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Do people ever truly recover from the loss of a loved one? If you’ve ever been brought to tears by a visual reminder or a happy memory of a departed one, it may seem that the grieving process just goes on and on with no end in sight. Feeling sad because you miss someone who was close to you isn’t a negative thing; in fact, it’s a healthy emotional reaction and a way of honoring a person who meant a great deal to you. So, if it’s true that grieving never truly ends, it’s probably because dealing honestly with your feelings — even years later — is a positive response and a reminder that those we lose are never really gone. Grief can happen anytime. Here are a few ideas to help you cope when it arises:
Be Ready for It
If there’s an anniversary coming up or you’re going somewhere that had special meaning to you and a loved one, be ready for a wave of powerful emotion. Don’t deny the possibility or “decide” ahead of time that you’ll remain stoic. Remember, these are opportunities to be made whole, to understand your feelings and remember just how much a departed one meant to you.
So, instead of denying your emotions, embrace the occurrence of grief. Perhaps begin a new tradition by commemorating a birthday, a wedding anniversary, or the anniversary of another important event, thereby turning something sad into a positive. Plant a tree, or make a donation
to a charitable organization in your loved one’s name.
Accept Your Feelings
If you’re confused or surprised by the intensity of your emotions, take a moment to think back to how you felt when your loved one died. Revisit that experience and how emotionally overwhelmed you were. Accept the validity of what you’re feeling and that the depth of these emotions hasn’t changed. The only thing that’s really changed is the passage of time.
Meditation is a mental discipline that can help you cope with loss and make sense of it by coming to a better understanding of your emotional reactions to grief. Consider setting aside a room, or part of a room, as a meditation space. Include anything that helps you relax and focus your thoughts, which might include special artwork, calming music, aromas, and a room with
lighting that enhances your meditative state.
Set Up Something Positive
One good way to mitigate the pain is to plan something that will make you happy and put a positive spin on things. Reserve space at your favorite restaurant, or hold a special ceremony at your loved one’s favorite location. Invite family and friends to keep you from feeling isolated and to give everyone else an opportunity to gain strength from the emotional sharing.
Stay in Contact
One of the best ways to cope with residual feelings of loss is to stay close to the people who shared the love you feel for a lost loved one. These are people who understand how you feel. Go out to dinner together, have coffee, take walks with friends — anything that keeps you busy and tied to the people who mean the most to you. Talk to your priest or spiritual leader on a regular basis if it helps to understand your situation from a spiritual/religious standpoint.
There’s a great deal of emotional strength to be gained from sharing memories of happy times with your loved ones. Everyone has some recollection that others can relate to and gain strength from. Think of it as a communal sharing, shouldering grief collectively so everyone can benefit. Whether it’s still fresh or occurs years later, grief is a fact of life. However, it’s nothing to be feared or denied, as grief is part of the healing process. Reach out to others, find new ways to commemorate your loved one’s life, and celebrate his or her life at every opportunity.
Guest post by Sara Bailey of TheWidow.net