Endings and a Reawakening of Grief

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After the death of someone close to us, every ending can feel more intense than it might have before. Even years after the loss of our loved one— after we have figured out how to live life with the pain of missing them, the yearning to hear their voice and perhaps the anger that this tragedy has occurred— every ending that comes into our lives may re-open those wounds, making them feel fresh and raw again.

This “reawakening” of our grief might happen when there is a BIG ending — the end of a job,  the cusp of retirement, moving out of a home or the end of a relationship. It makes sense, and it is natural, that at these times we would be especially sensitive, thoughtful  and missing the person who is no longer with us.  You may find yourself unearthing old memories of your loved one, the times you spent together in that home, the ways they encouraged you to take that job or leave it.

The memories may rise in a  vague way, or you just may find yourself wishing for the comfort of your loved one. If you witnessed the death, or if it was particularly surprising or traumatic, you may also find those old feelings of fear, anger or desperation reoccurring. Even in times of small endings, perhaps a coworker leaving the job, the seasons changing or trading in an old car for a new one, you may experience some reawakening of your grief or missing your loved one.

Let me reassure you that all of these responses, along with many other variations, are a normal reaction even though they may be painful. This is another part of your new “normal”, and there are ways to ease these transitions.

First, and perhaps most important, take the time to feel these emotional responses.  Many times we push away these feelings because they are miserable but know that the emotion must rise, must be acknowledged or it will rise up again (and sometimes with a vengeance).  Go ahead and push the sadness down if you need to get through the work day, or the house closing or the retirement celebration, but allow yourself the time to feel the sadness too.

Some ideas include:

  • Go through photographs that elicit old memories
  • Let yourself cry (and cry hard)
  • Have an “imagined” conversation with the one you are missing, journal or just sit in the emotion and validate it
  • Use prayer to pour out your feelings to God, and let Him take on the burden, if that fits in your faith beliefs
  • You could make an artwork piece or write poetry that allows the emotions to take forms

You can make this process as formal or informal as you like. What is important is to feel the emotion and validate it because these emotions are not “silly” or unwarranted.

While you may choose to acknowledge your feelings when you are alone, another helpful experience can be sharing them with a loved one or with your counselor. All of the ways of validating these emotions I listed above can be done in the counseling office or with friends or family members. Those people in your life may have additional ideas on ways to ease this ending. Connection to the people who care for us can not only ease our pain, but connect us to one another, and makes life feel full and worthwhile even through the hurt.

Finally, take care of yourself and be gentle. Surround yourself with comforting items, get lots of hugs, bake some cookies, be in nature, go to bed early…whatever nurtures you. Make the time to include a little extra . With this extra care and attention, you will find that the reawakening of grief will subside again, and you will adjust to this transition in your life.

If you think some short-term counseling could help you through a transition but don’t have a counselor right now, reconnect with a counselor from the past or ask a friend for a recommendation. If you are in the Winona, MN area, give me a call at 507.313.4103.

With love,

Jamie

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