03 May 7 Ways to Move Toward Healing from Loss
I was in shock. My sixth grade teacher called me to share that a good friend in my class had died in an accident. “It can’t be!” I was thinking, “… not Pat!” Pat, the kind-hearted friend who always offered a welcoming smile and a laugh that was contagious. Pat, who would buy me green apple bubblegum just because I loved it. He had died. How can someone die in 6th grade? I didn’t want to believe it. It broke my heart to think I would no longer see Pat or experience his friendship.
I’m sure you can relate, because all of us have experienced loss at one time or another. Loss and grief can’t be avoided. Maybe you have experienced one or more of these losses: being terminated from a job, divorce or the breakup of a relationship, the death of a loved one, bankruptcy, miscarriage, the loss of one’s health, losing a pet, or even experiencing the empty nest. No one is immune from the pain of loss.
Many times we aren’t aware of the importance of processing our losses and allowing ourselves to grieve. As a counselor, I see people dealing with grief in various ways. Some deny it and act like they are unaffected. Others ignore it, often by self-medicating in unhealthy ways. Unfortunately, ignoring your loss by not allowing yourself to grieve won’t make the pain go away.
There are positive ways to move toward healing from loss. It’s important to acknowledge your pain and express your feelings in tangible ways. Here are some simple ways you can help yourself as you process through times of grief:
- Pray regularly with friends
- Write about loss in a journal
- Make a scrapbook or photo album to celebrate your loved one’s life
- Get involved in a cause that was important to your loved one
- Join a grief support group
- Stay connected with those in your church family
Everyone grieves differently. It helps to view the grieving process as a roller coaster, full of ups and downs. Oftentimes a roller coaster is more intense at the beginning; grief is the same. Know that it’s normal to experience a myriad of feelings as you grieve: shock and disbelief, sadness, anger, guilt, and fear. Initially the low periods of grief appear deeper and longer. Over time the more difficult periods will be shorter in duration and less intense. Please know there’s not a “one size fits all” plan for grief. Our grief is as unique as our lives.
During the grieving process, taking care of yourself physically is invaluable. Be intentional about eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising. Don’t wait until you feel like it. Because if we’re honest, in times of grief, we don’t feel like doing much of anything.
It’s easy to withdraw from others while experiencing grief. However, isolating ourselves can cause us to sink into depression. To best deal with grief we must move from isolation to connection. Seeking face to face support with people who care about us is crucial. Connecting with Jesus and others can be salve to our broken hearts. People want to help, but don’t often know what to say or do. Share what you need with others – whether a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to run errands for you.
Finally, cling to the Good Shepherd. Claim His promises. Jesus understands, cares, and will daily bear our burdens as we journey through our grief. He will walk with us through these dark valleys, providing strength, comfort, and healing – one day, often one minute at a time.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3
Pam Field is a kindergarten teacher, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a big fan of McDonald’s coffee.