No one escapes losing a loved one. It’s inevitable, inexorable and part of the human experience. Having lost my daughter at the young age of 34, I know too well about the grief and the stages one must go through. Let me begin by saying, we never really get over the loss of a loved one. We just learn to accept what we can’t control. However, each stage takes us on a trajectory of healing. There are personal choices that one makes to move on. Some become victims of the loss—others, survivors and some morph their pain into purpose and passion. I chose the last.
As a psychotherapist for more than 42 years, I have had both personal and professional experience in grief and loss. I have suffered every parent’s worst nightmare—losing a child. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her, talk to her and often dream of her. Her essence remains in my heart and mind indelibly. However, my life remains joyful and purposeful, even without her. How did I do it?
Here are six steps that may help you cope with grief and loss.
- Allow yourself to grieve in your own time and your own way. There is no right or wrong way. You cannot move on without grieving. Grieving is the healing feeling. There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are normal for everyone. It’s different for everyone regarding the time it takes to travel through these stages. Some of us move more slowly; others more rapidly, depending on the type of loss. Losing a child takes longer than losing a parent or someone who has suffered interminable illness. Each survivor moves at their own pace. There is no time limit in grief, however, complicated grief does take longer.What do I mean by complicated grief? According to Healthline, complicated grief (CG), is caused by the death of someone close to you. CG, sometimes called persistent complex bereavement disorder, is much stronger than normal grief. Many people go through several stages of grieving after losing a loved one. With CG, you may have trouble moving on for months, years, or longer. You may also find yourself avoiding social contact, losing motivation to do daily tasks, or wishing that you had died, too. This requires professional help. The longer one goes without help, the worse it becomes.
- Journal your thoughts and feelings. Share them with trusted loved ones, your therapist or friends. A benign witness to your grief helps the healing process. Discharging your emotions allows you to let go of feeling stuck in your process.
- See a certified grief counselor and/or grief group. Sharing your grief with other grievers makes you feel that you are not alone. Meditation, visualization, breath work and reiki are ways to release your pain. Find a Reiki therapist or join a meditation class to assist you in discharging your grief. The more you practice these resources, the less you will suffer.
- Help someone else; a friend, a family member, a stranger. Helping others helps you! Volunteer your time to serving others in need. Helping others helped me heal my grief. There is so much comfort and joy when you see others in need overcome their issues simply because you helped them. It raises your state of depression faster than drugs. This is not to say that sometimes an anti-depressant is not useful. Consult your physician if you are not overcoming grief over time. By helping others, I helped myself. It was easy for me, as my profession gave me the opportunity to help others grieve and move on. Volunteering to help others gives purpose to grievers and allows healing.
- Learn to forgive. Forgive your deceased and most important, forgive yourself for any guilt you may suffer. Forgiveness is a part of the grieving process. Acceptance without forgiveness is not acceptance.
- Make a choice: victim, survivor or become a Phoenix. I chose the last and rose from the ashes of hell and learned to move on. I had other children that needed me to be present for them and their needs as well as a busy practice that required my attention and service to them. It’s easier when others depend on you, but this is not always the case.
Too often marriages result in divorce if action is not taken. Don’t allow another loss to occur. Get help if you see that your loss is interfering with the quality of your life and relationship. It’s best to seek professional help early in the stages of grief. Find a purpose to help you move on. I began to write as if a muse compelled me to the computer. Grievers are nocturnal and sleep does not come easy. I wrote into the night until seven years passed, and I gave birth to a book: WHY DID SHE JUMP: My Daughter’s Battle with Bi-polar Disorder. It can be purchased on Amazon.com. It may help you cope with your grief and loss.
I sublimated my pain into passion and it not only helped me, but many others as well. I founded the Pamela Anne Glassman Educational Center of Mental Health America of Southeast Florida. The mission is to take the stigma out of mental illness and provide education, resources and information to families suffering from mental illness.
The plight of overcoming grief is not easy. However, it can happen. It’s about making a conscious choice of how you want to survive your loss and live the rest of your life. It’s not a choice you make soon after your loss. It’s a process that takes time. Although most mourners don’t seem to appreciate this response during their grief—it’s the truth! Be patient—time is your best friend.
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