Turning Grief Into Gratitude

How to heal from a loss
February 13, 2015 Updated: February 12, 2015

At some point in everyone’s life, grieving a loss is inevitable. Grief can take many forms. Losing a loved one, pet, or friend can all evoke the feelings of trauma and mourning.

The grieving process is unique to every individual and every situation. For most people, however, it is a necessary part of healing as they transition from the devastation of a loss to the next chapter in their lives.

Healing Stages of Grief

Healing through grief can help make us feel grateful for what we have and put other challenges in perspective. The process of healing can be divided into three stages: numbness, disorganization, and reorganization.

Numbness: In the beginning, you may feel numb and unable to focus or concentrate. Things may seem surreal, and guilt (the “what ifs”) may take the place of anger.

Disorganization: In this phase, reality begins to set in, but guilt and regret can leave you emotionally drained and physically fatigued. As exhaustion interrupts what was once your daily routine, it is normal to feel the need to rest often.

Reorganization: Eventually, you will begin to piece back together the daily routine of your life. Acceptance of and transition into your new daily routine will help you move forward in life once again.

Grief can take a toll on the mind, body, and spirit. In the beginning, it is normal to feel as if there is no hope that your grieving will ever end.

Taking control of your grieving emotions can be a tall order at this time, but doing so will help you on your path toward healing and peace.

Acknowledge the feelings that come up, but keep moving forward step by step. Even when the pain feels intense, focus on being present in the moment in order to allow the healing process to take place. Over time, the pain will subside, and you’ll be left with fond memories.

Letting go of grief, guilt, and regret does not mean that your loved one will be forgotten. On the contrary, it will create the space you need to honor the person you have lost in a meaningful, positive way.

Finding Strength

Don’t feel pressured to be done with your grieving if you are not yet ready; everyone will move through this process at his or her own pace.

Here are some tips to help you on your journey in the early stages of grief:

1. In the beginning, just stick to the basics. Get through each day leading up to the funeral or memorial service. Do only what absolutely needs to be done, and be sure to reach out and ask for help.

2. Seek out support and acceptance. Let close, trusted family, friends, and community help you through the process. Support can also come in the form of a bereavement group, books on the subject of grief, meditation, quiet reflection during a walk, or a journal of your thoughts. Lean on your spiritual faith to help yourself process the loss.

3. Be patient with people who want to be supportive. Most people don’t know what to do or say to comfort you. Communicating your feelings and boundaries will help them support you best.

4. Acknowledge your loss and express your feelings. Being able to share your feelings will help pave the way toward healing. Remember, there are no shortcuts. The only way to transition through the grieving process is to be present with your emotions, feel the pain, and accept the loss. Avoiding dealing with your feelings will only prolong pain.

5. Be mindful of your own self-care. Grief can easily distract and derail us from taking care of ourselves. Be sure to pace yourself, set personal boundaries, ask for help, and give yourself permission to say no.

6. Give yourself permission to live. It can be difficult to adjust to life without your loved one. It is normal to be on an emotional rollercoaster and to feel guilty for living your life. Remember, your loved one would want you to be happy. Honor his or her memory by living your life gratefully.

7. Replenish your mind, body, and spirit. Staying healthy and well-rested is the best way to ease the stress of grieving. Eating a balanced diet and staying active mindfully will also help improve your energy, mood, and sleep. Rejuvenate yourself by taking time to engage in hobbies, visit friends, or even volunteer.

8. Accept that your life will be different. It is normal to feel alone and even unsure of how to move forward with your life. Remember, you are strong enough to get through the grieving process. Have faith that it will become emotionally easier in time. Take small, doable steps toward transitioning into what will become your new normal.

9. Stay positive. Remembering to feel grateful for the things and people in your life will help you heal your mind, body, and spirit, and honor the person you have lost.

Be proud of yourself and your strength and remember to tell the people in your life that you love them. Most importantly, be grateful for every challenge that comes into your life—and grow from it. A broken heart is where a healing light will shine through for you and those you love.

Victoria Ann Diaz is a certified integrative health and life coach and graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. In her Life Balance Health Coach practice, she supports clients with a mindful-living approach to health and wellness. For more information, visit www.lifebalancehealthcoach.com.