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Healthy Grieving
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What is grief?
Grief is a normal and natural response to loss. Though we often expect to grieve the death of a family member or friend, many other significant losses can also trigger grief.  Examples include:
  • The end of a relationship
  • A move to a new community
  • A much anticipated opportunity or life goal is suddenly closed to us
  • The death of a pet
  • Someone we love contracts a potentially life-threatening illness
Grieving such losses is important because it allows us to 'free-up' energy that is bound to the lost person, object, or experience --so that we might re-invest that energy elsewhere. Until we grieve effectively we are likely to find reinvesting difficult; a part of us remains tied to the past.

Grieving is not forgetting. Nor is it drowning in tears. Healthy grieving results in an ability to remember the importance of our loss -- but with a new-found sense of peace, rather than searing pain.

Experiencing Grief
How Do You Do Grief Work?
Helping Yourself Through Grief
Recommended Reading
 

Experiencing Grief
No two people are likely to experience grief in the same way. The way we think and feel, the way our body functions, and the way we interact with others may all be affected.  Some of the more common experiences include:

Sometimes our reactions are so changeable, intense, or irrational that we fear we may be going crazy. Often grieving people are afraid to confront their grief for fear that if they open the door they will be drowned in a flood of tears or rage. Though this is very unlikely, allowing others to help us in our grieving is good 'insurance' that we will keep our balance.

No matter what our intense experiences of grief may be they are temporary. There IS life after grief -- if we acknowledge and work through our reactions, rather than trying to stop them.



How Do You Do Grief Work?
Fortunately, much of the process of healthy grieving seems to be 'built into' our genes. Acknowledging and growing from losses is such a natural process that much of it will happen without our direction -- if we relax our expectations of how we "should" grieve and give up some of our need to be in control.

But healthy grieving is an active process; it is NOT true that, "You just need to give it time." One way of understanding the work to be done is to think of grieving as a series of tasks we need to complete (not necessarily in sequence):

Good friends, family members, or a personal counselor can all be helpful in doing this vital work. You can also do a good deal to help yourself.


Helping Yourself Through Grief
Active, healthy grieving requires balance -- balancing the time you spend directly working on your grief with the time you spend coping with your day-to-day life; balancing the amount of time you spend with others with the time you spend along; balancing seeking help from others with caring for yourself. Focusing too strongly on any single side of these pairings is getting off-track.

Here are some things others have found useful in their healthy grieving. Choose the ones that fit for you, or make up your own methods of self-care. Remember that grieving is an active process, it takes energy that will likely have to be temporarily withdrawn from the usual pursuits of your life. Treat yourself with the same care, tolerance, and affection you would extend to a valued friend in a similar situation.



Recommended Reading
For more information on the grieving process and how to help yourself or someone in grief, here are a few excellent resources:
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