Coping with Loss & Grief

Disciplines for Grieving

Module 2 page 1


With self-discipline most anything is possible Theodore Roosevelt


There are many 'how-to-do-it' books on managing grief. Most of these books deal with common components of grief such as shock, denial, anger, panic, bargaining, depression, physical distress and acceptance. 'Phases of grief,' 'stages of grief,' 'steps of grief' are often misunderstood as being a system of stages which one must go through, one at a time, before grieving has really happened.

It is much more realistic to think of six disciplines that are usually accomplished as people make their way from recent loss to readjustment.

First Discipline

Come to the place where your loss is recognised as a reality
It is not uncommon for people to maintain bedrooms, a table setting, the workshop etc., as they were on the day of the death of their loved one believing that he or she has not really died but is 'away for a while'.

A lady's husband died in hospital and for two months after the funeral she rang the hospital every day and asked how her husband was doing. Daily the nurse quietly reminded her that her husband had died. One day after some counselling she told the counsellor that she knew that she was finally beginning to heal. She said, "I didn't phone the hospital once this week. I know my husband died. I now believe it ."

No progress toward healing can take place until loss is accepted as a reality.

Second Discipline

Pain must be EXPERIENCED if healing is to take place No one likes pain. It is a natural instinct to withdraw from it or anything that looks as if it will bring us discomfort of any kind. Grieving people are no exception.

Be willing to experience the pain and suffering caused by a major disruption in life

Grief counsellors can be ever so gentle with grief stricken people yet some hesitate to come back for further counselling because they could not bear the pain. A few believe that the counselling actually brought on regression.

People who make these objections usually have avoided all thoughts, situations and sights that would cause the slightest pain. When they attend a group meeting where others share the nature of their losses and where painful feelings are expressed, the urge to escape often becomes very real. Painful feelings come flooding back into their minds and they become distressed because they believed that they had adequately dealt with them, or, on the other hand, they want to continue to avoid experiencing the pain of the loss.

Third Discipline

Pain must be EXPRESSED if growth and new life are to eventuate Parents often find themselves consoling a child who was hurt physically or emotionally when they were not around. The youngster will fight back the hurt, even the tears, until, when in the safety of the parents arms, the child can express the pain. What a relief. What a healing.

It may seem impossible to believe at the time, but in grief, pain is a sign of healing. The experiencing and expression of pain are absolutely essential. When people refuse to allow themselves to experience and express their pain, they become bogged down in their grief and the pathway out of grief and loss is blocked.

Experiencing pain will mellow it. Eventually thoughts of the loss will evoke mostly good and warm memories.

Fourth Discipline

Move back into familiar environments once shared with the person who is now gone
Too often people go to great lengths to avoid these environmental facts.

Sid lost his wife, Molly, through a sudden heart attack. They were in their advanced years and had attended the same church all their married lives. Molly was very involved in the running of the church and Sid never objected. In fact, he rather liked the way she organised things and how the congregation came to rely so much on her. Every week they sat in the same seats and participated in the same group. Both had a strong faith and were noted for their regular attendance. Molly's funeral was conducted in 'their' church and Sid was calm and composed. The way he handled the funeral and Molly's death, was, as the congregation said, a fine example of Christian faith, courage and hope. The congregation was confused when, after Molly's funeral, Sid never attended the church again, except for the funeral of a dear friend. He just could not cope with all those memories.

Each of us move back into familiar environments in different ways. To some it is a quick move, to others it takes time. A few are like Sid and need a helping, understanding hand.

Larry Yeagley tells of a friend who lived comfortably in a home which had a newly planted orchard outside one of the windows. After her husband's death, this lady could not bear to look out of that window at the orchard. When she walked through it to her car, she would often scream. Long after she had adjusted to others areas, the orchard remained an acutely painful portion of her surroundings.

If you discover a part of your world that gives you pain, don't be discouraged by it. Whether you are making fast or slow progress is not really important. What is important is whether you are on the move and recognise it.

Fifth Discipline

Saying good-bye
This is a slow process which requires a lot of emotional energy. Mountains of emotional energy invested in the lost relationship must be withdrawn and re-invested in other relationships.

Some call this "saying goodbye" of "letting go", psychological amputation. Whatever you call it, it is a major shock to the system. In surgery amputation is often the only way to save a life. The same is true in grief. Saying good-bye to a relationship that can no longer be, is the only way to free a person so that he or she can go on living in a satisfying manner. Often people say that they have to finally say good-bye before they can begin to really live again .

Saying "good-bye" does not mean that memories must be discarded. Memories are replays of love. Saying good-bye is admitting and acting on the fact that a present relationship with a lost loved one cannot be productive. It is no more than a fantasy which is cheating yourself and everyone else who could benefits from your fellowship.

Sixth Discipline

A life crisis consumes a lot of energy Loss is a life crisis. That is why people get so tired when they lose a loved one. However, when a person has said "good-bye" they are able to draw on new energies - all of the new strengths and insights gained through meeting the crisis of their loss.

A person who has dealt with their own grief crisis adequately, is a source of strength to others who are grieving, not so much for what they say, but rather for who they are. They are richer people who can incorporate their daily blessings into their own lives and share them with others.

Discovery . . . Relief . . . Recovery . . . Hope

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