Living through the seasons of grief.
Something began the moment the one you loved died. Pain started. Pain like none other. Indescribable. All encompassing. Life changing. Although we have not likely had control over the loss, we do have control how we live through the pain. Are you willing to cooperate and learn how to “complete” the pain? The idea of finishing the pain sounds good but is it even possible? Like a race that begins and is finished when the first racer crosses over the line, our pain can come across the finish line as well. And just like a racer who disciplines his/herself with practice, we mourners will find the completion of our pain more satisfying if we welcome some bereavement conditioning (fitness training).
Tone your reactions to pain with honesty; both with your own self talk as well as when communicating with others. Our whole emotional system is strengthened when we are honest about the moments of relief from the pain as well as the onslaught of anger, despondency, fear, regrets, sadness, etc. Check in with yourself with a little self evaluation of honesty. You might ask: am I being real with others? Does pretending really get me where I want/need to go? Am I being honest with myself?
To the best of your ability accept your current limitations while accepting there will be a future for you again. Stretch the emotional muscle of acceptance for the uncertainty of each day. Accept the pain. By doing so, you will develop emotional strength to deal with it and as you do, you will find power over it. HINT: resistance training does not work with bereavement. Resisting the pain will strengthen denial and hiding. Thus putting the pain deep within. Working with the pain strengthens your heart to endure through it and find emotional strength and relief (completing) on the other side.
We all have the freedom of choice to direct our thinking that indirectly guides our emotions. The more we discipline ourselves to choose positive thinking, the more we will respond to pain with peace. By choosing to trust our brokenness into the care of God, we also discover relief from the emotional workout we are experiencing.
So, do you want your workout to take you somewhere or do you just want to run on a treadmill? While treadmills have their place, for the sake of emotional conditioning, getting off the “hamster wheel” has enormous benefit! As for me, I’ll take a run that leads me outdoors over indoor exercise any day. On the emotional level, just thinking and rethinking about our pain and the hurtful memories that drive us will never get us off the “hamster wheel.” One of the safest ways to work out the pain is to write out the pain. So consider writing your thoughts, questions, pain, frustrations and insights on a daily basis. It is hard emotional work with great benefit. Just like a physical workout program puts you on a regimen of daily fitness exercises, expressing yourself through daily writing will become one of your best emotional workouts you can participate in.
Sometimes, pain becomes so familiar to us that it seems impossible to think of a moment without it. But, the whole point of bereavement is to run the race; to complete the pain. Each day we can practice releasing some of our pain. When we deliberately notice something that brings a smile we release a little bit of the pain. Other “release” activities can look like dealing with our loved one’s personal items such as clothing, or planting something in their memory, or creating a garden, painting, poetry or music in their honor.
Bereavement fitness will help you reach your goal to become emotionally strong. You will find yourself able to complete the pain of loss. With this you might discover the satisfaction of assisting someone else who needs your support to complete their pain.