Healthy grieving is a natural process that we all face after we lose a loved one. We each work through a number of steps in the grieving process, but those steps take us each down a different path, and each step is experienced in a different way and for a different length of time, by each individual. Most of us eventually work our way through the process until we find ourselves at a point of healing where we can move on with our lives. As the saying goes, our loved ones are gone, but not forgotten.
However, in order to reach the point where we can move on, the grieving process has to be a healthy one, which means that it must be productive. So, what exactly does healthy grieving mean, and what does it look like? Here are some tips you can use to make sure that you stay on the right track in your grieving process.
For Healthy Grieving, Stay Connected
The people in your life who suffered the same loss understand how you feel. Find at least one trusted person you can reach out to as often as necessary. If you just aren’t up to confiding in someone you are close to, contact a clergyman or counselor. The most important focus here is that you remain connected and are able to express how you feel. Your emotions will change, sometimes moment to moment, and during this difficult time of uncertainty and emotional upheaval, it is critical that you have an outlet for your grief.
Also, remain vocal with those around you about what is helping you and what is hindering your grieving process. People may reach out to you in ways that make you uncomfortable, and you may understand that they are trying to help. But, if what they are doing (ex: stopping by often without calling ahead) is detrimental or unacceptable, be sure to tell them.
Even if the idea of joining a support group has never appealed to you, it is a powerful thing to truly feel that you are not alone. Many support groups have been formed to help people who have experienced loss. Some are specific to the way a person died, such as after a battle with cancer, violence, or drug use.
If the thought of facing people is something that unnerves you, consider at least looking into an online support group. You can check in at your convenience, leave and read notes of support, and you can use it as a sounding board for your grief because you know that those on the receiving end understand exactly how you feel.
Write it Down
We don’t have to be accomplished authors to understand the power of the written word. Release some of your grief by keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Even if you choose to never share it with anyone, you will have written it down, and that action alone is therapeutic. It helps because it gives you a tangible place for your emotions.
Another option is to write letters to the deceased. You can choose to leave them at the graveside, or tuck them away. But, communicating to them in writing can help you come to terms with your grief, and it can help bring a sense of closure to you.
Establish a Ritual
Establishing a grieving ritual adds balance and consistency, which are two key components of healthy grieving. Consider purchasing a special candle and lighting it every evening in memory of your loved one. You could also eat once a week at his or her favorite restaurant, or take a walk once a week through his favorite park or on his favorite beach. A grieving ritual doesn’t have to be complicated, and it will help you stay connected to the memories of your lost loved one while still helping you find some measure of closure.
Whatever you do, keep in mind that healthy grieving should not be rushed. Allow yourself the time required to get through the process without worrying about it taking too long. Healthy grieving doesn’t have a set time limit, and as long as you are working through it, you will eventually find the closure you need.
See Stages of Grief
photo by: NatalieMaynor