The Path to Healing

A letter to those living into the next day of life with grief at their side

By: Sue Cook

There is life after loss.
This is a quote by Kahlil Gibran that says so much: “When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

When you lose someone you love and experience the pain of sadness, loneliness, confusion, despair and the inevitable, “Where do I go from here,” question, there is another question: “How long will this grief last?” There is no one answer for all the questions that arise during the grief process. There are ways that can help this journey as you take one step forward and sometimes one step back. It is not like the shirt that says, “One size fits all.” There is only the unique journey that is called “yours” that matters, and the journey can take many turns and twists until you discover your own path on the road of healing.

Here are some suggestions in taking one step forward to this newness of living. Remember these are suggestions alone, not a recipe to be followed ingredient by ingredient.

Grief is a necessary, normal and natural process in our healing. Give yourself permission to grieve, feel, love and be lost and in pain. Be kind to yourself, and move at your own pace; no one has a formula. This is the one time in life where you can be still, talk, cry and express yourself in the ways that feel appropriate to you. You can ask for help from others if you wish and talk about the loss of your loved one. Telling your story to someone who is truly willing to listen can be very comforting.

Pay attention to what you seem to enjoy (which may be nothing for a while), and do not overdo. Understand that foggy thinking can be part of the process, so postpone making major decisions whenever possible. Schedule time to be around people, and take time to be alone. Eat well, get sleep (even if it is interrupted), drink plenty of fluids and please know that you will survive. Weekends and nights can be very long and lonely, so schedule a few activities that you may enjoy. Be patient with yourself, establish a routine and know that your experience does not have to compare to that of others, for this is your path to healing.

Everyone experiences grief differently, and to add to this confusing experience in one’s loss and trauma is grief’s unpredictability. Grief can show up in physical, emotional and spiritual ways. There can be difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, aches and pains, lapses of memory, anxiety and fear, difficulty with decision making, anger and the list goes on. One minute (in life) can be one way, and then some trigger (an odor, a song, a thought, a familiar event like dinner or bedtime) can bring a wave of grief crashing over us. Our bodies have their own way of responding: Some weep uncontrollably, some feel helpless and hopeless, some feel utter despair, some feel loneliness and some experience pervasive sadness and even fatigue and euphoria.

Each one of us will have different feelings, emotions and physical changes at various times. We may feel a full range of responses on this journey, as we pick up the fragments of self. This journey of loss is to be acknowledged as one of life’s most difficult periods, as is the hard work of reconstructing life into the next day.

One way to start the healing process is to ask ourselves every day, “How am I today?” and respond with honesty. We cannot begin to deal with this new life without recognizing where we are in the moment, so we can decide what to do with the next one. We can choose to acknowledge love and the loss and what seems to work for us in order to take that step into tomorrow. We can be kind to ourselves by enjoying a few minutes each day even if it is to acknowledge our own breath. Breathe.

Make a memory box to put treasures of the past on a shelf to be accessed when needed, or keep a journal. Reach out to a friend who listens without judgment, or call my office for a consultation and visit at 361-994-3450. Community bereavement is a service provided by CHRISTUS Hospice at no charge. Materials and visits by phone or in person are available.

Memories are among our greatest assets in healing. We can remember at will and take our beloveds with us while we create each next day. We are not forgetting them, but answering life’s invitation to collect our fragments and step into a new life. Grief fades, yet it can surprisingly return and startle us, but with continued acceptance and honoring of the past, we can walk forward and answer the call of living.

We are all different and our recovery periods also differ, so think about where you are today:

• I have barely begun my grief journey.
• My progress is slow, but ongoing.
• I’m on my way to healing.
• I’ve made significant progress.
• In looking back what has been helpful for me?
• What is it that I can do or need to continue my healing process?

As Henri Nouwen once said, “A friend who can be silent with us in a moment of confusion or despair, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not healing, not curing – that is a friend indeed.”

With warmest regards for your continued journey,

Sue Cook

CHRISTUS Hospice and Palliative Care is located at 6200 Saratoga Blvd., Ste. 104.
Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We are a nonprofit
health care organization that is dedicated to the well-being of the community and offers bereavement services to those in grief at no charge. For more information, contact Sue Cook, bereavement coordinator, at 361-994-3450 or sue.cook@christushealth.org.

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