Monday, June 6, 2011

Grief occurs not only when a loved one dies

We’ve all heard about the stages of grieving when we lose a loved one:  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.  What I don’t think we realize is that these same emotions can take us through other types of loss.  It may be the loss of a loved one, but it can also occur during a divorce as we grieve the loss of our spouse or the life we had.  If you are dealing with a family member with an addiction, you are, in a sense, losing that person, not to death but to the addiction.  Loss of a job can represent the loss of our friends, or the identity that the job brought to us, not to mention our self confidence.  Even seemingly small things like missing out on an important opportunity can take us through some stages of grief although they will generally be shorter in duration and intensity.  Knowing that these stages can apply in many areas of our lives and being aware of our feelings can help us work through them and see that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.  

It is natural and healthy to experience these feelings, but you can decide how long you spend in each stage.  Some people need to take their time, but some people get stuck and never get to the final stage of acceptance.  This is where we see people who years after a death, still live in sadness or depression.  This is where people avoid relationships after a divorce as they can’t move on.  They may be angry at their spouse or depressed and have lost all self confidence.  They may still be bargaining with themselves, hoping that their spouse will come back.    

Remember, you are in control.  No one can tell you how long to grieve.  

Every minute you spend focussed on the past is a minute you are losing today.  Spend some time to evaluate and feel the pain, but then refocus on the future and where this event is taking you.  

Start small.   Set small goals every day.  It may be as simple as getting out of bed or going to work and not crying.  As you progress, celebrate the successes and learn from the setbacks.  

With each goal achieved set a new bigger goal and work progressively bigger until you are setting life goals.  Often it is in those moments of despair, that we cannot see our lives any other way.  This is when you need to make those small goals that will eventually lead to the bigger goals that will form your new life without your loved one, divorced or with a new identity.  

No one can control your feelings.  You and only you decide how you react to situations.  Some people let the sorrow envelope them while others use the experience to grow and become stronger.  Which will you do? 

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