Saturday, January 5, 2008

Grief Tips by Guest Blogger Lucille Zimmerman

The morning that my mom died, my dad put all his children on the school bus, and sent them to school. His theory was that if you could just keep up the normal routine, and act fine, then you would be fine. A few years later, my dad was immobilized with depression, and I chose to use denial and substance abuse as a means to cope. Ten years down the road I was no closer to having grieved the loss of my mom than the day I started.

You wouldn’t think so, but there really are right and wrong ways to grieve. Here are some tips that I have learned from being a clinician, from doing lots of reading, and from losing other loved ones:.

Grief Waits – In essence, grief is a job that you are assigned. It has a beginning, a middle and an end (although you may always feel some sadness and loss). The process of grieving is like entering a storm, and coming out the other side. The image of what it looks like to move through grief reminds me of the song lyrics, “When you’re goin’ through hell, keep on walkin.’” Some people avoid the assignment, hoping if they distract themselves over a long enough period of time, the pain will go away. They resort to drinking, gambling, shopping, (the list goes on ad infinitum). All these coping techniques really do work in the moment, but over the long run, grief is still sitting there, waiting.

We heal in relationship – For some reason God created us as people who need people. I don’t understand it, but we need someone else to acknowledge what we are going through. Many of your friends and family won’t be able to help you, but many will. Find someone who is willing to see your pain, hear your stories, and feel your regret. Counselors can be a big help in this piece of the process.

Let your loved one be real – Often we tend to idealize the loved one that we have lost. After my mother died, I canonized her in my mind – I made her a saint who had never done any wrong. Part of grief means seeing the person as they really were. It might be helpful to journal about their flaws, or to make a collage that showed their character defects.

Grief takes time – You may feel that you will never get over the loss of your loved one. And you may even fear getting over him because that might mean you are forgetting about him. The good news is that you will never get over them. As one helpful counselor told me, “He will always be a part of you, and you get to keep everything he gave you.” Remind yourself that you really do want to move past this part that hurts so much, and then you will be able enjoy and remember the person without so much pain. Experts say the average length of time is about 18 months. For parents who have lost children, that time may extend into years.

Take time off from grieving – Make sure you are taking time off to go exercise, to go see a lighthearted movie with friends, and to get some sunshine. Make sure you are eating right and taking fish oils (studies are showing that fish oils help with depression). If you find yourself laughing, don’t feel guilty. Laughter has so many health benefits and actually releases endorphins into your body. Endorphins are the body’s feel-good chemical.

Find ways to memorialize your loved one – Planting a tree or creating a scholarship is a powerful way to ensure that the memory of your loved one goes on. Over the years you get to see the fruit and beauty that come from something tangible.

Grief Tips is written by Lucille Zimmerman ©2008 is a counselor, writer, and speaker in Littleton, CO. Feel free to view her blog at http://rumorsofglory.net/blog

This article was posted by Jewel Sample, award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses (2006) also translated: Besos y abrazos al aire (2006, Spanish edition) and Flying Hugs and Kisses Activity Book (2007)