Archive for the ‘Grief and Loss’ Category

Changed by Death: How willing are you to be transformed?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

“Healing through grief does not mean remaining unchanged.”

~ How to Survive Your Grief

changed by deathThe capacity and willingness to be changed by death may be the distinguishing characteristic between those who heal from loss and those who don’t.

In end of life care, we often talk about how people die the way they have lived. Those who have embraced life fully often meet death as the next great adventure while those who have lived more cautiously often experience tremendous fear.

For those of us left behind, the willingness to be transformed by the experience of death and grief can open new pathways into life, a life quite different from the one we lived with the person who died, but life nonetheless.

A certain amount of resistance is normal and to be expected when faced with the monumental changes brought on by the death of someone we love. This is especially true and quite normal in the first few months following a death but when  resistance is extreme or prolonged, intractable grief is often the result.

None of us really likes change especially when it means we must go on without someone we counted on to be there, but some of us embrace it better than others.

In many ways the capacity to change, or not, is a personality trait that existed long before we were confronted with death. A death just brings our capacity for change (or lack thereof) to the surface, and with it a huge opportunity for growth (yes, I know it sucks).

It’s okay if that growth is accompanied by a lot of kicking and screaming as long as we don’t just dig in our heels and refuse to meet the challenge.


 Some signs you might be resisting change…

1. You’ve never done well with change even before this death occurred.

2. You think this death was wrong, wrong, wrong.

3. You insist you’ll never get over it…not ever.

Disclaimer: During the first few months it seems unimaginable that you will ever feel any better. That’s normal. What’s not normal is feeling that way years later.

4. You resist any suggestion you might need some help.

5. You think the real problem is that no one understands.

6. It’s been years and you’re still in unrelenting pain.

Some ways to expand your capacity for change while grieving…

 1. Be gentle with yourself.

Grieving the loss of someone who died is probably the hardest thing we humans ever have to face. Self compassion is essential.

2. Allow yourself to feel the feelings without judgment or fear.

The feelings of grief are often scary, conflicting and incomprehensible. Many feel they are going crazy. Trying to be strong in the face of this tsunami of painful emotions always makes it worse and leads to prolonged and unresolved grief.

3. Keep breathing. 

Focusing on the breath grounds us in the present moment. Yoga or meditation are great ways to release the breath you’ve been holding. Massage is another. Just taking a moment while stopped in traffic to become aware of your breath can calm you.

 4. Stop trying to be strong. 

 Just stop it. Grief does not require us to be strong it requires us to be vulnerable. (I know I don’t like it either but there you have it.) Opening your heart to the pain is the pathway out.

 5. Examine any ideas you have about death being a mistake.

Not just this particular death but death in general. Death is as much a part of life as birth even when it happens to someone we love. Just because we don’t like it does not necessarily make it a mistake.

6. Recognize that life is moving forward anyway. 

The question is never whether you will move on but how are you going to move on? See The Irony of Moving On

7. Entertain the possibility that you might heal. 

You don’t have to believe it but I’d like to invite you to crack the window open a bit. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised. The vast majority of people do heal. Yes they heal with scars but they do heal.

Don’t believe me? Check out this report.

8.  Don’t expect this to happen fast. 

Time alone is never enough but assimilating the changes grief brings about does take time.

The changes brought about by death are monumental, many times greater than the other major changes we experience in the course of our lives…moving, changing jobs, getting married, having a child. Yet how we respond to those changes may be predictive of how much we’ll struggle with the changes we encounter while grieving.

Make sense? Let me know what you think below.

Susan FullerSusan L. Fuller

Photo Credit:  Andrea Kratzenberg

A Thanksgiving Message…

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S…

Though the first holidays can be incredibly difficult, they are survivable. Remember the anticipation is almost always worse than the reality.

Wishing you the best on this Thanksgiving…


Susan FullerSusan L. Fuller

P.S. Making a plan on how you’re going to get through each holiday can help make the day go more smoothly. Planning ahead can also help avoid any unnecessary family drama. Be sure to include a Plan B if it’s just too hard to follow through on Plan A.

For more suggestions on How to Survive the Holidays, check out my new Kindle e-book. It’s short, around 20 pages, but has some great tips for planning and surviving the holidays.

How to Survive the Holidays When Someone You Love Has Died.

In grief…creativity, spirituality and healing are inextricably linked

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Though my love, my passion, and my greatest satisfaction, comes from helping people heal following the death of someone they love, I also work with folks wanting to access their creativity, artists and non-artists alike. I’m pretty fond of that work too. Among the benefits…it renews me and provides a balance that allows me to stay present to the grief work. Besides it’s fun.grief and grieving

As I was writing a new bio for an upcoming creativity workshop, this statement popped out. I don’t think I’ve ever stated it this clearly before though it’s certainly the foundation from which I live and work, and have for a very long time.

The statement…”creativity, spirituality and healing are inextricably linked.”

What comes up in you when you hear that? Huh? Yes!!! No way!?

And what does it mean when applied to grief and grieving?

Sure got me thinking, so here’s my first run at it…

1. Creativity is the single most important and natural quality we possess as human beings.

When I was practicing as a psychotherapist, I was continually amazed at how my clients’ creativity would emerge as they began to heal. It was almost always the first quality to emerge, and as they consciously embraced their creativity they supercharged their healing. Interesting, yes?

2. Spirituality does not mean religious though they have much in common. I tend to think of spirituality as being about the questions and religion being an attempt to find the answers. That’s probably a bit simplistic but I’ll let it stand for now.

Spiritual questions are always about looking for meaning. Why are we here? What does it mean to be alive? Where do I find meaning in my life? What does it mean to love? How can I love more fully? Why does love hurt? What happens after we die? Is there a relationship between my life now and what happens when I die? What does death mean? Do we really die? Is there a God? And what does that mean? What role does God play in my life? Why did someone I love die? Why does it hurt so much?

These are philosopher’s questions that each of us grapples with in our own way and in different ways throughout our lives. Each one of us may come up with very different answers, and the answers we come up with may not stand the test of time or life experience (as when someone dies). Sometimes those experiences deepen our beliefs but I think it’s safe to say that none us remain unchanged in this regard (another loss to be grieved perhaps?).

I should add here that I rarely talk about spirituality. It seems rather presumptuous to think I have answers that might help you in your search for meaning. I’m much more interested in providing an environment in which you can explore your questions and come to your own conclusions.

When people are grieving, crises of faith are common, and it’s definitely not my place to short circuit your process by offering quick solutions. All I can provide is a safe environment to explore the feelings and questions as they come up.

Ultimately spirituality is about finding meaning and it is in that sense that I use the word.

3. Healing means to make healthy and whole.

To the newly bereaved that sounds rather impossible but that’s exactly where grief takes us. The ultimate purpose of grieving is to put the pieces of a shattered life back together. Yes, it’s newly configured. It rarely looks like your previous life but it takes the experience of loss and creates something new that is indeed, healthy and whole.

Ah notice that word creates. We’ve come full circle. Healing in the context of grief is an act of creation, and conscious creation at that. It is about finding new meaning (and there’s the spiritual again) in the life and death issues that we all struggle with when someone dies.

Ultimately grief is about creating a new and meaningful life. One that contains and encompasses all that was in our life before the death, all that is part of our life now, and all that will be part of us as we move into the future as a healthy and whole human beings.

Susan FullerSusan L. Fuller

P.S. Grief Heals is all about helping you answer these questions for yourself. If you would like to be notified when new articles are posted, I invite you to sign up for the Grief Heals Mailing List

Photo Credit: qbq903