Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has offered the world much in understanding healthy bereavement. In the final chapter of her book book On Grief and Grieving, she says, “Grief is the intense emotional response to the pain of a loss. . . Most important, grief is an emotional, spiritual, and psychological journey to healing.” Our culture today tends to avoid grief in an effort to be productive, happy, and successful.
Yet Kubler-Ross challenges her readers to think of people they know who have experienced losses. She argues that those who have allowed themselves to grieve will have found the greatest healing. She further contends that many problems in our lives stem from unresolved pain and/or loss that was not grieved.
Grieving is allowing yourself to feel all the emotions and pain of your loss—the anger, the loneliness, the despair, etc. Some people think if they start crying they’ll never stop, but they will stop because crying will help them heal. It may not feel like it in the moment, but crying is a cleansing process.
A healing bereavement process . . .
For me grief has been a process of allowing myself to feel the depths of my pain and then finding a way to get those emotions outside of my body. The feelings of pain that come with a loss are a natural part of being human. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel them, we deny them and stuff them down, where they fester in our unconscious. In grieving, we bring those emotions to the surface and allow ourselves to feel them.
A healthy bereavement process will then find safe ways to let the emotions out. Creativity has been a very helpful way to do this for many people. Journaling, music, photography, painting, scrapbook making can all be ways that allow us to name our experience and bring our emotions out of our bodies.
A therapist friend of mine told me that she was seeing a client whose husband had died. The client was working through her pain by making scrapbooks about her husband. The client had a teenage son who was having a very hard time dealing with his father’s death. My friend referred him to a male counselor who had also lost his father as a teenager.
Several months later my friend met up with this counselor, and she asked him how the teenage boy was doing. He said, “Oh, he is doing great—he took up scrapbooking too!” I am quite sure this teenager never imagined that he would one day be scrapbooking. And I never imagined that I would have a book of photography and poetry published either. But grief has a way of taking people places they never imagined.
Healthy bereavement is a series of choices. In the early stages a statement like that doesn’t make sense—your pain is not a choice. But for healing to happen choices are made to grieve and then choices are made to process all the messy emotions of grief and then more choices are made to move into a new sense of life and well-being. However, it is always important to remember that each person’s journey is unique, and their timetable is their own.
This website offers ideas for several creative ways to work through grief, read about:
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