When Does Healing Begin? Watching For the Signs

By Harriet Hodgson —

When you are in the throes of grief, you think you will never be happy again. Your world is a narrow, dark tunnel. You do not see any light, yet glimmers exist, and they are signs of healing. Watch for these signs, for they give you the courage to move forward with life.

Healing begins when you feel a real smile.

I did not smile after four loved ones died in the span of nine months. In fact, I forgot what a smile felt like. Then one day, I smiled a tentative smile, and it felt good. Bob Deits writes about recovering in his book, “Life After Loss.” He thinks “the first step on the path to renewed joy and vitality after a major loss is the most difficult of all.” Smiling was my fist step and it may be yours.

Healing begins with the first laugh.

There was nothing to laugh about, so I did not laugh for months. I used to be known for my sense of humor and one day I laughed spontaneously. Though it was a rusty laugh, it told me healing had begun. Laughter heals. Do not be afraid to laugh when you are grieving.

Healing begins when you forget about loss.

Grief was all I thought about. I could not escape it. Judy Tatelbaum details the grief process in “The Courage to Grieve.” “We can see we are moving closer to recovery from grief when the deceased is no longer our primary focus,” she writes. It takes longer to recover from multiple losses. Still, I continued to do my grief and do the things I loved — writing, reading, cooking. These activities gave me a break from grief. Be glad when you forget about loss for a moment. You are healing.

Healing begins when you start to see hope.

Multiple losses robbed me of a future. I could not imagine life without my loved ones. Because I had grieved before, read about grief, and written about it, I knew I had to watch for signs of hope. I found hope in a robin’s song, a baby’s laugh, buds on apple trees, and smiles on my grandchildren’s faces. Look for hope and you will find it.

Healing begins when you plan a new life.

After a loved one dies you have two options, give up on life or live it. I chose the second option and planned a new life. Planning this life took more than a year. Alan Wolfelt, PhD, writes about planning in his article, “Reconciliation.” The article lists reconciliation criteria. One criteria is “the capacity to organize and plan one’s life toward the future.”

Healing begins when you act on your life plan.

I am living my new life now. Does it contain any joy? The answer is a heartfelt yes. Keep doing your grief work and you will create a new life, too. Grief is work and so is life. Artist Grandma Moses described life in a few words, “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” This is your truth, this is your healing.

Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson

http://www.harriethodgson.comHarriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for 30 years. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon.

Centering Corporation in Omaha, Nebraska has published her 26th book, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life.” The company has also published a companion resource, the “Writing to Recover Journal,” which contains 100 writing prompts.

Please visit Harriet’s Website and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.

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Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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