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When Will I Feel Better?

Many of us are finding ourselves standing in “that tragic gap” – the human condition of grief where we have lost our way – or lost ourselves.

Let’s begin by simply understanding that grief will have her way with you. Given enough time and attention, however, the squeeze on your heart will lessen considerably. You might be surprised to know that it really comes down to your relationship with grief. She absolutely won’t be denied; you can stuff your feelings, medicate them, drug them, deny them, and so on, but these options don’t work and will only hurt you. In fact, the more we resist grief, the more strident it becomes.

Melissa LaFlamme asks, “How much energy have you invested in trying to protect your heart from breaking? It’s wasted energy, and worse, it keeps you distant from your depths, your core, your humanity. From everyone. From everything. We’re meant to be broken, to shred; to melt; burst open; to come into compassion and exquisite empathy for everything.”

Indeed, we must eventually find that deep well of self-compassion and self-love. After my son died, I just could not sleep; I was still on high alert; that meant that I couldn’t function well at all. I went to see a doctor who loaded me up with all kinds of drugs, and I finally slept. But I was as numb and dumb as a post. I couldn’t feel anything, and surprisingly, this was worse than the grief and sleeplessness. I flushed the drugs and returned to grief. I recall the day when I needed to drive to the airport, and I just could not remember how to get there. My head had dropped into my heart. These things are the norm in the landscape of grief. It can be treacherous. You possibly won’t recognize yourself. It’s okay.

So, back to that relationship idea. Like all relationships, what grief needs is attention. As terrible as it feels, grief is not the enemy. There’s nothing “wrong” about it. In truth, grief is the most natural thing in the world when we have lost something or someone that we love. I like to think of grief as a guest who has come to visit, not to STAY! Consider this beautiful poem from the Sufi poet Rumi.

Yes, you’re being “cleared out”. Grief must be recognized and honored. How do we do that? Well, we need all the support we can get, and small, intimate grief groups can be a great blessing, but there is a caveat here: not all groups are created equal! You must be wise and choosy when it comes down to finding a group that is right for you.

When I was about a year into the grief process, I started with a support group for parents who had lost a child. It sounded right, but it was not right for me. Why?? Simply because I was sitting with people who were, many years later, stuck in their grief! Who hadn’t moved on to a place of peace and well-being. This was not a healthy resource for me. I owed it to my son and my family to get well. What’s important is that you find a group that fits you. That’s where you’ll find your comfort.

I highly recommend a group experience that offers movement through grief, through those feelings of despair, and through those grief bursts that come and go. Such a group offers confidentiality and safety; it offers a shared experience of mutuality and compassion. It offers a small, closed group in a specific window of time and a program that is designed to move you through the hero’s journey toward acceptance. We want to experience what Abraham Lincoln spoke of as “that sad, sweet feeling in your heart”.

A stellar grief group offers many opportunities to connect to grief through your hands and heart, actually experiencing grief through various forms of activity. In a previous article, How to Take Care of Yourself, I give many examples of the experiential process.

That stellar group will address the disorientation that you feel and take you right to the abyss of feelings where you discover your Self and your inner strength to survive. You’re never alone in such a group, but you are “alone together”. Nobody can do this work for you, but there are always those who will do it with you. Take heart!

Find a group that affirms the inherent value of each individual, and which recognizes every person as whole, unbroken and without need for “fixing, saving, or correcting”. Such a group challenges you and invites you to tend to your grief by tending to one another. What could be more beautiful? This is restorative healing at its best and offers the true gift of transformation.

Many great groups are available for you locally. Here are a few ideas to check out:

The Grief Recovery Method has been around for many years and can be found across the country and beyond. Research conducted by Kent State University has shown that The Grief Recovery Method approach to helping grievers deal with the pain of emotional loss in any relationship is “Evidence Based” and effective.

For short term and immediate support for death specific grief, be sure to check out your local hospice programs. They are powerful and free of charge.

For grieving children, check out the wonderful offerings of the The Dougy Center in Portland, Oregon. They offer training and groups for grieving children and have affiliates all over the United States. And on that note, grief camps for children are the absolute best for kids. Many hospice organizations offer them.

Many churches and other community organizations are offering grief groups. Some of them are faith-based, like GriefShare, and many others are not specific to faith. Veterans do a lot with grief, too, with groups for vets and family members.

Lots of schools, both public and private are slowly coming on board to recognize that many children are grieving. And they are lost little souls, believe me, and most do not have adequate support. Kids who are misbehaving and exhibiting criminal behavior and addictions are most likely dealing with some major loss in their lives. Grief doesn’t mean that somebody died. Grief means that somebody is hurting, seriously. When looking for a group for a teenager, make sure that the group is exclusive to gender. Boys and girls do NOT mix well in these groups!

I highly recommend The Mankind Project for all men, regardless of age or circumstances. Their offerings are fabulous and highly effective and this project is now an international entity. You should be able to find a group near you.

On a very happy note, I can tell you that many federal and state prisons are now offering grief groups for men and woman. Intervention in this demographic is hugely successful and the participants may end up being the most sensitive and willing folks you’ll ever find “outside”. I highly recommend the beautiful work that Gangaji is offering to inmates through her foundation and monthly newsletters.

“I have met with men who are doing life in Folsom Prison, and watched them weep in the fulfillment of their own heart.” - Gangaji

Established in 1994, the Gangaji Foundation Prison Program offers programs that support men and women living behind bars in furthering their spiritual inquiry. Regardless of anyone's personal circumstance, it is possible to discover the peace and freedom that is alive within all of us.

Discovering freedom inside is the first step in ending the internal wars that can drive our minds, emotions, and unnecessary personal suffering. When we know who we are at the core, we can take real responsibility for our own happiness and our own choices.

As an adjunct group to a grief group, check out Non-Violent Communication. Again, this is a fabulous international entity for getting in touch with feelings and being able to communicate them in sensitive and compassionate ways. You should be able to find a local group near you.

Someone wisely said, “Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.” I invite you to step up and step into the darkness. The hero in you will come forth as the person you’ve never met. This new persona, this new aspect of you is somebody that you will deeply love and respect. You have survived! Now, you may thrive!

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