Grief is the process of putting back together the pieces of a broken heart—a hole so deep in the middle of your heart that you think it will never stop hurting.
You’re hurting; you've suffered a loss; you've survived the death of a loved one or a relationship; you've lost your job; you've lost your identity or reputation; you've lost your money; you've lost your home; you are scared, hurt, confused, and you don't know what to do....
Welcome to grief, the completely normal, appropriate emotional response to loss. You feel it emotionally, physically, mentally, and behaviorally. It comes in waves and it won’t go away. (At least, that is what you think.)
Everyone grieves differently; there is no right or wrong way to grieve. And you will get through it; most people do. But contrary to popular opinion…
You will graduate from grief when you decide to do so.
Along the way, there will be many obstacles that make it difficult to grieve, among them:
Every crisis is a leadership opportunity, and this is your opportunity to lead yourself to resolution and acceptance, but you’re probably thinking, How do I do that? I’m a mess right now!
The answer is you do it one step at a time. In fact, when they look back on their experience, many people will say that it was a cycle of learning…a gradual return to what will be a “new normal.” This is why it can be seen as graduating from grief.
We don’t have to deny our loss in order to say goodbye. In fact, your very first step in the learning cycle is to embrace the truth. Staying in denial will only impede your progress. It will also compromise your integrity.
Be willing to share your truth with others. Sharing helps you heal. Keeping it inside will wear you out. By sharing your truth, you will learn that your experience is not unique; you are not alone.
Learn how to accept a support system and express your feelings. Thoughts determine feelings, and feelings determine actions. Stop any negative self-talk. You are moving forward.
When you are willing to express your personal feelings, admit your own limitations, and embrace a teachable spirit…you will experience vulnerability, which is the foundation of your new normal and your primary credential for graduation.
How will I know that I am progressing? Here are two keys that most people report:
What will my new normal look like? Everyone is different, but most report:
Your New Normal
The recognition and acceptance at an emotional level that life has changed, and new opportunities are on the horizon.
The “Grief to Graduation” Learning Cycle
In conclusion, pain is inevitable. Misery is optional.
Author’s Note: Portions of this article are attributable to my experiences teaching Grief Release classes with Joanne Petrie, Bereavement Chaplain at Bristol Hospice in Portland, Oregon.