FIRST GOAL OF GRIEF:
As Dr. Kûbler-Ross stated, many people struggle with accepting the reality of loss. A friend of mine who volunteered as the chaplain for a local police department was often called on to inform family members that a loved one had died in an automobile accident. He told me denial was a frequent reaction to being confronted with the tragic news. “There’s no way that could have happened.”It’s important to accept the reality of loss. If you are prepared to accept the transition being experienced, you’re in a better place to deal with its aftermath.
SECOND GOAL OF GRIEF:Be Willing to Experience the Pain
Grief is painful, and the natural human response is to try to get rid of pain. People take medication for headaches and doctors use anesthetic during surgery. Pain is something we try to avoid, or minimize. It’s common for people to self-medicate while grieving through overwork, drugs, alcohol, and other destructive or high-risk behavior. But while people respond to grief differently, there is no way around grief.The only healthy way to experience grief is to go through it.Pastor Tucker told me he found it helpful to actually initiate contact with grief.“I’ll force myself at times to think of happy memories, or even painful memories. Ilean into the pain. If I put it off, it’s going to be harder and harder for me.” Mike talked about intentionally visiting his and Gayle’s favorite vacation spots, or favorite restaurants.While some people feel it honors the dead to refuse to visit a certain place or eat a certain favorite dessert, for example, Pastor Tucker says the opposite is true.“Building that kind of monument to someone you have lost restricts your life. The best thing to do is remind yourself that the person you’ve lost would want you to be
healthy and go on enjoying life,” he told me. “One tribute to a loved one is to weep and grieve. But after a while, it’s important you lean back into life. That becomes the new tribute to them.”Although grief can be intensely painful, that pain does actually lessen over time.However, that is not to say tears ever stop being shed. While it will vary from person to person, the average recovery time from grief is one to two years. Experts say people can grieve actively for several years.I remember learning that in addition to her four sons, my wife’s grandmother had given birth to a baby girl who died in infancy. “Grandma,” I said to her. “You once had a daughter?” “Yes, honey,” she replied, her voice trailing off. She then became quiet and tears came to her eyes.Grandma’s little girl had died at least 55 years earlier, but there were times when she still felt the pain of that difficult loss. And that’s okay.
THIRD GOAL OF GRIEF:Make Adjustments At times it may be necessary to make adjustments when that person (or job, or thing) is no longer part of your life. When my father died, my mother had to figure out who was going to change the lightbulbs that were out of her reach. The loss of a close loved one means some people have to learn to cook, while others have yards to maintain, cars to wash, trash to take out, or even mice to trap. It’s important to make necessary adjustments so life can go on as smoothly as possible, and so that the absence of a certain individual doesn’t unnecessarily initiate difficulties in your life.
FOURTH GOAL OF GRIEF:Be Willing to Say Goodbye While this does not deny a relationship that existed, it is necessary to reinvest theemotional energy you once invested in that relationship. Without saying goodbye tothe love that existed, it’s necessary to say goodbye to the relationship, which hasforever changed.The time and emotional energy you once invested in a certain person can bereinvested in your relationship with God. You can also invest in others, such aschildren or grandchildren, or in service and volunteerism. It’s important a person notallow grief to cause them to withdraw and disconnect from society altogether. Thegrieving process should bring you to a place of healing, as well as providingemotional and spiritual health.
While serving as a local church pastor, we received word that Charles’ wife haddied. In the wake of her death, Charles—who was not in good health—seemed lostand disoriented. Some worried that Charles didn’t have long left among us.Recognizing the enormous toll grief was taking on him, Charles prayed andasked God for help. Through this process of prayer, God blessed Charles with theidea of forming a grief recovery group. With a new purpose in his life, Charles became a new man. The grief recovery group became a huge success that broughthope to many people, and Charles eventually married the woman who had beenacting as the group secretary!Charles’ decision to reinvest his energy, and to be productive and positive,literally saved his life!