Monday, May 19, 2014

Processing the Grief Process

Grief is a powerful response to any loss in our life--whether the death of a beloved family member or friend, the loss of a friendship through a move or betrayal, the loss of one's health, the voluntary or involuntary end of a satisfying career or meaningful activity, or even just a big change in life which makes us feel powerless.

If we didn't love the person who has died or moved away or betrayed us, if we didn't find great meaning and satisfaction in the career or activity, it wouldn't hurt so badly to lose them. These permanent losses cause our hearts and psyches mental, emotional, and even physical pain. It's difficult to accept that what was once a vital part of our lives is now relegated to memory.

Worst of all, the pain gnaws away at what joy remains and makes the whole world seem utterly dark and without hope. This can lead to withdrawal from the world in fear that something or someone else will leave us and cause more pain.

How does a bereaved person learn to love and trust again? How does one break down a self-imposed protective wall to open the heart to love again, knowing that future pain is inevitable?

All I can tell you is what works for me. When I focus on what I've lost, I become very depressed. But when I focus on my current blessings, it enables me to move forward, one step at a time, giving thanks for this day of life and the possibilities ever before me. Enduring the pain of grief can make one more empathetic to what others are suffering. Reaching outside of self to give to others paradoxically frees the heart to love again and again.

Is there a risk when we give of ourselves? Of course! But an empty, guarded heart is a sad and lonely heart. The joy of loving others trumps all the pain in the world.

"For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." I John 3:11

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