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Coping with Grief and Loss
Posted: 7/6/2011 | Personal Development Comments
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If there’s one thing all people have in common, it’s that we experience loss many, many times in our lives. You probably remember a loss from early childhood. It may have been a broken toy, or a beloved pet, or maybe your family moved away from a community you knew so well. As we grow older, we lose important possessions, best friendships and loved ones. It’s a natural part of our human experience, and yet we’re rarely prepared to deal with the grief that accompanies loss.

We live in a culture that doesn’t support our experience of grief. We aren’t taught to embrace and explore our feelings and move through the natural process of our loss. Most of us have picked up some damaging and erroneous ideas about loss that keep us stuck. We might minimize our feelings, or pretend we feel fine when we’re feeling a deep sadness. We’re often encouraged to repress our feelings, deal with them alone and move on quickly.

Well-meaning friends and family may give us the wrong advice. We might be encouraged to replace the loss right away, as in: “Don’t be sad. We’ll get another dog.” Or, “Don’t worry about him. There’s plenty of fish in the sea.” We might be distracted from our feelings momentarily by a new relationship, object or environment but we still need to deal with our pain.

Or we may have heard, “Time heals all wounds.” While the passage of time might help clarify our feelings, time alone doesn’t magically make us feel whole again. Again, we need to do the work to allow, accept and move through our grief before we feel better consistently, and before we can create something new in our lives.

Just as we naturally become attached to people, places and things it’s natural to feel loss. It’s normal to grieve. The common practice of avoiding or repressing difficult feelings can have us miss an extraordinary gift. Grief provides the profound opportunity to expedite our growth and deepen our compassion for ourselves and other people. It can be a life-altering opportunity to further our personal evolution and expansion, if we allow ourselves the experience. Grief can open our heart and unfold a greater capacity to love.

Here are a few ways to begin to process your loss:

1.    Remember that grief is natural. It’s important to keep in mind that your experience is real and a natural part of being human. Everything you feel is perfectly normal, which brings me to the next point.

2.    Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. Grief stirs up a wide range of emotions. It’s very common to feel anger, hostility, anxiety or numbness. You might feel afraid or disoriented by sudden change. Whatever you feel, it’s ok.

3.    Talk about it. Talk with good friends or consider joining a grief support group. Depending upon the loss, you might be best served by seeking help from a good psychotherapist. Whatever you choose, talking will help the healing begin.

4.    Keep a journal. While talking will have you feel connected, writing about your emotions will help you clarify and understand your feelings. Write every day as your feelings and thoughts will shift and change over time. It’s a great way to externalize your experience.

5.    Take care of your body. It’s important to support your process with good food, lots of rest and daily exercise. Moving your body helps you move through your feelings.

The more you are present to your loss and grief, the deeper your growth and understanding. With your loving attention, you’ll move to new levels of awareness and gain valuable skills to deal with future loss, which will surely happen. Loss is just another facet of our humanity, as is love, joy and peace.

I look forward to your thoughts, stories and experiences. We’re all on this human journey together, and your comments support us all.



Darlene       Posted: 7/20/2011 10:36:18 AM

Thank You so much Dr. Howard. My mother passed on to the other side when I was 14. My grandparents passed on and in 1995 I never understood how to deal with grief. Now, through my spiritual developing, I''m learning. After reading your article above, I can understand how to work through the grief with the tools you have given. Thank You so much. With love and peace, Darlene

Steven Burgess       Posted: 7/11/2011 1:03:24 PM


I love your 5 steps because many of the people I''ve spoke with who are experiencing the pains of grief & loss feel helpless. The 5 steps are like a gentle path for one to begin walking on that gives them some semblance of control in their life. A family friend just lost her husband unexpectedly. I''d like to share your site with her if you don''t mind.

Thanks for your work in and around this special area.

All the best to you,

Tamara Walker       Posted: 7/16/2011 3:56:50 PM

Excellent points and advice, Dr. Jennifer. Grief doesn''t magically disappear over time. Time heals nothing. But these steps can help someone as they process their grief and hopefully make that process a little easier to bear.

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