Grief changes you. A widow said that she no longer knew who she was and that she was getting to know the “new” Sarah. You cannot go into such a deeply emotional loss and just pick up where you were before the death occurred. You are forever changed, but that does not have to be a bad thing. As you rebuild your life and discover your “new normal,” you may discover aspects of yourself that you did not you had in you. Many people have found an inner strength that surprised them. Others sensed a shift in their values and how they wanted to spend their time. Suddenly work was not as important as spending time with family and friends. Others used their loss to reach out to others who are grieving or to raise money for a good cause. There are many ways to respond to a loss and, as a funeral director told me, people have a choice to be bitter or to get better.

What neighborhood do you live in?

I use the metaphor of a neighborhood when describing emotions. It is fine to visit every neighborhood, but there are some where you do not want to build your home. Do not live on Anger Alley or Offended Lane. Why not choose a better neighborhood like Cheerful Court or Delighted Drive. There is no such thing as a bad emotion or a goodone; we feel what we feel. However when we continue to stay in the emotions that make us feel bad, our healing from the pain of grief cannot take hold. We remain trapped in negativity and our anger and anguish can overwhelm us and keep us from our joy. It is normal to feel fearful at times or annoyed or sad, but we also want to have the balance of feeling happy, optimistic and filled with purpose once again.

 

Studies have shown that tears of laughter and tears of grief actually have different chemical compositions. Your body knows how to release the stress it is under. Be aware of how you are feeling and allow yourself to express those feelings. If you feel like crying, cry; and if you feel like laughing, laugh. 

 

Finding your new "normal"

 

The journey through grief is filled with opportunities to discover more about ourselves and our relationship with those around us. Old beliefs may fall away and be replaced with healthier ones. We slowly shift as we adjust to life without our loved one physically with us any longer. I say physically, because they will always be with us, in our heart and in our memories that carry us through. It is because of their presence in our lives that we must move forward. While many people wonder if they will every stop crying, they also know that their loved one would not want them to mourn forever. Because they loved us, they would want us to be happy once again and to be filled with the joy that life can bring. 

 

Psalm 118:24 says, "This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."When you are grieving this may seem difficult to grasp, the idea that you will ever feel good, let alone rejoice. Yet you will find those moments to rejoice and feel the presence of God in your life. Bitter or better, the choice really is yours to make. 

 

Nancy Weil is a leading authority on humor and grief. She serves as Director of Grief Support for eleven cemeteries and is a Certified Funeral Celebrant and Grief Management Specialist. Through her company, The Laugh Academy, she offers products to ease the stress and pain that grief can bring. Bandages for Your Heart on DVD or CD, Laugh for the Health of It on CD and her new book, If Stress Doesn’t Kill You, Your Family Might, can be ordered by clicking here.

 

Image: Flickr Creative Commons / AlicePopkorn2

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Comment by T.C. Goodwin on April 30, 2014 at 5:40pm

Just reading this post for the first time and I very much appreciated the scripture you shared in psalms.. The Bible always gives me inner peace. I can agree that when we think of those that have died we can eventually smile and remember the good times. Love never fails ( 1 Cor. 13:8)

Comment by Nancy Weil on April 30, 2014 at 7:25am

Velia, I am so sorry for your loss. You are on the path to healing by reaching out to others who are also grieving and seeking the support you need. I hope that you have seen a therapist that is helping you through this traumatic time.  You may also want to join a chapter of The Compassionate Friends or Bereaved Parents USA. There are so many wonderful resources to help you through your grief so that you will find your way back to hope and happiness. There will come a day when you will turn to a newly bereaved parent and offer them comfort and hope. Right now it is your turn to receive this from others.  also know that your son knew you were there and could feel your love. Love does not die, it never disconnects us and it sustains and heals us.

Comment by velia guevara on April 30, 2014 at 4:51am

My son 23 died last year in a motorcycle and I am still a wreck. I work but have anxiety attack during the day and just cry. I have isolated everyone and don't do anything . I have even had thoughts of suicide . I am just so unhappy , the fact that gets me I didn't get the chance to say goodbye , when I got to hospital he was already in a coma and I basically had to tell them to let him go . I see that day like it was yesterday. I wish I knew when I could have some normalcy in my life .

