I received an E-mail from a person suffering from prolonged grief, unable to move forward years after
the deaths of loved ones. I asked my grief counselor friend Marty Tousley to reply to the letter. Here,
in part, is her compassionate response:
"It is never too late to do the work of mourning. When the
unfinished business of loss is getting in the way of living your life, it is always wise to pay it the attention it deserves,
and if necessary, to seek outside, professional help in doing so. If you had a broken arm or leg, you wouldn’t think
twice about seeking medical attention, yet here you are with a broken heart and you’re expecting to be able to “fix”
it all by yourself.
Effective grief work is not done alone. Private, solitary activities such as reading and writing
are wonderful, but it’s also helpful to work with others through talking, participating in bereavement counseling or
finding support in a group. Reaching out to others is often very difficult when you’re struggling with grief, but experience
has taught us that in grief, the more support and understanding we have around us, the better we will cope.
than worrying whether or not it will help, you might consider counseling as a precious gift you can give to yourself. Effective
counseling truly can change your life--and for the better.
I am reminded of an interesting article I read recently
(in the Winter 2007 issue of the Wings Newsletter) entitled "Feeling the Agony of Sibling Death: My Story" by Diana
Papilli. Describing how she came to terms with the violent murder of her brother twenty years before, Diana writes:
. . . I followed some early advice. I allowed myself to feel all of my feelings: anger, hatred,
revenge, sorrow, pity, disgust, grief, regret, resentment and others. However, I did not wallow in them; not for long, anyway.
I let them be and then let them pass . . .
I [also] used the services of a professional counselor. I did not seek
him initially for my grief, yet all of my experiences came into those sessions with me. My grief helped shape both the things
inside me I wanted to keep and wanted to release. A detached but compassionate counselor can go a long way in helping overcome
the most difficult of obstacles. Grief support groups offer similar benefit.
Many years have passed and I sometimes
have to revisit those feelings. I do not treat them as evil robbers at my threshold. Instead, I treat them as necessary assistants,
showing me where I need to work next. Living a decent, joyous life despite John’s murder is the best tribute I can give
to my brother. He wouldn’t want anything less."
to next page: Thoughts of Suicide During Grief