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