When someone you love has died, your grief journey begins. It can affect you emotionally, physically, spiritually, and socially—every part of your being. It is often painful, overwhelming, and disturbing. It is important in order to heal from this grief wound that you understand how and why you are feeling the way you do and how to cope with it. You can’t go over it, under it or around it; in order to heal your grief wound you must go through this journey.
The Difference Between Grief and Mourning
First of all, grief is a process, it is not a disease that cures quickly; you must heal emotionally and physically from this grief wound. To move through your grief journey, you must learn two words: The first is grief, the inside thoughts and feelings that can be experienced during your grief journey. The other word is mourning, the outside expressions of grief. By learning to mourn your grief you will also learn to cope with those feelings that are inside.
Traveling on your grief journey, you will experience hills, valleys, dangerous curves, and road blocks. These obstacles are called shock and numbness, disbelief, searching, yearning , guilt, anger, and some depression. The final step you’ll take on your grief journey is reconciliation, which means that you will learn how to live without the physical being of your loved one; but with the love and memories that you have with them.
In general, the world’s society would have you to believe that your loved one is gone, there is no connection to them, and you need to “get over” your grief. The truth is, your loved one remains with you through the love and memories you have for them. Have you stopped loving your loved one or have you forgotten them? We have been given a gift of love and memory and therefore, you will always have that with you as you walk through your grief journey and the rest of your life.
Suggestions for Mourning
Below are some ways you can get through the mourning process. You may not embrace every single one of these actions, but they’re all a natural part of mourning and are there for you if you need them.
Cry- Tears are very healing, they are nature’s way of helping you. It’s OK to cry. Every tear shed is a step moving forward on your grief journey.
Talking– Find a good support person, one who is not judgmental and a good listener. Avoid someone who is critical. Remember, it is your grief and you have the right to express your grief the way you want to and when you need to. Also, encourage relatives, friends or co-workers to talk about your loved one. Let them know that you like to hear your loved one’s name when talking and remembering them.
Remembering– It’s important to keep memories alive. One way you can do this is to make a scrapbook of just your loved one not a family album. This is a good mourning exercise for you, your family, and friends. When getting rid of personal items be sure to keep a keepsake, something special and meaningful for you.
Journaling– Release your emotions on paper. Writing is good mourning; remember to date the journal, letter, or whatever you use so that you can go back to that date and see how far you have traveled in your journey. Sometimes people who are mourning find writing/journaling the easiest way to express their emotions.
Join a support group– It is always helpful to share with others that are grieving. A support group will also give you opportunities to learn new ways to work out problems and befriend others who are grieving.
Take care of the physical you– Now is the time to start making sure you’re eating a diet, getting enough exercise, treat yourself to massage, long hot baths, know your numbers (blood pressure, pulse, and tests to make sure your sugar, liver, heart are healthy). Don’t forget to maintain good fluid intake; people who are grieving tend to be dehydrated, so try to drink 5-6 glasses of water, and avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol.
Remember these are just suggested guidelines to help you with your grief journey. Everyone is unique and no two people grieve alike.
Also remember, you alone need to work through your grief, but you can’t do it alone…reach out to someone. In addition to finding other local resources for others who are grieving or professional counseling, here are some helpful suggestions to start you on your journey:
- Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D, Center for Loss and Life Transition, Ft. Collins, CO.
- Web site: www centerforloss.com
- Phone: 970-226-6050
- In addition to his work with the Center for Loss and Life Transition, Dr. Wolfelt wrote a book titled Understanding Your Grief, which may be helpful to those who want to do more work on their own before meeting with a group.
- For support groups contact your local hospice, churches, senior organizations.
- Subscribe to magazine Grief Digest, www.centering.org phone: 866-218-0101
About Carole McLeod:
Carole McLeod is a certified bereavement facilitator with more than 40 years of experience. In 1985, she and her husband established Comfort Circle, the only grief support group of its kind in their area. After Alan passed away in 1999, Carole earned certification from the American Academy of Bereavement.
During her work as Continuing Care Coordinator, Carole founded several grief care programs and developed a social group for widows called “Widows on the Way.” Also known as the WOW GALS, their mission is to help widows feel comfortable re-joining a social atmosphere by being themselves, having fun, and finding new friends who are also widowed.
In 2011, Carole founded Grief Matters, a grief service and resource for anyone who has had a death of a loved one and an educational resource for caregivers. She gives presentations to community groups, churches and has written many articles on grief and mourning for senior newsletters, bulletins and publishes an e-newsletter called “Good Mourning News.” Carole encourages anyone who has had a death of a loved one to join the grief programs. As they walk through their grief journey, she is there to help.