Healing from a loss situation may be the most difficult work you do in your life. Your spirit, body, and emotional state undergo tremendous upheavals. Just when you think you “should” be feeling more like yourself, the cycle of disorientation and upheaval begins again. No wonder it seems like this is one unending dark abyss from which you will never emerge. There are, however, some reminders that may help you during this time of healing.

  • There are no magic timelines for healing.
  • Remember that you always have a choice about how to respond to a loss situation.
  • Take care of your body—it’s the only one you have.
  • Open yourself to leaning from your experience; you may grow in understanding and compassion.
  • Your life is changed; not ended.
  • Be respectful of your own process. Disregard unhelpful advice from others as well-meaning as it may be.
  • Creativity, in any form and artistic endeavors can be healing.
  • Be mindful that reconciliation from grief does not equate with happiness. You were not happy all the time before the loss, and you will not be after either. Life has its ups and downs.

Following are some ideas on coping creatively and holistically:

Emotional:

  • Releasing anger: exercise, throw things, paint, yell (especially in the car), chop wood, pull weeds, etc. Any movement that involves the upper part of the body is helpful. Be careful not to physically hurt yourself or anyone else.
  • Loneliness: find supportive people to cry or just “be” with, get out of the house, check for online resources—carefully. (See accompanying article on “Grief and the Internet.”)
  • Fear: “name it and claim it,” write it down, journal, draw, and talk with others. When fear is faced it loses its power.
  • Guilt: Ask yourself these questions: What did I do? What didn’t I do? What could/would I have done differently? Identify the kind of guilt: realistic or unrealistic? Get information if you need it.
  • Disbelief: Seek help to face the pain that you may be avoiding.
  • Vulnerability: Pray for strength and guidance.

Physical:

  • Refrain from too much caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and nicotine.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Exercise—try walking, especially if your energy is low.
  • If there are significant changes in your eating and sleeping patterns, which don’t resolve, see a doctor. Since you are more prone to infection when your immune system is depleted, which often happens during a period of grief, seek medical attention.

Spiritual:

  • If you have a need to talk things over, particularly if your faith is being tested to its core, find someone who will listen without judging you or your experience.
  • Remember that it is perfectly acceptable to express your anger at God for what has happened to you and what you are experiencing as a result of it.
  • Stay in the “dark place.” That is where the rich soil for growth is even though it is often a lonely and scary place to be.
  • Spend time in nature. It can be incredibly healing and peaceful for your spirit.
  • Create rituals to outwardly express what is being transformed within you.

Social:

  • Name what you need and ask for it.
  • Practice saying no to things, people, and situations you do not want to be involved in.
  • Join a support group around the kind of loss you are trying to heal.
  • Reach out. It is important to know that you are not alone.
  • Make specific plans—even if you need to change them at the last minute. Find friends who will understand that that might happen.
  • Acknowledge significant dates, anniversaries, holidays, etc.

Intellectual:

  • Take it one hour at a time
  • Seek help in decision-making. It is best not to make any major decisions for one year, if possible.
  • It may be easier to listen to tapes rather than read books if your concentration is poor.
  • Distract yourself when necessary. Wallowing in grief constantly is not helpful.
  • Try to find humor even in the bleakest moments. Remember Erma Bombach? Humor does help with healing.

© Lyn Miletich, MPM 2001

Lyn Miletich, MPM, is a writer, trainer, and consultant specializing in the various transitions throughout the life cycle. She holds a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry and is a registered counselor in Washington State.