When we’re grieving, we look for anything that will stop the pain. In a hurry to get to the other side of the grief experience, we can get tripped up by the three mistakes that I’m going to caution you about. When you know these three mistakes, you can become aware and see if you’re making them yourself. You can then take action to reverse your steps.
#1. Adopting the word “Never.” Life looks bleak when we’re going through loss. A relationship ends. A child dies. A terminal diagnosis changes your life. A business goes bust and you’re staring financial disaster in the face. It is very common to think the thought I’ll never get over this or I’ll never be happy again. A client of mine who lost her beloved sister Jennifer was trapped by this belief. Her sister was her best friend and confidante and so it was easy for her to adopt the belief that she would never have a relationship like that ever again. As I helped her work through this belief I helped her shift her mindset. It is true that there would never be a relationship like the one she and Jennifer shared. But there could be very fulfilling relationships with a Mary, a Kathy, or an Ashley. “Never”” can become a life sentence. What helped my client get to a better-feeling place was substituting the word “Never” with the word “Maybe.”
Try these sentences and see which one fits you best:
Maybe I’ll be happy again. Maybe I’ll find a better job. Maybe a new relationship will honor who I am. Maybe I will use this loss to serve the world and help others.
#2. Rushing the season of grief. In a desperate bid to “fix” our pain, we can sometimes get caught up in doing, seeking, and trying too hard. My client Jasmine struggled through this. In the weeks after her mother died, she signed up for yoga and meditation classes. She wrote and used affirmations on a daily basis. She had her chakras cleansed. Nothing seemed to help, so she came to me for assistance with her grief. As we worked together, she realized what I told her during our first session: “Your grief simply wants your attention.” Instead, she’d been trying to outrun her grief. Mistakenly believing that a bunch of healing practices would get her on the other side, she’d been trying to rush her season of grief.
Your grief needs a witness. Be available to your pain. Stay in the season of grief for as long as it takes.
#3. Expecting friends and family to know how to support you. This is the hardest thing to deal with when we’re grieving a loss. Some friends and family members seem awkward around your grief. They don’t know what to say or how best to support you. My client Rose had this experience. She received a few insensitive texts from friends she thought would understand what she was going through. Those messages let her know that she was too mopey, no longer fun to be with, and always sad. Very quickly Rose realized that some of her friends would have to leave her. Although it devastated her, I was able to help her understand that she was no longer who she used to be before her loss and that she needed a new tribe. Hesitant and unconvinced, she moved through the disappointing experience. Soon she found a new group of seekers and felt like she’d found her soul sisters. The women were all moving through a transition phase and were very supportive of Rose and her loss.
Don’t expect to recreate what you had with friends in your pre-loss phase. If someone wants to leave, let them go. You will find a new circle of people who will be more meaningful to you in your current phase.
Which of these 3 mistakes have you made? What did you learn from it?