The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Grievers by Victor M. Parachin
A death of someone we love is one of lifeís harshest blows. The bereavement that emerges can generate loneliness, fear, guilt, rage, depression and even despair. Yet, people can and do heal from those wounds. "Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it," observed Helen Keller. Many people have experienced the deep wound of grief but emerged from it to live satisfying, fulfilling lives. They are beacons of light for those experiencing a dark night of the soul. Here are the seven habits of highly effective grievers:
Habit 1: Let friendship help. Friendship can lift you out of the grip of dark grief into places where sunshine can find you. Those who overcome loss never go it alone because they know going it alone is going nowhere. Nor do they pretend they are doing fine and not in need of support. Those who heal allow friends to reach out and help.
Habit 2: Allow yourself to grieve and do grief work. Effective grievers disregard completely the erroneous advice to "keep a stiff upper lip," "be brave," "donít cry," "get over it," "move on," etc. They refuse to be stoic. They allow themselves to grieve even though it means experiencing unpleasant and unfamiliar emotions, such as shock, disbelief, depression, anger, guilt, fear, loneliness, regret, anxiety, frustration and confusion. Effective grievers understand the importance of doing "grief work."
Grief work means paying close attention to grief. Grief work is the necessary psychological and spiritual energy you must expend to integrate the loss into the story of your life. Grief work focuses on a simple question, "Now what?" Or to restate, "What do I do with the life I have left to live?"
Habit 3: Seek information. For most people, the death of a loved one throws them into completely new territory. Very few individuals know much, if anything, about the grief process before they experience a loss. Those who have a healthy bereavement seek information from books and magazine articles. Read all about it, information is empowering.
Habit 4: Avoid hasty decisions. The reason professionals advise the bereaved to avoid making major changes is because grief clouds the mind. After one year, many emotions begin to settle down, freeing the mind to think more clearly and make wiser decisions. Of course, there are times when financial considerations can force the bereaved to make decisions shortly after a loss. At times like these, it is best to seek professional advice as well as from your family.
Habit 5: Join a grief support group. At some point, says Rabbi Earl Grollman, an author and counselor on death and grief issues, you may be disappointed in the reactions of your acquaintances, maybe even your close friends. You just donít hear from them as often anymore or they seem awkward and uneasy in your presence. Thatís why self-help groups have been successful in providing necessary emotional intervention through the crisis of death. People in these groups understand your fears and frustrations; they have been there before. Allow them to help you out of your isolation with a meaningful support network. They share with you the time of your grief and help you walk on your sorrowing paths.
Habit 6: Take care of yourself physically. Effective grievers seem to understand instinctively that a grieving bodyís immune system is suppressed by the stress of bereavement and therefore susceptible to illness. For that reason, they work to take care of themselves physically by excercising. This reduces stress, strengthens the body and improves their overall sense of well-being. Effective grievers also eat well-balanced diets and fight the tendency to over indulge in junk foods. Adequate rest also regenerates the body and emotions. Finally, they avoid drugs and alcohol. Numbing the pain left by grief only postpones it. Occasionally, a mild sedative or anti-anxiety medication prescribed by a physician can help, but effective grievers never use them as a way to bury the pain.
Habit 7: Seek professional help when necessary. Most who lose a loved one to death may not need the aid of a professional therapist. There are times when bereavement is so intense and unrelenting, however, that a skilled counselor will be most helpful in managing grief. Effective grievers know there is nothing wrong with obtaining help from a psychologist, a mental-health clinic, a psychiatrist of a member of the clergy. They understand that seeking aid from a professional is not an admission of weakness but a demonstration of their determination to successfully complete the journey through grief.
This article is condensed and reprinted with the permission of the National Funeral Directors Association, The Director magazine, NFDA Services, Inc., January 2005