There are many obstacles that impede our ability to heal from grief. Some of these are self-imposed and others are a result of how our society handles this subject. Here are three things to keep in mind while you are grieving:

1. We are bombarded by expressions in our society that encourage us such as “move on,” “get closure,” “life goes on.” None of these expressions acknowledges the pain that is felt at a time of significant loss. If we listen to these phrases, we may feel that if we can’t get back to “normal” quickly, there is something wrong with us. So we try to look normal, which takes a huge amount of energy. No wonder we are so tired! Find people in your life that acknowledge your pain and are willing to be there to listen. They don’t have to give advice. They just have to listen.

2. As we move through the weeks and months after a death, we realize that different people in our lives give us different time frames to get over it. Who knows how people arbitrarily choose these time frames? Maybe you will receive understanding longer if it is your spouse or child who has died. If it’s a cousin, you may get less time to recover. Don’t accept the arbitrary time frames that others impose on you. Grief follows its own path and almost always takes more time than our culture will allow. Grief does not have an end date.

3. When we experience the death of someone we deeply care for, we feel that the world will never be the same. In many ways, that is true. The world is a different place and we have to figure out what that new world looks like. The pain and sadness we feel is certainly overwhelming at first but there are moments in which we can experience laughter and some happiness. Feeling happy can also make us feel disloyal or guilty. It can feel wrong to us to be able to feel any emotion other than sadness at this difficult time. You are not disloyal! As tough as it is, you have to let those positive emotions come through when you have them. Do not try to suppress them to leave you in a constant state of sadness. The path of grief has its ups and downs and will have for a long time.

Grief is an uneven path that no two  people walk at the same pace. We need to search out the people who will acknowledge our pain and allow us to share our feelings. And we need to let the laughter and the happy moments come through. Having those positive feelings is not disloyal to your loved one. He or she would want you to be happy.

© 2009 Jane Galbraith

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Jane Galbraith

Jane Galbraith has lived in Burlington, Ontario for many years. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing and has worked in the community health care field since 1976. Her work has included dealing with palliative clients and their bereaved families for the past two decades and also has assisted facilitating grief support groups. As well she has presented to the Bereavement Ontario Network annual meeting, the Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Conference in 2007, conducted a workshop at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in September 2009 and presented to the Ontario Palliative Care Association in 2010 and the Peel Chapter of the HRPAH in 2012. More information about Jane, her book, Grief @Work program and articles can be found at www.boomergrief.com. Jane was a guest on the radio show Healing the Grieving Heart and discussed Facing Loss and Recovery with hosts, Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley. To listen to this show, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley052109.mp3

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