“It’s okay to see past some of the issues,” urges Dr. Howard Winokuer, the founder of The Winokuer Center for Counseling and Healing in Charlotte, North Carolina. Speaking with Dr. Heidi Horsley at the Association of Death Education and Counseling conference in 2015, he explains that, “It’s okay to have hope even if things don’t look hopeful.”
Guilt is commonly linked with hope in the grieving process, and it can be hard to untangle the two. He recalls a time when he was talking to a friend a few months after her son died, and she laughed at one of his jokes—but immediately stopped, asking, “How can I laugh? My son is dead.” However, she also realized that if she could laugh once now, she could laugh again in the future.
Even the “dark nights of the soul” can be brought to life, particularly for those in grief who have support networks in place. Being around people who can and do support you and love you even during the tough times can act just like scars do on the body. After scars have healed they no longer hurt, but they exist and serve as reminders.
A Hopeful Transition
Dr. Horsley commiserates, saying “We can honor their lives by living ours to the fullest,” and that’s something those in grief need to understand. Dr. Winokuer agrees, recalling that in the past there was a thought in psychology that in order to heal, you need to let go. However, “You don’t let go of your son, you don’t let go of your daughter, you don’t let go of your husband or wife.” Instead, what you do is find a place within you to continue that relationship in a new way without it paralyzing you.
Dr. Winokuer has published several books on grieving and hope, including Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society and The Principles and Practices of Grief Counseling—both available on Amazon.