Three critical truths that can help you cope with your loss
How do people who deal with the death of a loved one, often unexpectedly, find the strength to survive their heavy losses? What is the turning point in their grief work when they begin to see light at the end of the tunnel? There are many factors that come together to lead to acceptance of death, which is the starting point of healing.
Among the most important is an inner life that develops a new consciousness. It is strengthened through the difficult confrontation with death and continues through the ups and downs of mourning. Often new insights, indeed new beliefs, are created based on their experiences. Here are three truths that many have eventually embraced, consciously or unconsciously, that have eased the pain of their journey.
1. Change must be welcomed and accepted. The key word is acceptance. Everything is subject to universal change; no exceptions, no going back. For those grieving, it means adjusting to major life changes when a loved one dies. The hard part is creating new habits and routines due to the absence of your loved one, knowing that things will never be the same. Time often seems to stand still while the pain continues. Still, being patient and going slow with yourself is crucial. Do a little at a time is good advice. Remember, there is no way to ignore accepting change. Resistance, because you are unwilling to participate, will take a toll on the mind and body.
This truth does not mean that you should suppress anger, rage at a sense of injustice, or question the why of it all. It is normal and important to do so. But at some point you have to eventually move on. The surest way to deepen your suffering is to cling to it without periodic diversions.
It is also a normal experience for a major change to lead to fear of the future. The expected and predictable with the loved one must be replaced with new goals and responsibilities – a new and different life. Coping with these changes is a major part of grief work.
2. Although constant changes must be dealt with throughout life, we don’t always get the support we expect to adapt to them. It is not uncommon for our support systems to be less than we had hoped they would be. And relationships with others often change. This fact is to be expected. You may no longer be invited to certain social gatherings after your loved one’s death. Some friends may not call or visit you as often as they did in the past.
Yet communication with others is a major source of strength and reassurance (a great motivating force) so desperately needed when you are grieving. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who suffered from the kidnapping and death of her son Charles, Jr., said, “My own recovery, I realize, has been greatly aided by the love, understanding and support of those around me.”
Cultivating an ongoing support system is a wise endeavor for both the grieving and the caregiver. We all desperately need strong interpersonal relationships; they bring strength to move forward, self-confidence and the feeling of being loved. You may need to work on making new friendships, rebuild some from the past, or strengthen existing ones.
3. For every thought and emotion we generate, there is a corresponding physical response in the cells of the body. This has been proven time and time again by the anniversary disease phenomenon, the placebo effect, the power of suggestion, and the fact that the majority of heart attacks occur on Monday mornings (the stress and thoughts of going back to work). Athletes know all too well the power of thoughts. When anything other than positive expectations creep into their thoughts about performance, how they perform a particular skill suffers.
This undeniable fact also has a great impact on mourning. how? Because the more we allow negative thinking to dominate our inner lives, the more we pay the physical price of energy loss and immune system malfunction. The emotional wear and tear of grief has an extremely powerful impact on health. Depression, refusal to forgive, and the stress of grief, combined with the isolation that often accompanies all three, contribute immeasurably to the various kinds of illness associated with prolonged mourning.
On the other hand, hope, love, renewed purpose and determination can have a very positive effect on all body systems. Thoughts trigger recovery and self-healing from within. Not only does the mind and what we think affect the body, but the reverse is also true. Our physical condition affects brain function. The will to do well and get through your dark night is another powerful asset.
To summarize, ultimately, adjusting to the loss of love begins and ends with the individual. It’s all about taking responsibility for your inner life and realizing that what you do and think is a powerful predictor of unnecessary suffering or finding peace of mind. It’s clear: thoughts affect biology and therefore stress levels.
There is no magic way out of or around grief except through the decisions we make. We all have an inner counselor, an inner guidance, if we turn to it. No friend or family member can handle the task for us. Mourners come to this conclusion after much pain and suffering. They realize that if they don’t change – the dark night will go on and on. Emerson put it this way: “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” This, of course, is easy to say but hard to do.
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