January 9, 2010
Together with Cathy Piper, a registered nurse with an interest in palliative care and grief, I offered a grief support group for four weeks in June 2008. As a prelude to the group, we wrote a three-part series in which we briefly discussed the nature of grief. The articles were published in The Manitoulin Expositor in May 2008. (All quotations in the articles are taken from Alan D. Wolfelt’s book, The Journey Through Grief.)
Here is that series of articles, which I will post in the same three parts over the next three days:
What is grief?
Grieving is something we do…in response to a loss, any kind of significant loss. It might be the loss of a job, a relationship, friends, a beloved pet, your home, or the loss of your childhood or your culture. Maybe you feel the loss of your beliefs or your language, or you no longer feel needed and wanted. It is common, though often not recognized, for people to grieve over countless changes and losses. And every person responds to grief in a different way and at a different pace. There is no road map that grief has to follow.
Grief comes from deep within and finds its way out in various forms, from crying and wailing, to seeking silence and seclusion, to talking it out. These healing forms of grieving help you go deep inside and walk through the pain to emerge on the other side. When loss and grief are not acknowledged, people sometimes try to bury their feelings with alcohol and other drugs or they keep so busy they won’t feel; however, these destructive paths can lead to depression, physical illness and suicide.
With the support and love of family, friends and, sometimes, trained helpers, it is very possible to move through grief rather than try to go around it by not feeling it. “Acknowledging reality brings pain. As I open myself to feel the total sense of loss, I discover I cannot do this grief work alone. I will need the love and support of those who understand the depths of this journey. Most of all I will need to be around people who are truly compassionate.”
Healing in grief is heart-based, not head-based. The depth of your very soul is exposed, and you enter into new realms to find healing. “The reality of this death/loss demands my attention. As I move from head understanding to heart understanding, I know with burning certainty that life is forever changed. I arrive at this new place unprepared for the journey ahead. How will I set forth?”
“The head, the heart and the soul must all come to embrace the reality of the death/loss. It is the soul that gives life to the head and the heart. I may know the reality of the death/loss in my head, but I must also let it sift down into my heart and soul.”
Silence and solitude, friends and family, all combined, are necessary for your journey through the pain of grief. “As I experience my grief, I am pulled to be both alone and together with others. I realize I need both. The beauty of it is that I have discovered I can embrace both needs. What an important revelation!”