How to grow through grief

South Florida Times - - OBITUARIES - Cour­tesy of Woods-Valen­tine Mor­tu­ary

No one is pre­pared for grief. The rush of feel­ings, the thoughts, anx­i­eties and heartache can take us by sur­prise and drive us to our knees.Yet, when we choose to har­ness that power for self-growth, amaz­ing things can hap­pen. Good can come from pain.

Sig­mund Freud first brought up the con­cept of grief work in 1917, and to­day the idea that be­reave­ment is pur­pose-driven con­tin­ues.

Dr. James Wor­den chose to see the work of be­reave­ment as task-ori­ented: 1. To ac­cept the re­al­ity of the loss 2. To process the pain of grief 3. To ad­just to a world with­out the de­ceased 4. To find an en­dur­ing con­nec­tion with the de­ceased in the midst of em­bark­ing on a new life

Your cur­rent job is to fo­cus your at­ten­tion on achiev­ing each of those goals. It will not oc­cur in any log­i­cal or­der; each of us is dif­fer­ent and the path we walk in the be­reave­ment jour­ney is not a straight one.

Deal­ing with grief is hard work. It takes both courage and hard work to suc­cess­fully adapt to the loss of a sig­nif­i­cant per­son in your life. SIX SIGNPOSTS ALONG

YOUR JOUR­NEY Dr. Stephen Joseph iden­ti­fies what he calls six signposts to fa­cil­i­tate post­trau­matic growth. He re­minds read­ers too that "post­trau­matic growth does not im­ply the ab­sence of emo­tional dis­tress and dif­fi­cul­ties in liv­ing. It does im­ply that it is pos­si­ble through the strug­gle to come out on the other side, stronger and more philo­soph­i­cal about life." Be­fore iden­ti­fy­ing th­ese six signposts, Dr. Joseph re­minds his read­ers of three very im­por­tant things: • You are not on your own. • Trauma is a nor­mal and nat­u­ral process. • Growth is a jour­ney.

He also pro­vides a fun­da­men­tal rule: don't do any­thing you might not be able to han­dle now. "If you ex­pe­ri­ence in­tense emo­tions, be­come phys­i­cally up­set, or be­gin to panic ... stop." He gen­tly re­minds read­ers that "hav­ing a sense of per­sonal con­trol over your re­cov­ery is im­por­tant. There might be some things you do not feel ready to han­dle now, but in time, as you dis­cover new strength and de­velop new cop­ing skills, this will likely change."

SIGN POST #1: TAK­ING STOCK Are you phys­i­cally well? Are you get­ting enough sleep and eat­ing the right foods for op­ti­mum health? Have you re­ceived the kind of med­i­cal, le­gal or psy­cho­log­i­cal help you need? What is your cur­rent con­di­tion: phys­i­cally, spir­i­tu­ally and emo­tion­ally? SIGN POST #2: HAR­VEST­ING HOPE Peo­ple trau­ma­tized by loss of­ten feel hope­less. It's hard to get up in the morn­ing and think­ing about the fu­ture sparks pes­simism and neg­a­tiv­ity. Find in­spi­ra­tion in the sto­ries of per­sonal growth writ­ten by oth­ers; set goals and prac­tice hope as you set out to achieve them.

SIGN POST #3: RE-AU­THOR­ING Learn to tell your story dif­fer­ently. Take the vic­tim men­tal­ity out of the story of loss you tell your­self and oth­ers and re­place it with the word sur­vivor to re­turn to a sense of con­trol over your life. SIGN POST #4: IDEN­TI­FY­ING

CHANGE Keep­ing a daily di­ary can help you to see the small changes within more eas­ily. You can also track those mo­ments when you feel at your best and iden­tify the con­di­tions that brought them about. Iden­tify and nur­ture the pos­i­tive changes in your life through­out your be­reave­ment jour­ney.

SIGN POST #5: VALU­ING CHANGE Re­view th­ese changes, iden­ti­fy­ing the ones that you'd like to con­tinue to nur­ture. Per­sonal trans­for­ma­tion re­quires it. Growth is en­cour­aged when we take time to think about what we have gained from loved ones and when we find a way to use what we have learned to give to oth­ers. SIGN POST #6: EX­PRESS­ING

CHANGE IN AC­TION Ex­press your growth in new be­hav­iors or, more sim­ply, put your growth into ac­tion. When you think in terms of con­crete ac­tions, it helps make the growth ex­pe­ri­enced within your be­reave­ment real to you.

"By fo­cus­ing on th­ese six signposts," writes Dr. Joseph, "you will find that your post­trau­matic growth is be­gin­ning to take root."

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