Intellectually you know that your loved one has died – you witnessed their last breath, you saw their body lowered into the ground, or you heard the doctors say “he is gone”. Your head understands and accepts the death of your loved one but your heart simply cannot accept this news. Grief work is getting your heart to catch up with your head.
When your head and heart are out of sync you feel particularly lost and vulnerable. This gap between head and heart often leads to feelings referred to as “magical thinking”, “unexplained coincidences” or “mystical experiences”. You “see” your husband in a crowded market. You “feel” your wife lying next to you in bed. You keep your daughters clothes because she will need them when she “returns” home from work or school.
In order to move along in your grief process, you must work towards acknowledging and eventually accepting the loss in your heart. You do this by first feeling your feelings and then expressing them. This is where the term grief “work” comes in because opening your broken heart can be a painful and difficult process. In his book, Unattended Sorrow, Stephen Levine writes that “Grief call us to open our hearts in hell.” With such a description it is tempting to ignore or suppress your feelings in order to avoid the hurt, but grieving is not an option; it is mandatory.
If you decide you are going to suppress your feelings and be “stoic” and keep a “stiff upper lip”, your grief will come forth in destructive ways such as depression, over-eating, over-drinking, gambling, etc. Grief will wait patiently for years for you to decide it is time to feel and express your feelings no matter how irrational and uncomfortable they may seem.
If opening up your heart frightens you and you have no idea how to begin the process, here are some suggestions to get your feelings acknowledged and expressed:
- Find a non-judgmental listener and talk about your loved one (see #6)
- Be still and quiet your mind/Meditate
- Write a letter to your deceased loved one
- Make a photo collage
- Express your feelings and tell us about your loved one on this blog: www.IAMSOLOST.com
Eventually when your heart starts to catch up to your head and you begin to accept and understand that your loved one has died you will be moving forward in your grief to heal your mind, body and spirit.