While making the journey through grief, it is often hard to know if we are managing grief in healthy ways. The good news is that the vast majority of those who experience a loss to death adjust and adapt in healthy ways. Here are 10 signs you are managing your grief skillfully.
1. You are using a resilience you may have been unaware of. Most people are naturally resilient. We are equipped to not only endure loss but also to continue moving forward with our lives. When actor and martial artist Chuck Norris, learned his beloved brother was killed in Vietnam, Norris tapped into the power of resilience to cope. In his book, The Secret Power Within, he writes, “Consolation comes in many forms, all of them meaningful and helpful to a degree, and families, even small ones, can generate enormous amounts of power support to deal with such a terrible loss. The first piercing grief eventually becomes a kind of ever-present sorrow that doesn’t seem to want to go away ever, but then it does; or, rather it grows into something else, something you know you can live with, although at the same time you know you’ll never forget.”
2. You are using your own unique ways of dealing with grief and not following someone else’s script for how you should feel, talk and behave.
3. You can talk about the one who has died, especially with good, trusted friends. The word “therapy” originates in the Greek language and literally means “healing by talking.” Speaking about the experience of loss and your feelings is therapeutic and healing.
4. You are stabilizing emotionally, mentally, and physically. The powerful emotions which are present initially, are easing up. It is less and less of a “roller coaster” ride.
5. You are eating and sleeping in ways that are normal for you. When his wife died suddenly of an aneurysm, Mark experienced sleep and appetite disorder. “I just couldn’t sleep well and could care less about eating. However, as I worked on my grief, I found myself releasing the tension. That allowed me to sleep better and actually enjoy a meal.”
6. You are enjoying the company of friends. After Karen’s husband died, she recalls a text she received seven months after the death: “Karen, some of us are meeting up for coffee. Why don’t you join us.” I did and it was the first time I felt I really wanted to be with a group. It was a nice breakthrough and awareness for me.”
7. You are comfortable when people don’t know what to say or when they act in clumsy ways toward you. It’s no longer an awkward moment for you because you understand that they just don’t understand. It’s OK.
8. You realize that the “goal” is not to “get over the loss” but become reconciled to it and live on to the best of your ability.
9. You are reaching out to help others. This indicates you are not completely self-absorbed and have extra energy to be helpful to others. Coming to the aid of another person has the added benefit of making you feel better as well.
10. You find reasons to feel optimistic and are looking forward to your future. After her husband was killed in a work-related accident, Audrey Andersson says there were difficult and discouraging moments, but she chose to be optimistic. “I felt as if I were, indeed, in a black hole from which no escape is possible. But I can face the future with confidence and hope,” she told herself.
Victor M. Parachin, M. Div., is a bereavement educator and grief counselor.
He is the author of numerous books about grief including
The Lord Is My Shepherd:
A Psalm For The Grieving and Healing Grief.