This article is a rewrite from an initial blog post I wrote in April 2012 following the transition of my father. I decided to write about the topic of grief again because I recently lost a dear friend and it re-opened the experience of grieving.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is an intensely personal experience and just as no one can prepare you for the myriad of emotions you will experience, no one can or should tell you how to grieve.
My father passed through transition on March 17 2012. Despite being a healthcare professional and handling life and death situations on an almost daily basis, nothing could have prepared me for the effect his transition had on me.
The paradox of going through loss is that we learn to embrace and accept the frailty our human nature.
On an intellectual level, I had been well aware that my father’s demise was imminent. His health had been failing over the last few years. He had become progressively frail. I had that ‘innate knowingness’ that the time was at hand. I’m sure we all do when we see a loved one decline in health. But even when I received the news of his stroke, I still bargained with God asking for a miracle.
Following his transition, the initial shock and intense grief shut me down. I wanted to have nothing to do with the outside world.
The weeks following his transition were filled with a smorgasbord of emotions. In that time, as part of my journey through grief, I made several self-discoveries.
Some friends had a pre-conceived view of how I should grieve; some chose not to reach out to me in my grief. I had some well-meaning friends who admonished me to ‘pull myself together and not fall apart’. I also had friends who avoided me like the plague, as though death in itself were contagious!
Through the support of my personal life coach, I came to accept that not everyone is equipped to handle grief.
There is tremendous healing power in blessing and accepting people for their humanness.
There are several stages of going through the grieving process:
- and finally, acceptance.
We all grieve in our way, and there is no set pattern to how anyone person processes grief. At times I would go through stages several times on the same day.
I know that my experience is in no way unique. However, I consider it my mission to be present to the lessons life sends me even in my darkest hours because I believe we are all here on the planet to act as a beacon of light for others in their time of need.
Here are some insights that I am learning as I embraced the grief surrounding the loss of my father:
Do not get stuck in grieving
Grief can be a sticky issue. And I mean that literally as well as figuratively. Grief can become a reason for getting stuck in life. When the experience is still fresh, we may have no idea how life could continue without our loved one. How will we cope? How can we go on? We may even experience the immediate fear of how to plan the funeral arrangements, deal with other relatives, etc.
The important thing to realize is that fear is part of the process of grieving and this is normal.
I trained as an ontological coach. Ontology is the experience of how we are being. In ontological coaching, we frequently speak about the importance of normalizing our emotions. By normalizing our emotions, we accept ourselves along with our mixed bag of emotions just as we are.
We don’t need to make emotions -right or wrong. They are just what they are- emotions. Remember, however, that your emotions are not you. They are an expression of who you are at that moment.
When we try to fight off these emotions or make them mean something that they are not about us that we tend to get stuck.
By getting stuck in our emotions, they can become part of the story that stops us from reaching our full potential in life- all we are meant to be.
Take on completion as part of grieving.
Completion is a very important tool used in ontological coaching. This process allows us to release the energy and emotion attached to an event, person, situation or circumstance. Perhaps there were some things that you wish you had said to your departed one. Maybe there are some things that you wish you had left unsaid. Maybe you had planned to see your loved one before they died. Perhaps your relationship with the departed may have been strained. Whatever the reason taking on completion is a powerful healing process in grieving.
There are several ways you can practice being complete with a situation or person. One of the easiest methods is by writing in a journal. For instance, you may want to write a letter to your departed one. Or you can simply speak your thoughts or feelings out loud. There’s no right or wrong way. Work on getting your emotions out of your head and into the open, whether it’s speaking them out, or writing them down.
When we get complete, we no longer allow this event, person, situation or circumstance to create an emotional response within us. The beautiful thing about completion is that you do not need to have a dialogue with the person you feel you need to be complete with. This is why I recommend this as an important tool in grieving.
Working with an ontological coach and taking on completion can be a very therapeutic and liberating process.
Prioritize your wellbeing
I speak often about making certain that you are attending to your wellbeing. Create a wellbeing list. This is a list of between 5-10 things that you will commit to doing on a daily basis to maintain a healthy mind, body, and spirit. By attending to your wellbeing, you are reducing your risk of physical or psychological illness. The death of a loved one is ranked as a very high source of stress. We all know that chronic stress can have ill effects on our overall health and wellbeing. When you are going through grief, you need to be kind to you. Give yourself time to grieve and please do not ‘should on yourself’. If you feel like a good old-fashioned cry, go ahead and do that. I did. I still cry 7 years after my father’s passing. And now the tears are fresh after the recent death of my dear friend.
Create a support system to help you through grief
If you need to seek a professional as you process your grief please do so. Getting the necessary professional support when going through grief is very essential. It helps the healing process. Too often as women, we feel that we should be able to handle everything. But that is not true. This way of thinking is what can lead to high levels of stress and eventual burnout.
I highly recommend getting professional support either with a trained professional life coach, a therapist or as part of a group counseling program. I have utilized both a coach as well as a therapist in the past and I highly recommend both as a resource.
I am grateful for the safe space created in the partnership I had with my coach at the time of my father’s transition. It allowed me to get back on track more efficiently than if I tried processing it all by myself.
In that space, I am able to recognize that the greatest way to celebrate the life of my father is to live my life to the fullest. This is the beauty that coaching or therapy can offer.
What do you think? Have you experienced grief? How did you handle it? If you would like to learn more about working with me as your life coach, click here.
To listen to my podcast episode on grieving click here
To your Health and Wellbeing,
This post is dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Rosemary Gabriel who passed through transition on November 25 2019. May she rest in eternal Peace Profound.