Until I lost four loved ones in 2007, I did not realize recovering from grief was a personal choice. The shock of multiple losses was so great I could hardly think. Two choices were open to me. I could stay stuck in grief and remain a victim, or I could create a new life for myself. I opted for the second choice.

Early in my grief journey (surprisingly early) I began to think about recovery promises. My first promise: I will get through this.

Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair, PhD write about recovery in their book, I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye. They think actions influence recovery. “As we move through the process of grief,” they write, “it’s important to do and not just think.”

Noel and Blair include recovery exercises in their book and one involves “honoring” anger by pounding your fists on the bed. Writing thank you notes is another exercise. Looking at life in totality — something that is hard to do when you are stressed — is a third. According to the authors, grief can be a time of growth.

Rabbi Harold S. Kushner thinks we need to stay engaged with life in order to recover from loss. In his book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” he points out that humans are the only creatures who know they will die. “Knowing our time is limited gives value to the things you do,” he notes.

Though I already valued life, I made these recovery promises to value it more. All of my promises are positive. I knew carrying them out could take years, yet refused to give up on myself. My promises may suit you or you can make new ones.

1. Every person, including me, is worthy of recovery.

2. I will greet each day with a loving and gentle heart.

3. I will treasure the love I shared with my departed loved one(s).

4. When I have negative thoughts I will shift them to positive ones.

5. No matter how hard it gets, I will do my grief work.

6. Independent as I am, I will accept help when it is offered.

7. Silence will be my introspective friend.

8. Every so often, I will take a break from grief.

9. It takes courage to admit I am scared and I will credit myself for this courage.

10. Reconnecting with friends shall be one of my goals.

11. I will share my grief story.

12. Nature’s miracles will help me heal.

13. Death has lessons to teach me about life and I will learn them.

14. I will enjoy the new life I have created for myself.

15. Giving to others will be part of this life.

When you make promises to yourself you are saying you believe in yourself. What are your promises? Robert Frost, in his famous poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” says he has promises to keep. We have promises to keep to ourselves and the miracle of life.

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Harriet Hodgson

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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