Grief Therapy is a charming little book from the line of "elf help" publications with illustrations by R.W. Alley.written by Karen Katafiasz. There are 35 thoughts to ponder which move one through the grieving process and each has an accompanying illustration featuring the Abbey Press Elves. I've found this book to be a very useful tool for facilitating the grief process in my work with clients.
Grief Therapy emphasizes there's no way out of grief, only through grief. By letting ourselves experience grief we can move beyond it. Beyond not meaning going back to the old way of what was once normal or denial of our hurt, but beyond to fully integrating loss into our life, to richer understanding, renewed purpose, deeper spirituality and rebirth. Moving through and beyond grief is what we hope to experience by engaging in grief counseling.
I’d like to share with you some of the concepts from the book and my thoughts related to the segments quoted in hopes you’ll find it helpful and healing.
Respect the power of grief know that it can affect you psychologically, physically, and spiritually in intense and sometimes surprising ways. Stay gentle with yourself.
If this is your first significant loss or it's been awhile since you've experienced a significant loss you may be surprised by the level of intense feeling and emotion that are coming up, and the affect they have on your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. It is important to take care of yourself to the best of your ability. Get plenty of rest, eat nourishing foods and drink plenty of water.
Nurture your spirit by finding comfort from family and friends, attending spiritual services, engaging in meditation and prayer, reading or listening to spiritually oriented books, and listening to your inner guidance. These things help us get in touch with the source of divine love and comfort within us.
Cry. Your tears testify to your love. And tears that spring from love help bring healing and renewal. Let your tears express the harsh reality of your loss. And let them begin to wash away the sadness and pain.
Crying is the natural way for the body to release sadness and pain. In our culture we are taught to have a stiff upper lip and control our emotions to the point of denial. Repressing our grief is unhealthy and can lead to illness and despair. Allowing the feelings of sadness to emerge and flow freely helps us process those feelings and brings relief.
In some religious and spiritual traditions it is customary to hold rituals of mourning in which wailing is part of the shared experience of expressing one's sorrow. In this way the mourners support each other and acknowledge the power of their emotions and loss. This facilitates moving toward healing and integration.
Be with those who are also grieving. As you tell your stories, you will share an understanding of the heart that is deeper than words.
It can be very therapeutic to attend a bereavement support group while you're going through the grieving process. There you will have a place to talk about your loss and have the support of others who are going through the same thing. You will find an atmosphere of love, acceptance, and a consistent place to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences through this very difficult time in your life. You will also find inspiration and hope by hearing from others who are further along on their grieving journey.
Sometimes your grief can be so overwhelming because it encompasses the grieving you never did for other, earlier losses in your life. Let yourself feel the pain of these losses too.
Grief counseling can help you deal with overwhelming feelings that have been repressed or forgotten from former losses. If you did not process these former losses adequately these old feelings will be triggered and emerge along with your current grief. A skilled professional can help you manage overwhelm and do the work of processing the old with the new so you can finally release the pain that has long been waiting to be heard and healed.
It may seem as if you'll never truly feel happy again. But be assured that you will—and your joy will have richness and a depth that come from your having known profound pain and profound healing. Your grieving is among the most sacred and the most human things you will ever do. It will plummet you into the mystery of life…and death… and resurrection. Honor it.
Unfortunately, loss is an inevitable part of life, we all must grieve the loss of something or someone at some point. This is a painful reality we face but we can get through it and come out with a deeper sense of the spiritual connection we have with each other and a renewed sense of meaning in life.
It may be hard to imagine now and it will take some time to come to this place in your healing journey but I wanted to leave you with a sense of hope that what you are going through will get better and there is some light that will emerge out of the darkness of your grief.
All quotes by Karen Katafiasz from the book Grief Therapy, 2004, Abbey Press