Courage When Losing A Loved One

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(Photo by Mike Labrum)

The death of a loved one will often spell “traumatic loss.” Expressions like “a punch in the gut,” “heart wrenching,“ and “cut like a knife,” all convey physical pain because the body knows what the mind may not dare tackle. Survivors are no longer their same selves for an integral relationship is no longer physically tangible. Everyday chores instantly become meaningless. And left unchecked, this traumatic grief may often last a lifetime perhaps even growing into a “living suicide.” How do you recover? Courage may hold the key.

It is said that time heals all wounds, but in traumatic grief this may not be true. The body may live in a state of adrenal overload. This will cause health to deteriorate and mental agitation, fearfulness, and negative thoughts to become habitual. This is hardly what the beloved deceased would have wanted, wouldn’t you agree?

To lose what we love and are emotionally attached to can be incredibly painful. We may feel crushed, totally confused, not wanting to go on, or perhaps not believing that we can go on. We may experience life as having lost all meaning and purpose. Pause a moment. Again, is this what your dear departed would wish for you?

Traumatic survivors face a moment of truth for grief can be the flash point of incredible transformation or not. Such requires the return to normalcy, rest, exercise, relaxation, self-compassion, expansion, serving, and learning — the unfinished business of self-creation. Remember that you are more adaptable and pliable than you might imagine.

Is this all scary? Yes, it definitely can be. I’d prefer to use other, more positive terms, but let us not overlook the negative. I like the word “courageous.” Isn’t all life courageous where always a seed of courage exists? Imagine a sperm and egg uniting through to birth, a first day at school or the job, a first date, kiss, or marriage. Such is nature’s nature to send out roots, to explore, expand and grow, often against great odds. That courage intrinsic to life is also seen in humankind’s natural tendency to push the limits of what is known or can be done. Traumatic grief is no different and now is your personal invitation to get back on track and regain your balance no matter what. This is definitely not a passive exercise, but a participatory one.

Dr. Andy Drymalski writes about this very seed of courage: “There is a seed of courage that still longs to germinate, to make a bold, irrational and outlandish step towards further growth and development. There is a force inside of you, even in your darkest physical, psychological or spiritual state, that wants to grow, that wants to transcend limits, go over the edges of what is known, or what we think we know, who we are and who we think we are.

Dr. Drymalski continues. “Perhaps the first step in accessing the courage you seek is to recognize that it is already within you, embedded in your DNA, in your breath and in the beating of your heart. This courage wants to expand and deepen your life in this realm or, like the courageous seedling pushing through the soil to the light, carry you across the boundary of this life into the next.”

Intellectually most of us understand that change and death are constants and that life is unpredictable, but when life doesn’t dance according to our tune, it can really throw us out of synch. As Aldous Huxley once said, “ Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.” When your pain arises, listen to it, but don’t fight it. There is no stopwatch on your recovery.

Life is about motion and you may begin to realize that the time is now for you to get back into motion both literally and figuratively. You don’t have to step out on this journey alone. Secure the services of a trusted professional grief counselor or therapist. Prayer, exercise, and meditation may also be use, but there is no magic formula or timetable.

Deborah Morris Coryell wrote a wonderful book, “Good Grief” and offers these timeless words that may provide you this much needed courage. “Love has no expiration date and it is infinitely recyclable. Take the love you gave the beloved, and give it everywhere, give it always. For in the giving, you are healed.” Isn’t that the way you would want to be remembered?

Dare to take a courageous step and embrace your healing journey. I challenge you to turn your sorrow into song thereby making our world even sweeter.

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