Welcome to Week Three of Bereavement Boot Camp. This week, we are going to take an honest look at how proactive you have really been on your Healing Journey, regardless of the kind of loss from which you are recovering or when that journey began for you. Remember that as with any part of Boot Camp, this only works if you are honest with you.
Lest you think that you are being "rushed" through your healing processes, let's start with a very important preface. Grieving is essential. It cannot be circumvented. It is a vital component of your process. Sharing insights on how to heal should never be confused with or taken as a message to "hurry up" or instructions on how to avoid the grieving process. Yes, grief hurts -- a lot. Grief is dark and lonely and sad and all things painful. However, rushing the process is never beneficial. Glossing over, distracting yourself from or trying to avoid grief in any way, regardless of method (work, children, major projects, etc.) will only result in that grief coming back around to bite you, be it within a few months or many years later. You cannot ignore, stuff down, "keep busy" through or successfully distract yourself from the reality that was and is your loss and the grieving process that must follow.
All of that understood, we also want to feel better -- and we should want to feel better. We eventually want to actually be better. However, "better" doesn't happen by sitting around and waiting for it to magically show up. "Better" starts with a choice -- a conscious decision to do what it takes to begin (or continue) healing in a productive way.
I used to coach years ago and I once coached a widow who was almost two years out at that point. After listening to her story and after having seen her many posts on social media sharing how terrible she was feeling, I asked her what she had done to try to move forward on her Healing Journey.
What books had she read? None.
What audio or DVD help had she sought? None.
Support groups? Didn't like them.
Online support groups? Not for her.
Any print or web articles that she found helpful? No.
Did she even look for any helpful print or web articles? No.
Admittedly puzzled, I asked her why she hadn't availed herself of any tools at all that might contribute to moving her forward on her Healing Journey. She replied that since "time is supposed to heal all wounds", she was waiting until "enough time has passed" (which I have never found on any clock or calendar) and at that point (whenever "enough time" had passed), she figured that she would automatically feel better.
Not a great strategy folks.
Let's first review the whole "Time heals all wounds" nonsense (and if you have ever heard me speak or teach, or have read anything that I've written in the past, consider this a refresher).
After your loss, has anyone ever said to you:
"Time heals all wounds"
If you have ever heard this ridiculous cliché, did you want to hit something hard and scream:
I have some unfortunate news for you:
Time alone cannot, does not and will not "heal all wounds"
Think about this: When a surgeon operates, do they make an incision; conduct the surgery and then just walk away from the operating table saying, "Time will heal this wound". Of course not. A surgeon uses appropriate tools to complete the surgery. They follow up on the healing process. Eventually, with proper tools, attention, care...and time, the surgical wound heals and it likely leaves a scar.
Let's look at your loss the same way. Are you truly just waiting for time to heal your loss wound? Are you waking up every day, thinking, "Well, time has passed and everyone is telling me that time heals all wounds, but I don't feel 'healed' -- what's the matter with me?"
If you are simply waiting for time to heal your wound, the only thing that you are going to accomplish is a whole lot of waiting. Time alone cannot be the only factor in your healing process. Just like a surgeon, you need tools and you need to get your hands on every single tool available. When it comes to your loss, have you used tools of any kind... books, magazines, audio aids, seminars, the Internet, counseling, coaching -- anything and everything to get you on the road to recovery? If your answer is "no", then you are the patient on that operating table with a wide-open wound that time alone won't heal.
If you have utilized various tools and those tools didn't do what you expected or needed - get more tools! Everyone receives their messages of comfort, support and education in different ways, therefore, it follows that the grief education that helped one person may not necessarily speak to you in the ways that you need. If a certain grief recovery tool or approach doesn't work for you, that's completely fine -- but it doesn't automatically mean that all grief recovery strategies won't work for you! Just because one book (or two or eight) didn't help you, it doesn't mean that the next book won't. Just because one support group or online community or therapist wasn't a good fit for you doesn't mean that you should stop looking for a group or community or therapist who might be a perfect fit.
It's time to take that honest look at yourself. What steps have you taken to move yourself forward? Are you waiting for the passage of time to heal everything? Are you truly being proactive on your Healing Journey in every way possible?
If any of your answers to the above were in the negative, it is time to get whatever tools you need to continue creating your Healing Journey... the tools that are really going to speak to you and take you where you want to go. Get proactive, get serious and start caring properly for the loss wound that you have sustained. When you have the right tools, when you attend to and care for that loss wound that will eventually turn into a "life scar", it will be then that time helps the wound -- and you -- heal.
Here is your third Boot Camp Affirmation. Keep it in front of you all week:
"I recognize that the mere passage of time will not further my Healing Journey. I also recognize that I cannot avoid the grieving process and to try to do so will only result in my grief eventually resurfacing. I will therefore commit to being proactive on my Healing Journey. I will acquire whatever educational tools speak to me in a positive and uplifting way. I also recognize that I do not have to do this alone and I will surround myself with the support of others who understand exactly what I have been through, whether it is through a support group or an online support community. Lastly, if I have made a true and sincere effort to move forward and I still do not feel as though I am making any progress, I will consult with my doctor, my cleric, a coach, a therapist, a mental health expert or anyone else who is in a position to help."
BOOT CAMP CHALLENGE: List absolutely everything that you have done to move yourself forward on your Healing Journey -- that means everything. List all of the books, articles, groups, coaching, support, etc. that you have acquired. Now review the list. What helped? What didn't? What is helping you right now? What isn't really doing much good (or worse, bringing you down?). Your challenge this week is to acquire just one new tool to either begin or add to your foundation of healing tools. You might consider something that you haven't done before or that you have thought about but haven't done yet. Perhaps it's linking up with an online community of support for your particular loss or joining a support group in your area. Maybe it's a new book or other learning tool that you haven't tried. Whatever you decide, add one new tool to your Healing Journey -- and then use it.
Next Monday: "Bereavement Boot Camp Week #4: I Turn to...Who?"
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
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