Working through pain in isolation may make the completion of healing more difficult. People who are grieving often feel they don’t want to burden their friends.
But people who love you are also grieving and want to be a support for you. Talk to people. Even if you are uncomfortable talking about your feelings, it is important to put a voice to what you are experiencing. Talking can be therapeutic.
Grief worked out in projects
In an art therapy class I recently attended with other mental health professionals, we saw pictures of art projects (by permission) completed in a healing art therapy class. Individuals struggling with a way to express what they were experiencing used everyday objects and materials to put together collages that represented their loss, their pain and their grief.
Others might choose different mediums to work through their grief. Women make memory quilts; men often work on building something. Oftentimes, it is not the product itself, but the camaraderie of working together with others that allows healing to occur.
Retreat or Support
When animals are injured, they find a safe place to hunker down so they can heal. With the pain of loss, we too just want to curl up into a ball under our blankets to wait for the pain to recede.
While our personalities and style of responding to life may be different, grieving alone can make recovery more difficult. We need others. Not everybody is comfortable in support groups. But our friends can be a great asset to us. They offer a buffer from the intense emotions we struggle with.
Support isn’t just sitting and talking. Support can simply be the physical presence of a friend that offers the opportunity to talk and share as you spend time together.
If you are supporting someone who is grieving, be sensitive to where they are at. Be available, but let them lead. As friends we can offer opportunities to restore in some way a sense of normalcy again.
We need time to retreat from the world in order to reflect, come to terms with our loss and create healing memories. But we also need to engage with our world. Giving of ourselves through volunteer programs has enormous rewards.
In the act of giving we receive. Become a volunteer for a hospital, hospice or other organization that puts you in the lives of others. Even if you are working full time, make time to volunteer. In helping others, we begin to heal ourselves.
Step out and risk
Try something new – join a new group – do something you have never done before. Join a theater group, a book club, a dance class, an art class, a choral group, or take a class at your local community college. You are not only engaging, but challenging the status quo, discovering new interests and meeting new people. It is by stepping out and risking that we work through that transition between endings and new beginnings.
Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC