Coming To Terms With Your Grief: Reaching Neutral

Love vs Fear
Good vs Evil
Light vs Dark
Happiness vs Sadness

These pairs, and many others, are reflective of the natural duality of this world.

It is in the comparison of these polar opposites that you can find the true meaning behind these words/concepts/emotions, for, if you have never known any sort of darkness, how is it possible to appreciate the light fully?

Grief is darkness personified. At first, it is as if a blackout curtain has been pulled down around your life, and you are lost in the murkiness. Little by little, with healthy grief work, the light starts to seep in around the edges. There may be just enough light so you can carefully venture over to one area, grab hold of a corner, and pull down to allow even more light in. Before you know it, you may have cleared a whole section where the light reigns over the dark. As the months go on, these areas and the periods of light get wider and longer. Now, even though you may have dark days, you are able to recognize that there is still a lot of light in your life. More importantly, you are allowing it to stream in without guilt or remorse. As the light starts to overtake the darkness, you may find your equilibrium returning. This process can be called “reaching neutral.”

Reaching neutral, or regulating the darkness and light in your life, is a monumental feat in your grief journey. Once it has been accomplished, life changes for the better. For example,

1. It allows you to be in charge of your grief, instead of the other way around, so you may access it when appropriate.
2. You are able to tightly pack your grief into “carry-on” luggage, rather than lugging it around in a gigantic steamer trunk. This allows it to be more manageable.
3. Reaching neutral does not negate your feelings of sadness over your loss nor does it deny you from having the occasional mini pity-party. However, this sadness does not become a never-ending spiral downward.
4. You are more resilient. When hit hard with an unexpected wave of sadness, it no longer pushes you back to ground zero.
5. You can talk about your loss without losing it, for it is a fact of your life – one with which you have come to terms.

Keep in mind, neutrality does not mean you have forgotten your loved one – only that you have grown so much from the experience that you are able to see your loss as a part of your life, rather than as the totality of your life.

Ellen Gerst, a Life Coach who specializes in grief and relationships, is the author of A Practical Guide to Widow/erhood. Born out of Ellen's own experiences as a young widow, A Practical Guide provides "how-to" information to help a griever re-adjust each aspect of his/her life without his/her loved one. Her newest book, 101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief, is an easy-to-read reference guide filled with suggestions for every day use on moving forward through the grief journey. Ellen has also written Love After Loss: Writing the Rest of Your Story, a step-by step guide on how to redesign your life to include a new love connection after the loss of a partner. For more detailed information on products and coaching services, visit her website.

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Comment by Glenda F. Camp on May 17, 2010 at 9:29pm
I have never known such darkness in my life-not even when I lost my father when I was eleven years old. I agree that light will eventually peek through the closer one gets to neutrality. I still have "grief bursts" unexpectedly, but I find that I am more in control than I was a month ago. My husband was a beautiful man, and I will always miss him, but I feel a responsibility to carry on his legacy which I would not be able to do if I were bogged down in unresolved grief.
Comment by heather on March 31, 2010 at 2:05pm
I lost my husband march 26th only a few days ago it was sudden here at home nothing could be done. the shock, details and the last few days have been stressful. although I have other family members he was my best friend and always loved me i feel empty, broken, and just breathing. it hurts so much he was only 56yrs old

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