Sunday, May 7, 2017

Seeking Balance When Experiencing Grief

The following article by Dr. Ron Newman originally appeared in the Hammontown Gazette in May, 2016.

Losses can be devastating. It can be like a wound that initially feels numb, but then the pain hits you with an unexpected intensity. For some, the wound can become infected and require a more complicated healing process. Over time, the wound may heal, but the scar remains as a reminder of the pain and loss you endured.

For some, the wound never fully heals.

A friend whose young adult son unexpectedly died in his arms described the grief process as a spiral where you revisit various thoughts and feelings, often triggered by the most unexpected things such as a smell, object or location.

Here are a few ideas that have helped others in managing their own grief. I hope a few of these thoughts can help you, too.

--Don’t fight the feelings. Acknowledge them and seek to learn from them. Profound sadness, deep anger, guilt, shame, anxiety, and other emotions can be confusing as you wrestle with them after a loss. Accept their presence.

--View feelings as reminders of your connection to the deceased. Whether positive or negative, feelings mean you care. Allow yourself to remember the good times that strengthen that connection.

--Read books on grief. They can help you process and accept your experience. A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis, Recovering from the Losses of Life by H. Norman Wright, Beyond Grief by Carol Staudacher, and Grief’s Courageous Journey by Sandi Caplan and Gordon Lang are a few options.

--Write the deceased a letter. You can include random thoughts, feelings, images, memories, or whatever helps you process your inner experience. It can be a good-bye letter. You can share the letter with someone, if you choose, or reread it at some future time when the grief resurfaces such as an anniversary or special date.

--Keep a journal. In it, you can document lessons you learned from your relationship with the deceased. Document thoughts, feelings, memories, and the positive things you gained from knowing this special person.

--Make a photo album or scrapbook. This can help you emotionally process the memories. Of course, the younger generations can do these things through the internet with websites such as Pinterest, Instagram, and perhaps Facebook.

--Create a Memory Quilt. Each piece of the quilt can represent some memory or aspect of the person’s life. These often are created with the help of a community of people, or extended family, where the individual pieces are made by those with a connection to the deceased.

--Carry a linking object. At least for a season in your life, you can use a pin or necklace, or carry something in your pocket or pocketbook that reminds you of your loved one.

--Forgive yourself, if needed. It is possible the deceased had already forgiven you, but even if not, you can bring it before God and receive His forgiveness and the grace to forgive yourself. Seek the ability to forgive them as well, if you notice lingering resentments from unsettled conflict.

--Talk to someone. There is no substitute for human contact and sharing with a supportive person who cares. It can be a professional, clergy, a friend, family member, or God through prayer. Grief support groups, such as My Sister’s Kids – a peer support group for kids and teens in South Jersey, are available for people of all ages. Verbalizing your grief can help you work through the different stages involved.

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist with offices in Hammonton and Liinwood in South Jersey.

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