Grief has no time limits or boundaries and will last for a lifetime, as you will always mourn the loss of time spent with a loved one who has left a footprint in your heart. Therefore, how you embrace your grief journey will have direct impact on your recovery. The best approach is to work through your grief in a timely manner: addressing your emotions, understanding the loss and learning how to incorporate the emptiness into your daily activities. In essence, the key is being present in your grief and loss.
Prolonging your mourning will only extend the painful days of the loss and lengthen the most difficult aspects of recovery. For many, the notion of keeping busy to avoid the emotional distress of the loss is helpful in the beginning, but becomes an obstacle as the days go by. For example, avoiding the selling of your parents’ home after they pass to avoid the inevitable is natural; yet the delay just postpones the potential emotional setback associated with the task. Similarly, shunning away a family member because of a difficult encounter while your loved one was ill or after they passed only makes it more difficult and stressful, increasing your anxiety in the future.
Embracing your grief by talking about your loved one, understanding the changes in your life since the loss and planning for the future will help avoid a drawn out recovery. This can be accomplished by creating a recovery plan that is flexible enough to accommodate occasional setbacks. Make the plan simple by starting with one goal associated with your journey and than developing milestones to help you accomplish the goal. To help avoid the overwhelming feeling of not being able to accomplish the entire goal, identify milestones that are smaller and achievable obtaining the feeling of success along the way.
Creating goals allows a griever to work through the challenges of their loss by providing encouragement, meeting new people, and growing as a person. While pondering the ideal goal for you, consider one of the following:
- Taking care of yourself (eating right, creating an exercise plan, being conscious of your hygiene, sleeping through the night)
- Engage in a house project (paint a room, rearrange furniture to spruce your home, engage in a much needed maintenance project)
- Connect with family and friends in a meaningful way
- Move towards finding peace/acceptance of the loss (clean out a closet, change name on personal accounts, take a vacation, spend more time outside of the house, sell your parent’s home)
- Set emotional goals (build a memorial, keep a journal, write letters)
- Participating in a new adventure (plan a new vacation, ride in a hot-air balloon, attend an opera or play, meet new people, sign up for an athletic event)
Once you have identified a goal that intrigues you, create a list of possible milestones that will help provide success in creating the goal. Be sure to make each milestone is measureable and realistic.
Sample Goal: Clean out and organize drawers and closets
- Determine what drawers or closets you want to organize and make a list
- Prioritize the list
- Build a timeline of when you want to have the project completed based on the list you have developed
- Determine a plan for how you will organize possibly creating 4 piles; items to be donated, items for trash, items for giving to others and items you do not know what to with.
- Sort through the items, cherish the memories
- Give away the items or box the items that you do not want to give away at this time
- Stay focused on the drawer or closet you are working on, jumping around will cause you to derail from the timeline and discourage you
- Feel the accomplishments
Notes: Try not to allow yourself to get overwhelmed. If you are cleaning out the closets after a recent loss, be sure not to give away sentimental items too soon as you may want them as you get stronger. Cleaning out the closet of a loved one can be a great way to reconnect with someone you have lost.
Sample Goal: Start an exercise program to help with self-care
- Determine what activity you will do
- Purchase the appropriate attire or equipment needed
- Develop a mechanism to keep track of the progress
- Schedule the exercise program into your day
- Find a friend or family member to participate with you for motivation and encouragement
- Start the program
- Log your activity
- Increase the time and intensity
Notes: Avoid an activity that is too aggressive or time consuming. Ease into the routine and once the goal is accomplished, try something new.
As you complete each milestone you will feel the satisfaction that you are one step closer to accomplishing your goal. By only concentrating on the individual task you will avoid the feeling of becoming overwhelmed and feel good about your achievement. This approach will assure you will reach your goal.
To help avoid prolonged mourning, your defined goal should be growth-related whether it is personal, family-driven or honoring your loved one. The process of creating the goal, defining the milestones and tackling each milestone will provide personal strength and a sense of accomplishment.
How to avoid prolonging your grief:
- Acknowledge the loss has occurred – It is easy to avoid the reality that you have lost a loved one. Develop ways to blend the loss in your current life by acknowledging what once was, is now changing.
- Create a “recovery” plan – Be sure to make it simple and achievable. Remember plans can be updated along the way based on findings and changing of direction.
- Set a goal with milestones to help achieve your goal – Make it achievable. While stretching your reach be sure to choose a goal that is productive and meaningful.
- Memorialize your loved one forever.
Copyright Rachel Kodanaz
Updated: September 12, 2013