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Grief is something we never fully get through.  No matter how much one is able to reframe and restructure one’s life, grief will remain on some level.  Here are some thoughts to consider regarding “setbacks” with grief.

Time heals all wounds …or does it?  Well intentioned comforters tell us as mourners that we need simply to be patient and allow time to heal us, but time isn’t the agent of progressing through grief.   We as mourners are the agents of change and reconciliation as we make decisions and act to steer our grief journey rather than remain helpless and hopeless victims of grief.  We determine not to passively let grief happen to us.  Despite the overwhelming waves of sadness and emotional turmoil that routinely return to crash down on us, we decide to take a more active approach to preparing for and responding to our grief and its difficult, painful emotions.  That’s why we reach out to our support systems, dig deep into resources available in our faith and beliefs, and seek help in support groups or professional counseling in our community.

We do need to be patient with ourselves and our grief because the healthy grief journey has its own timetable.  W e need to give ourselves and our grief time and space for opportunities to “move forward’ and heal.  But the problem is that we want to get over the rough spots in grief quickly and return to a more “normal” life or at least a life where we experience joy and hope once again.  And we want it now.  That change will happen.  When will it happen for you?  No one can predict that, but it will happen if you just keep doing what is right and healthy for you in your unique grief.  Sometimes though to do what is right and healthy for you, you have to reach outside of yourself for the help and information you require.

You may find this hard to believe, but you are the expert in your grief experience.  Although other mourners may share similar experiences and emotions and bereavement specialists may gather reams of data from thousands of case histories of grief, only you experience your loss and its impact personally.  Other mourners and bereavement specialists are not your grief experts, you are.  That’s why it is important for you when you reach out for help, comfort and encouragement to share the details of your specific grief experience and your specific needs.  Only then when they hear and understand where you are in your grief can these outside experts help you.

Please don’t become discouraged when you have an unexpected, devastating grief outburst and your grief appears to be having a major setback.   Don’t let that grief outburst make you feel like your attempts to steer your grief journey have been unproductive or useless.  Often the progress made in grief is made in slow, miniscule and imperceptible steps forward.  Mourners who keep grief diaries and journals often tell me that going back to read early entries in their grief stories helps them to understand that they are making huge changes in their grief and mourning over the long haul one small step at a time.  During weeks, months, and years these small steps forward in grief accumulate creating monumental changes.

So some good advice to getting through grief in a healthy way is to be patient with yourself and your grief.  Also remember you are your own grief expert.  You are the most powerful agent of change and healing.  You, the decisons you make and the actions you take are the secret to getting through your grief in a healthy way.

Share your grief experience with others who can help, support, and encourage you.  Then decide to do what is right and healthy for you.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help when what you choose and try doesn’t seem to work.

Healing and grief reconciliation will come…just not as quickly as you may want.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT, author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” Available on http://grief-works.org/book.php. Also available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore. Available now for Nook and Kindle.

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