Is there a GPS for Grief? — grateful, yet grieving

When I descended into the abyss of grief after my husband died, I grasped at anything to guide me.  My first question was, “where do I find the exit out of here?”

I didn’t find that answer but instead discovered what I could do to navigate my way through.  I wrote in five journals, read books and went to counseling.  I wanted a GPS to guide me to see where I was and where I was going. 

In the second year, I found the work of Dr. William Worden, world-known psychologist, specializing in grief counseling and therapy. Dr. Worden identifies Tasks of Grieving that are completed throughout the grieving process.  The first task is to accept the reality of the loss. For many of us, it’s sitting in the front row of our loved one’s memorial service.  The second task is to process the pain of the grief, which means feel the full range of feelings associated with your loss.  We must “feel to heal” as we allow ourselves to look, explore and express our feelings.  The third task is to adjust to the world without the deceased.  We discover another path as we forge ahead.  And the fourth task, according to Worden, is to find an enduring connection with your loved one in the midst of embarking on a different life.  We create a space to remember and honor our loved one while living in the present and going forward. 

Upon finding Dr. Worden’s model, I felt like I had found a well in the desert. The defined tasks helped me see where I was and where I needed to go.  There was no exit or entrance, but a moving in and out with the ebb and flow of grief.  I found it helpful to see there was no order or stages that required completion.  I had a guide, but not a recipe to follow.

Each of us has our own experience and journey with grief. It’s our story. There’s not a right or wrong way to move through it. We can’t fix it or shut the door on it. We can find a way through that leads to a different life than we planned.

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Used with permission from Pam Luschei.

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