Too Busy To GrieveToo Busy To Grieve

We are living in a society where keeping busy is considered the norm and is actually admired. We multi-task, and check off our to-do lists. But, is it what we need to do after losing a loved one? It is often suggested by our well-meaning friends and family "just keep busy" and we return to work after the standard 3-5 days bereavement leave, our grief put on pause and giving rise to impressing others with the incorrect notion that "he/she is moving on with their life".

I too thought busy was a good thing when I was first widowed 22 years ago. I was busy with my four young children, up at 5:30am to meditate and walk and collapsing by 8:30pm with the kids. I found things to busy myself all day long. In reality, I was distracting myself from my feelings; the pain and the loneliness.

Through my work I have learned that allowing time to grieve, and voicing that grief, cannot happen soon enough after a loss.

How do you put a voice to your grief? Begin to identify the feelings you are experiencing. Write down the feelings that come up for you. I have had many widows' tell me after a session how much "lighter" they felt after speaking about how they really are feeling. Doing grief work takes courage. The feelings we have left unidentified and unexpressed are the feelings that cause us the most pain.

Unidentified grief can linger on and bring with it illness and dis-ease. Society as a whole looks at grief as an intellectual choice not an emotional experience.

But, grief is an emotional experience! So finding the right people to express and voice your "feelings" with is key.

You may have been telling people when asked how you are, that you are doing fine when, you are just masking it. Masking it to protect them and they are relieved to hear your response which lets them off the proverbial "hook". Perhaps you're masking it because you can't put your feelings into words and you're thinking "who would listen anyway, I just won't even go there".

I spoke with a client this week that said just that. She said "I can't find the word for what I'm feeling." After allowing her to sit with it, she came to identify the feeling as sad. This, for her, was a major step. She could now identify the "feeling" with the thought of missing her husband. She then was able to give her grief the attention it needed and work with the sadness. What she felt was right, for her.

Most frequently we can identify with feeling good, well, fine, lousy or great but we avoid feelings that conjure up our deeper feelings. After a loss those adjectives just don't cut it. Mostly you feel lost, alone, lonely, afraid, terrified, angry, distrustful, powerless, relieved, abandoned, overwhelmed, disconnected, hopeless, guilty, aimless, unsupported. Whatever you feel, you're right.

We are looking to recover from our loss and recovery means feeling better. There are action steps to this recovery. It is not a case of "time heals all wounds". Working on your grief is just that, it takes identifying that you are still grieving and it takes work. Part of the work is acquiring skills we have never been taught. And key to those skills is identifying how, throughout our lives, we have dealt with loss in the past. It's a kind of, re-education.

Less than helpful are the clichés we all hear after a loss by well meaning friends and family. Most people have no idea what to say. We are told:

Don't feel bad

Replace the loss

Grieve alone

Just give it time

Be strong for others

Keep busy

None of these statements heal the pain of loss nor do they help the griever but they do delay the healing. So the wound remains wide open but ignored until another experience of loss occurs and salt is rubbed into the wound. This next loss can be a loss of any kind, not necessarily the death of a person. But, those similar feelings that accompany grief come flying back. How many times can you throw salt on an open wound?

It's time we open our hearts and ears to those who have suffered a loss, including our own. We all will, sometime in our lives, grieve.

by Audrey Pellicano
References and Bibliography
Audrey is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist and Health Coach. Having been widowed at the age of 37 with 4 young children, she initially sought out the assistance of those professionals she thought might be able to help, but who in fact had no experience in working with a young widow with years of raising children ahead of her. Experiencing the absence of support in the traditional system, Audrey pursued complimentary therapies and earned certification in Guided Imagery, Yoga, Meditation, Nutrition and Grief Recovery and implemented those tools through her own grief journey. She helps women who have experienced loss move through the grief and being moving forward in their lives. Audrey works virtually with clients one-on-one and provides group telephone programs on Grief Recovery and Healthy Living After Loss. You can see her upcoming programs at Audrey speaks to corporations on the subject of grief in the workplace and how to support employees returning to work after a loss and provides training for managers, human resources and co-workers. Audrey launched the first Death Cafe' in NYC on February 20th and was featured in the June 17th edition of The New York Times Audrey also had the NY Times Quotation of the Day for June 17th 2013, "Death and grief are topics avoided at all costs in our society. If we talk about them, maybe we won't fear them as much." She is the author of "Six Secrets to Surviving Widowhood". or Contact Audrey at 914-703-2688 or
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