- Written by Victor M. Parachin Victor M. Parachin
Sooner or later, everyone will experience the death of someone they have loved. When this happens, the result is grief — a natural but unpredictable response to the loss that impacts a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically.
Here are the three vital steps for a healthy and successful grief recovery.
1. Turn to family or friends. Even if you’re the type of person whose psychological style is to be self-sufficient, silent, and strong, remind yourself that a season of grief is the right time to forge connections with others.
Linking yourself to a trusted, valued family member or friend can lighten the burden, making it easier to get through a tough day.
A popular and accurate bereavement wisdom statement says: “Grief shared is grief diminished.” Talking about your loss with a supportive family member or friend can greatly ease the pain.
Professional counselor L. Gordon Brewer Jr., M.Ed., LMFT, explains the power and value of such talk:
“One of the first things I do in a session with someone that is coming to me for grief therapy is for them to simply tell me what happened. Telling the story of what happened is something I revisit several times during the course of therapy.
“My thoughts on that are that when people are traumatized, ‘the story’ controls them. By telling the story again and again, it begins to take on a new meaning for them. They eventually reach the place emotionally that the story no longer controls them, but they control the story.”
2. Join a grief support group. This idea is for those who do not want to overburden family or friends and for those who are more comfortable exploring their grief with others who are bereaved.
The benefits of a grief support group are numerous and include:
- Realizing you’re not alone – One woman who attended her first grief support group later said, “Until I went to a grief group, I thought I was the only person in the world with this problem.” That insight alone provided her with a powerful feeling of relief.
- Affordability – Unlike professional counseling, which can be expensive, grief support groups are generally free.
- Mentoring – In a grief group you will encounter women and men who are successfully recovering. These individuals provide you with role models and mentors for better managing your own grief.
- Making new friends – A sense of community emerges when participating in a grief support group, and new friendships are created.
3. Strengthen your spiritual side. Death and ensuing grief raise powerful, painful questions about the meaning of life. These are not abstract philosophical musings but the desire to live an authentic, vibrant, meaningful life.
Tap into your spiritual side by engaging in whatever practices sustain you: regular church attendance, participating in a retreat, or reading biographies of saintly women and men.
For one woman, her spiritual practice was meditation. After she and her husband became guardians of their twin grandchildren, she says, “I opted for meditation as a spiritual path to healing. Some people fill their lives with activity and noise in an effort to escape the pain of grief. I did the opposite and embraced quiet time, 15–20 minutes a day.”
She quickly discovered that meditation brought her many benefits, such as “self-knowledge, awareness of weaknesses, awareness of strengths, understanding life purpose, setting new goals, gratefulness for life, and a sense of peace.”
Today, she offers this guidance to those whose grief is fresh and raw: “Meditate in a quiet place that has no background noise. Relax your body and repeat a word or phrase. Often, I focused my meditation on one word, such as love.”
As you make your unique journey through grief, allow yourself to be guided, motivated, and inspired by this insight from bereavement authority Rabbi Earl Grollman:
“Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical, and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”
Victor M. Parachin, M.Div., is a grief counselor, bereavement educator, and author of several books, including Healing Grief.