By Louis LaGrand —

“What you resist, persists.” It’s an old psychological saying that is especially applicable to anyone when mourning the death of a loved one. In other words, trying to repress feelings, “be strong” or pretend you are doing well when you are not, will guarantee that pain will spill out in unexpected ways. You will not only prolong the intensity of your grief process, you can be sure you will add loads of unnecessary suffering to legitimate pain and sadness.

Grief is, contrary to popular belief, a normal human response.  It seeks expression when a person faces massive change due to the death of a loved one, or another major loss. The key words here are “normal” and “expression.” Yes, the fear, despair, and lack of control are part of the experience and not signs that there is something wrong with you.

So how can you allow grief to work its magic toward accepting the reality of the death of your loved one and find peace of mind? Here are five essentials used by millions of mourners who have found peace through expression.

1. Tell it like it is. It may be a hell for you. Do not suppress (consciously choose not to say what you feel) or repress (unconsciously bury certain thoughts and feelings) simply because you want to maintain the image of rugged individualism. Suppression and repression are two actions that often lead to reactive depression when grieving. It’s healthy to admit you are hurting.

2. Cry when you feel like it, even if it continues on for hours or days. Let the pain drain out through this natural response to the loss of something cherished. If necessary, place yourself in the company of those who can be around pain and will not try to inhibit tears. Also, don’t feel that you must cry. Some people grieve less through tears and talking, and more through thought and action.

3. Take time to be alone in a quiet setting, but don’t isolate. Occasionally, you need time alone to think about the relationship with the loved one, or even talk to the deceased. But maintain your interpersonal relationships. In the long run, too much isolation is detrimental. Seek and accept help. We need each other.

4. Consider the possibility of an afterlife. Read about what others of all persuasions say about an afterlife, especially scientists. I have always liked Einstein’s quote: “The probability of life originating by accident, is comparable to the probability of the unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a print shop.”

You might want to examine some of the literature about other mourners who were convinced they had a sign or message from a deceased loved one or a divine being. Find out why millions believe that no one ever dies alone or grieves alone.

5. Let grief go through you at its own pace. When we choose to love, we automatically choose to grieve. There is no way out-only through, as you choose. Make every effort not to resist grief. All relationships end in physical separation. However, although the person is no longer physically present, love never dies; it forever lives on. Follow your agenda for grieving and reduce contact with those who want you to follow their agenda. Accept the fact that the history of loss shows you will survive.

To summarize, there is a wide range of normalcy in grieving. Give yourself permission to openly mourn, feel the pain, and persist through it all. Beware of comparing yourself to others. Accept your feelings, as distasteful as they seem, as normal, normal, normal, especially after you have a good day and suddenly you find yourself feeling the way you did early in your grief. Then continue on and treasure what you have-a way to peace, knowing that your loved one lives on through you and what you have learned from your experience.

Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc. His monthly ezine-free website is www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com.

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Louis LaGrand

Louis LaGrand

Louis E. LaGrand, Ph.D., is Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York and Adjunct Professor of Health Careers at the Eastern Campus of Suffolk Community College in Riverhead, New York. He was a member of the debriefing team for the Nassau County Medical Examiner’s office on the TWA Flight 800 disaster, a former member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, and a founder and past-president of Hospice of St. Lawrence Valley. The author of eight books and numerous articles, he is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (After-Death Communication phenomena). His first two books on the subject of the extraordinary have been translated into several languages. Messages and Miracles: The Extraordinary Experiences of the Bereaved is listed in the 100 Top Bestsellers for Counseling by the Online Dictionary of Mental Health. Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved, was released in November, 2006 by Berkley Books, a division of Penguin. His newest book is Healing Grief, Finding Peace: 101 Ways to Cope with the Death of Your Loved One. Dr. LaGrand holds advanced degrees from Columbia University, the University of Notre Dame, and Florida State University. He has appeared on numerous radio and TV shows throughout the country including Unsolved Mysteries, Art Bell Coast to Coast, and Strange Universe. With over 25 years of counseling the bereaved, he is an international speaker who gives workshops on death-related topics in schools, hospices, and health agencies in the US, Canada, and England. He is currently Bereavement Coordinator at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Venice, Florida, and Director of Loss Education Associates.

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