By Therese Rando, Ph.D.
Grief responses are natural reactions when you experience loss and separation from those you love. They express three things:
1. Your feelings about the loss.
2. Your protest at the loss and your wish to undo it and have it not be true.
3. The effects you experience from the assault on you caused by the loss.
However, the ultimate goal of grief and mourning is to take you beyond these reactions to the loss. It requires your working actively on adapting to it. If you fail to adapt following a major loss, if you don’t accommodate to the change but persist as if the world is the same when it isn’t, then you are not responding to reality, and this is quite unhealthy. The therapeutic purpose of grief and mourning is to get you to the point where you can live with the loss healthily, after having made the necessary changes to do so.
What must you do to get to this point? You must:
1. Change your relationship with your loved one—recognizing he now is dead and developing new ways of relating to him.
2. Develop a new sense of yourself to reflect the many changes that occurred when you lost your loved one.
3. Take on healthy new ways of being in the world without your loved one.
4 . Find new people, objects or pursuits in which to put the emotional investment that you once placed in your relationship with the deceased.
The bottom line of this active work of grief and mourning, therefore, is to help you recognize that your loved one is gone and then to make the necessary internal (psychological) and external (social) changes to accomodate this reality.
Taken from Therese A. Rando, How To Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies. New York: Bantam Books, 1991, pp 18-19.
Also by Therese Rando:
Family Reorganization After a Loss
Dr. Therese Rando, author of How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, is a psychologist in Warwick, Rhode Island, where she is the Clinical Director of The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Loss. Having published 70 works pertaining to the clinical aspects of dying, death, loss, and trauma, Dr. Rando is a recognized expert in the field and has appeared on numerous television programs, including “Dateline,” CBS “This Morning,” “Today Show,” “Good Morning, America,” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”