanish versions are available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.