Just this week, my wife Julie did some grief coping work on the 10th anniversary of her brother's death in a construction accident.
She chose to work with her therapist for two hours to create a ritual for today's work around her grief.
Grief coping does mean we acknowledge anniversary reawakenings of our grief.
My first strong exposure to my own mortality happened when my father died in 1971 when I was 23, and I still have pangs of sadness about his and my mom and brothers deaths many years later.
I honor those pangs when they come up, which means I might let the tears flow for a moment, and feel the regrets of what we missed, and then maybe I enter into some anger about what did happen, simply feeling and observing this particular grief process as it happens.
However, I do not want to let my feelings push me to jump on a plane to Kansas, where they are buried, to wander our old haunts and long for them.
Grief coping means just being aware of feelings and thoughts and thinking them and feeling those feelings.
It is important not to let the feelings drive behaviors.
For instance, when Julie is remembering Dean, and sharing of her loss, I need to remember to listen, as a companion listens, rather than begin sharing about my losses.
So grief coping might also involve being a companion to someone experiencing grief.
So grief coping for me does involve some awareness of my internal experience and feeling it.
I also have created some rituals in regards to the losses I have experienced, such as acknowledging in my daily prayer and meditation that I still remember, and ask that they watch over us.
When we do get to visit Kansas, I make it a point to visit their graves, and do grief work there.
I want to make sure that my grief does not impact my ability to be present to my own children now.
Grief Coping in December
You might think that December references would be in regard to the Christmas holidays.
For me I feel more melancholy because of the shorter days, so I look forward to the Winter Solstice, and really look forward to the beginnings of longer days.
In fact, as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach, I begin to anticipate longer days for all the months between the Winter Solstice and the Fall Equinox, about nine months away.
Change the thought to change the feelings, and that thinking process helps me to remember the Cycle of Life, and perhaps even wonder about the purpose of it all.
Ritual can be an important part of grief coping, and you certainly see that in our personal and State funerals, and I have been part of many spontaneously created funerals in process groups, where we used available tools to represent parts of the funeral process so that a group member could tap into the full range of emotions surrounding the loss, and realize that the emotions do not last forever, nor will you get lost in the intensity.
For example, several years back, I had a client who was in the process of a divorce which he did not expect to happen, and he was struggling to give up the ideal image he had of marriage, so he brought a picture representing the ideal marriage and we burned it and buried the ashes in a flower pot outside under the night sky, with a bit of prayer, and focus, and the ceremony we spontaneously created was very helpful to his acceptance process.
I have pictures of my mom and dad on my dresser, with my dad's watch and blue bottle that was part of my mom's personal effects, and when I look at them, I remember to honor their memory, if only briefly, to remember their struggle.
I have planted trees over the years to create a living memorial to people and times in my life. As I nurture the growth of the tree, I can know that it will benefit life with its beauty through its life. They do grow so rapidly.
If a living memorial could be appropriate for you, please click on the image below. Thanks, and may the wind always be at your back.
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When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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