“We all yearn for what we have lost. But sometimes, we forget what we have.” – Mitch Albom
Time, as many of us have discovered, waits for no one. Although life as we knew it stopped when our loved one died, the world around us, and the clock, continued moving forward without them and sometimes it seemed to move on without us as well. We were left feeling as if we were suspended in a type of time warp, unsure of how to escape it to move forward into some sort of a life without our loved one.
As the New Year approaches, we reluctantly add one more year to the list of years spent without our loved one. Whether you lost your loved one in 2016, or many years ago, it is important to remember that where there was great love, there will also be deep grief. For every special moment you shared together, there will be many more moments of emptiness and longing for your loved one. Nostalgia is a part of grief that is a double-edged sword…remembering the love and happiness you shared ultimately brings the sharp pain of the void that is left in your life and in your heart without them. But no matter how painful it is remembering what you have lost, it is the love you shared that will eventually help you heal and enable you to move forward in your life and try to find some joy again.
You can begin to H.E.A.L.
H – Honor your pain and your loss
Give yourself permission to grieve regardless of how long it’s been since your loved one died. By honoring your loss, the unsettled emotions that are involved in your grief will become more manageable. Allow yourself to feel your loss and the emotions it brings. Remember the love you shared, and know that it is always with you. This love will always belong to you. This love can never be lost.
E - Engage actively in the process of healing
This process looks different for each of us. Start engaging in healing by becoming aware of any patterns of grieving that may keep you stuck in the pain. If you have inadvertently isolated yourself do your best to attempt to get back out among friends and family. They won’t necessarily understand what you’re going through, but they can still provide some companionship.
Try a support group, or possibly seeing a grief therapist. Sometimes just being able to talk about what you are feeling and going through can bring some relief and enable you to make small steps forward.
Journal your thoughts and feelings. For me, allowing my feelings to flow from me and through the pen out onto paper, provided a sense of comfort for me. My thoughts and feelings were no longer locked up inside me with no place to go.
A – Acknowledge the emotions that demand to be felt
The reality is that grief will drag you through a huge range of emotions, ranging from guilt to fear to despair to anger. The scope of possible emotions is almost endless. Each one of us will experience different emotions as we grieve, at different intensities and lengths. You should be aware that the emotional ups and downs that you are experiencing are normal. Healing your grief is a process. Don’t feel guilty that you are experiencing all of these emotions. These emotions are what you must experience to eventually heal your broken heart.
If you need to cry, cry. Your body is telling you that it needs the release that only tears can bring.
If you need to scream, scream. If you keep the screams inside, they will eat at you, undermining your ability to mend your broken heart, and the repression of these emotions may eventually make you physically ill.
Let your emotions do what they are meant to do...Heal.
L – Look for small things that can bring some joy back into your life
When I was lost in my grief, I discovered small things that brought me happiness:
- Spending time with the young children in my family made me smile. Their innocent joy in life was infectious and I found happiness sharing time with them, bringing me hope that I could feel joy again.
- I found that painting the walls in my house, while listening to spiritual audiobooks or soothing music, helped me get out of my grief laden head. There was something about listening to beautiful sounds and words while creating change that brought me some relief.
-I intentionally sought out the few friends who could make me forget about my pain for a moment and laugh. I did my best to limit the amount of time spent around those people who brought me negative energy.
These are just a few of the ways that I eventually created a path that would lead me to a place where I was able to live with my losses and start to experience some joy again. Find what brings you some joy.
After millions of steps on my grief journey, I finally realize that every step I take is a step closer to being with my loved ones again. But, I also realize that it is my choice whether these steps are taken with sorrow, or whether I try to find joy in the remainder of my journey.
One day, sooner rather than later, we will see our loved ones again. Walk in joy by remembering the love you shared, or in sorrow by focusing on your loss. Whether walking with joy or sorrow, the distance to your loved one is the same. The choice is yours.
Finding joy in life again doesn’t mean you will ever forget your loved one. That is not even a possibility. It does mean that you honor the place they had in your life and the love you shared...allowing love and loss to walk side by side into the future that awaits you.
You can find my book, The Other Side of Complicated Grief, here.
You can find my grief support group on Facebook here.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grievedifferently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let’s talk about living with loss. If you have a story you’d like to share, email us at strongertogether@