Replenish your inner strength while going through the grieving process

Saint Augustine of Hippo – “Love is the beauty of the soul.”

Just three weeks after my husband of 15 years passed away a family friend and psychologist said to me, “Even the Rock of Gibraltar needs to lean on someone.” It was his way of inviting me to get counseling and help in replenishing my strength, either from him or another trusted professional. He was warning me that I could not be strong for everyone else without refueling in some way. I wasn’t sure what he meant at the time. I was numb and going through the motions of trying to help my children heal, comforting my mother-in-law and my husband’s siblings and grandmothers. I was taking on the role I always did, one that came naturally to me, to be the nurturer of those most dear to me. What I didn’t realize was how true my friend’s words were. I could not remain the rock without the help of others or without taking care of myself.

Honestly I didn’t feel like much of a rock at all. I grieved and I did so in a very profound way those first few months. I just kept it more to myself, letting in only my closest friends and my mother at times. I cried myself to sleep each night for weeks and even months, never letting my children know the extent of my grief, even though I was sure to let them see me cry often enough that they knew they could freely do the same. I also relied heavily on family, friends, and neighbors who gave so much sincere support.

I am three months into my grieving process. With the compassionate reminder of a close friend, I make the daily effort to focus on what I had instead of what I feel I am being denied. I am consciously choosing to be grateful for 15 wonderful years and a love many people never get to experience.

I don’t know if there is a right or wrong way to grieve. I just know how I am doing it. I worry sometimes that maybe I’m not sad enough and then at other times I think am I hanging on too tightly to the pain. One thing I have discovered is that I do have a choice. When anger creeps in, I can make a conscious choice to replace it with gratitude. When pain seems to squeeze my heart so tightly that I can no longer breathe, I take a deeper breath and remember to find peace in knowing each day I am becoming stronger.

Some of the ways I have found to replenish my strength are:
• Allow friends and family to help. We bless others by letting them know they are making a difference in our lives and by allowing them to be of service.
• Get some alone time. This is difficult when children depend on me for day to day care and there are many other responsibilities. Being busy may be a good diversion, but even if it means taking an extra long shower, alone time allows you to regroup.
• Talk about your loved one. I find, for example, that when we are watching a TV show and we comment to each other how much Dad liked this show, it helps us focus on the happy memories and keeps him close in our hearts. He will always be my boys’ father and the more we remember happy times, the more we feel he is close in our hearts.
• Talk to a professional. At first I felt like we were doing just fine on our own, but then came to realize the benefit of talking to someone who sees many different people who handle grief in many different ways. The insight helps us to feel we are “normal” and that we are not alone.

Probably the most comforting support I have received in these first three months is that my friends and family have been supportive in letting me take time to be sad, but then reminding me of all there is to still be happy about. If I can do that with fewer external reminders as each day passes then I know I am healing.

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