Sadness and grief are natural reactions to changes in familiar habits such as death, divorce, moving, graduation, retirement, illness, and even vacations. All of these involve loss that can be painful for two reasons:
1) They bring up core beliefs about the nature of existence-“I am alone.” “I’m lost.” “I have no purpose.” “I’m incomplete.” “I’m vulnerable.”
2) They make us face “unfinished business” from a situation or relationship: resentments, regrets, unspoken appreciation, and unmet expectations.It is not time or keeping busy that heals the painful wounds of loss, but creating a new definition of yourself and completing what was not finished in the relationship.
Complete Unfinished Business
No matter how good a relationship or a situation is, it is a work in progross and therefore incomplete. As soon as you experience a loss, your mind reviews and searches for what was never communicated. This review continues intermittently until it is completed. The following show how you can help the process by communicating your regrets, resentments, unspoken appreciation, and unmet dreams to a mental image of the person who is gone, in a letter that you may never send, or to the eyes of a friend in role play.
• Pinpoint your mistakes: Take responsibility for your contribution to any problems in the relationship, but only for your part! There are usually some positive consquences from even the worst blunders.
• Express your regret: “I am sorry for…”
• Express the (unrealistic) wish behind regrets: I wish I had (could have)…” Identify a specific action that could have made the situation different.
• Change your pattern: In future situations, act out any realistic wishes you identified. Even if you are unable to do this with the person who is gone, you still make amends by being differant with others.
• Do not ask for forgiveness: Forgiveness is entirely the choice of the “injured” party. If the other person is deceased, you can imagine how they would respond to you.
Pointers for Turning Losses Into Gains
Identifying new ideas, affirming them regularly, and using some of the following pointers will give you the compass you need to land on your feet on solid ground:
• Do not bury your feelings in food, alcohol, anger, TV, or work.
• Do not be strong for others. It may help them to see your pain.
• Be with your sadness when it comes. Accept it, but don’t invite it.
• Use emotional moments to mentally communicate unspoken works to your loved one or affirm beliefs that heal. This may intensify feelings and help release them.
• Stay with the pain of a negative memory but purposely follow it with a good one.
• Find a support group or person with whom you can share feelings.
• Dispose of belongings gradually. Periodically review items you can release.
• Plan activities for anniversaries that are enjoyable and comforting or use “special days” to mentally communicate how your “heart” plans to go on.
• Do not force yourself to feel pain that’s not there. It is okay to enjoy life after loss.
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