Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Healing from Grief

One of the difficult aspects of reaching our 60s, 70s and beyond is the fact that we are likely to lose more friends and family members than we did when we were younger.  Grief is something we are all going to experience.  While we cannot avoid experiencing the loss of someone we love, there are steps we can take to help us heal.

When Sheryl Sandberg, the CEO of Facebook, unexpectedly lost her husband while they were on a family vacation, she was devastated.  The couple had two young children and, difficult as it was, Sheryl knew she had to move on with her life for their sake.  It has not been easy her, and she admits that while "the fog of acute grief has lifted ... the sadness and longing for Dave remain."  While learning to heal, she wrote a book called "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy." 

AARP Magazine interviewed Sheryl Sandberg about her grief and the book she wrote in their June/July 2017 issue.  Below are a few of the recommendations she has for people who are trying to heal from grief. I highly recommend her book to anyone who is suffering from grief, regardless of their age.

Recognize the Issues Which Hamper Your Recovery

Sheryl Sandberg discusses the three P's in her book.  These are beliefs which make it harder for us to heal.  It is important to acknowledge you are feeling these emotions and recognize these feelings are temporary.

Personalization - Blaming ourselves for someone else's death.  This can cause you to develop deep feelings of guilt for things which are beyond your control.

Pervasiveness - Believing that everything in your life is bleak and refusing to recognize there is anything good or positive going on in your life.  This feeling can cause you to become more fearful and worry more than you did in the past.

Permanence - The belief you will always feel as terrible as you do now.  This can cause you to isolate yourself.

Build Your Resilience

Ms. Sandberg believes that resilience is like a muscle and you can strengthen it.  You need to believe that you will be able to develop deep, close relationships in your life once again.  Your life can have meaning and you can find joy.

While it may seem impossible at first, remind yourself that you will be able to make new friends.  Don't forget to treat yourself with compassion and patience. 

In addition to what Ms. Sandberg has said about resilience, many people have found comfort when they have turned their grief into a cause.  Whether you get involved in raising money to cure the illness which killed your loved one or, like the teenagers who have survived school shootings, turn your tragedy into the energy to fight for political change, these activities can help you recover from your grief and help you become a force for good in the world.

Journaling Can Help

Researchers have discovered that writing about your feelings, both the happy and sad, can make it much easier for you to recover from the trauma of losing someone you love.  Journaling will help you find your own voice.

Give Yourself Permission to Move on With Your Life

You will never forget the people you lost.  Their memories will always be a part of your life.  It is perfectly OK to move on, however, and let yourself experience joy, laughter and have a good time with new friends.  If the person you lost was your spouse, eventually you may want to date again.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Give yourself permission to enjoy another person and remind yourself that if you loved someone deeply before, you will be able to do it again.

At the end of the AARP interview, Sheryl Sandberg said to "acknowledge the capacity of the human spirit to persevere."

If you are experiencing grief in your life, you may also want to join a grief recovery group.  Many churches and other organizations offer them.  They are useful at helping us pull ourselves together and, eventually, move on with our lives.

If you are interested in learning more about common issues as we age, including changing family relationships, common medical issues, where to retire, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in the fall of 2017.

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