Comment by Nancy Weil on October 12, 2012 at 8:01am

Bobbie, I honor you for reaching out for help and support. While you may not have family or friends to guide you on this journey, there are others who understand.  Grief does not begin the moment they die, it starts the moment you begin to realize that they are very ill and hope seems dim.  Continue to love your husband each moment he is here. Share memories of happy times, record his tales of the past and hold his hand.  Know that love will never end.  You are correct that you can only take it one day at a time, sometimes even one moment at a time.  Breathe deeply, seek support, speak with clergy or a therapist to help you understand your many emotions. If you have a Gilda's Club in your area, you can also find wonderful support there for you and your husband.  Most of all, know that you are not alone. There is help if you seek it.  Blessings to you and your husband.   

Comment by bobbie r on October 11, 2012 at 1:23am

I don't even know if I should be reading this.my husband is still fighting cancer and is pallative , fourth stage..we are going for clinical trials..but he looks awful..I am frightened ..but keep as close to him as possible..not wanting to believe this is all happening..Having an anxiety disorder makes it worse but it is one day at a time..I came here to prepare myself if there is such a thing...is this practical or am i giving up fighting with him..I am a very emotional person and have no family around me..my friends have all but disappeared except one..Can anyone give me a suggestion? Please

Comment by Nancy Weil on January 12, 2012 at 2:35pm

Working at a cemetery I see many different ways of grieving. Some people visit daily, some weekly and some not at all. There is no right way to grieve. While some find peace being at their loved one's grave, others find comfort talking to them at home or while looking at their photo. There is no reason to feel guilty that you don't visit him at the cemtery, as you visit him in your heart each day.  Although the grief changes us, it does not mean that all of these changes are bad. We may find strength within us that we did not know we had. We are able to be there for others in a way we could not be before. We may donate to a charity in our loved one's memory or spend more time with family or just appreciate each day more deeply. Grief does change us, but so does life - so cherish the memories, continue to love those around you and let go of the guilt that does not serve you. God bless.

Comment by Dorcas Cummings on January 12, 2012 at 12:44pm

Grief definitely does change you. Sometimes I don't know if I'm coming or going. I lost my husband two years ago, going on three. I feel bad because I have not visited him at the cemetery since he passed away. I went intincially of course. Have not visited him since. Is this normal during the grieving process. I feel guilty at times because I have not visited him.

Comment by Anne Stephens on January 11, 2012 at 6:10pm

Thank you Nancy, and GOD BLESS you.  I will join a grief thearpy , and I will talk to my Doctor, and as always, I will pray.  Again, thank you, and keep me in your prayers.

Comment by Nancy Weil on January 11, 2012 at 7:36am

Anne,

You are most certainly in my prayers. God is with you, but sometimes it is hard to feel His presence when we are so low. Getting extra support through a therapist who specializes in grief as well as joining a support group is a good idea.  Being with others who understand allows you to know that you are not alone in your feelings. Be kind to yourself. You have had your mother in your life since you took your first breath and now it is hard to adjust to a world where she is not with you each day.  Know that her wish would be for you to learn to smile and enjoy life again and, in time and with support, you will get to that place. For now cry, breathe, turn to others and pray.

Comment by Anne Stephens on January 9, 2012 at 11:02pm

Thank you Nancy for your comment.I have had such a bad day today, until, I have just cried, and feel as though there is no more tears.  I want to scream out GOD where are you?  but being a CHRISTIAN, I know he is with me, it's just that sometimes, and I should say most of the time, I feel alone.  I was an only child, and that doesn't make it any easier.  My obly daughter lives about 4 hours away, and has a full time job, and is a great Mom.  I have 2 sons, one married, and the other lives with me, so that does help, he helped take care of his Grandmother, but he doesn't know how to console me, I'm just too grief-stricken at this time.  I'm going to have to ask for professional help, I feel.  I just can't control this awful heart-stabbing pain.  She was always there, no matter what, not anyone else just her, when I was sick, in the hospital, and when my dog was so sick, who was by my side, my dear ole Mom.  I'm just sick, and don't know what to do.  Pray for me.

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