When there is a meaningful loss, grief is unavoidable. Whether it is the loss of a mate, a parent, a child, or even a dream, loss is a part of the human condition and, therefore, a universal experience.
It is not a question of whether we will experience loss and pain; it is a question of when. Although grief is unavoidable, it does provide options. We can choose to face mourning with the mindset of grieving successfully.
Dr. Theresa Rando has written extensively on loss and survival in How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies. She discusses patterns of grief and our role in deciding how we can choose to travel through and out of this emotional valley. To mourn and transition in a healthy way is largely a result of our willingness to set successful grieving as a goal.
Rando states that successful grieving begins with three key processes:
- Acknowledge the loss. Denial can be helpful in the initial stages of grief, but extensive denial can postpone or thwart the grieving process.
- Be willing to experience the pain. The desire to dull, distract, or compartmentalize pain is often a knee-jerk reaction to grief. This is only a temporary answer that can, over time, numb a person’s entire spectrum of emotion.
- Move adaptively into the new life. New roles, skills, and even attitudes often need to be sought out and cultivated to meet the voids left by the loved one’s absence.
In some ways, the brokenheartedness of grief is like a fractured bone. When healed, the point of fracture is reinforced and stronger than before. Successful grieving allows for the possibility of a stronger you.
There is no magic recipe to accelerate or to bypass the heartache of grief, but an attitude of successful grieving is the first step towards a new experience of wellbeing.