Monday, August 1, 2016

In Grief: When Can I Stop The Process?

[Reviewed and updated January 18, 2019]

Grief comes in three stages: the beginning, the middle, and the rest of your life.  ~ Candace Lightner

A reader writes: I have been reading a great little book called Healing After Loss by Martha Hickman. It contains brief, one-page daily readings to help people work through their grief.

The theme for this day was “Sometimes the best choice is to be in my grief, sometimes not.”

The author says that sometimes we get used to living in the grieving mood and find it more “comfortable” to stay with than to make the effort to move away from the grief.

She writes, “We are the best judges of when to stay in our grief and when to move on to something else.” I completely agree with that statement.

She goes on to say that we have to accept responsibility for the choices that we make. I also agree with that.

She concludes by writing that it is important “to recognize the difference between grieving over the loss of a loved one and continuing to cherish that person.”

I know that I will cherish my beloved forever. I am definitely not “comfortable” with this grief, but I can’t foresee ever getting used to living without my wife.

My question is, How will I know when I can stop the grieving process?

My response: My friend, I have to ask you a question. If you had lost one of your limbs, would it be appropriate for someone to ask when you would stop noticing / missing / grieving the absence of your leg or your arm?

It seems to me that losing your beloved spouse is not unlike losing a significant part of yourself, as if half of you is gone. Grief is not an illness from which you will recover; it more closely resembles an amputation. Although an essential part of you has been severed and is no longer there in a physical way, you still remember vividly how much that part meant to you. While over time you may grow accustomed to your plight, to some extent you will struggle every day of your life to accommodate and adjust to the physical absence of that important part of you.

This loss of your beloved wife will be with you for the rest of your life. That is not to say that you will always mourn as intensely as you are grieving now, but you will never, ever forget your beloved. As you have already discovered, rather than recovering from your physical loss of her, you are finding ways to incorporate her life and her love into the rest of your own life. She is a part of you and always will be, and sometimes you will remember her with joy, and other times with tears. Both are okay.

Adjusting to your wife's physical absence in your life is not the same as "accepting" her death, either. We all must understand the fact that our precious loved ones have died and it is real, but there are some things in life that simply aren't acceptable. Some things are a mystery, beyond our understanding, and we all must find a way to live with them, just as you are doing now.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below.
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© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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