January 11, 2010
This is the final article in a series I've posted over the last three days. I wrote the series on grief with Cathy Piper, a registered nurse with a particular interest in palliative care and bereavement. Published in The Manitoulin Expositor in May 2008, the articles briefly discuss the grieving process. All quotations are taken from The Journey Through Grief, by Alan D. Wolfelt.
Moving on From Grief
In this last part of our brief series on grief, we’ll talk about moving on from grief. Keep in mind that the grief we are talking about can involve any sort of loss – a loved one, a job, a childhood, a home, and so on.
It’s not unusual to sometimes feel guilty during the grieving and healing process. Some people feel guilty when they discover advantages in the changes that have occurred, such as more time to spend with other family and friends, a preference for the new home after all, more money, or less responsibility. Some feel guilty the first time they laugh or the first day they don’t think of their departed loved one. Such feelings of guilt come from the changes life brings and are a natural part of responding to those changes. But they are not wrong or bad, and they do not mean you don’t or didn’t care. Let the feelings of guilt go by acknowledging them and reminding yourself that life really does go on and that it is a good thing to be able to enjoy it.
Another aspect of the grieving process is the unpredictable nature of memories. During the early phases of grieving, memories can come pouring in and threaten to overwhelm you. They can pop up at the worst times and refuse to leave, even when you have things you just have to do, like sleep or go to work or make supper. Memories often bring on floods of tears, feelings of anger, and a renewed sense of loss. As with guilt and all other aspects of grief that we have discussed, such remembering ups and downs are normal. In fact, they are helpful and necessary because they help us place the person, relationship, or previous state of health in the past, where it actually does reside.
Though thinking of this reality can be hard, it is natural and necessary because learning to move on from relationships or abilities or circumstances that have changed is the nature of life. Nothing can be gained by refusing to move forward, except that you may very well add burdens to your life that keep you stuck and make you unwell.
Instead, use your feelings and memories to honour and remember the people and circumstances that have gone. Enjoy and be grateful for their presence in your life for the time they were there. Discover and appreciate the lessons you’ve learned and the challenges and fun you’ve experienced because of them. Use those lessons and pleasures to enhance your life today. By appreciating and accepting the past, you will be able to live a more satisfying today and look forward to many promising tomorrows.
“Memories are my treasures…they carry my story, my song, my light. As I long for peace, I carry my memory torch with me, a vital link in the chain of humanity.”