Archive for the ‘Normal Grief’ Category

Grief does not require strength it requires vulnerability

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Grief does not require strength it requires vulnerabilityWe are helpless when it comes to death. There is absolutely no way we can manage, control or stop it. It’s going to happen to each and every one of us. And before it’s our turn at the deli counter, we will be confronted with the deaths of those we cannot imagine living without.

And we HATE that. We hate that we might lose them. We hate that we have lost them. We hate that death could creep up on us at any moment. We HATE it all.

So when death pays a visit and we come face to face with how truly vulnerable we are, the most natural response in the world is to try to outrun those feelings of helplessness.

And many do manage to outrun the feelings for a time at least, but the “trying to be strong” strategy almost always backfires by either creating chronic depression or delaying the ultimate confrontation with loss.

Trying to be strong.

Yes, we can put on a happy face and bury the pain. We can lock it away with all of the other painful experiences of our lives. Just pile it in there one pain, one disappointment, one loss, one death at a time…

Until one day we can’t keep the lid on. We’ve turned ourselves into a festering pit of pain that starts oozing out…or one tiny last straw brings about a volcanic explosion of every painful emotion we have ever tried to stuff.

Sometimes the explosion feels totally unrelated to any of our losses but manifests instead as irrational, explosive rage or unexplained, unstoppable tears.

For those of us who are more adept at “being strong,” the grief and anger most often turn inward leading to depression.

No matter how it plays out, sooner or later, the buried pain of grief raises its ugly head and it can bring us to our knees…and there we are again, face to face with our own vulnerability.

So is there an alternative? Yes there is. The key to moving through the pain and suffering of grief is to yield to our vulnerability. I know it sounds so counterintuitive but there it is.

Allowing the vulnerability.

In How to Survive Your Grief I write about how incredibly wise grief is when we give it free reign to go where it needs to go.

Though I know that to be true, I certainly understand why it sounds outlandish to so many. Grief feels wrong, so very wrong. It’s hard to imagine anything positive coming out of it. When we’re in the earliest days of grief, it’s impossible to even imagine feeling any better never mind trusting there might be some wisdom there of which we might partake.

Yet, I believe, this is exactly what grief asks of us…to open our hearts to the pain, to the truth, to the memories. To yield to our vulnerability rather than running from it. To embrace the brokenness rather than trying to hold it all together. It comes back together in time reconfigured and whole, but it only works when we allow ourselves the vulnerability of falling apart, of being broken.

It is out of our vulnerability and brokenness that we are reborn, able to taste the real joy life still has to offer and embrace the sweet memory of the loved one who died.

Susan FullerSusan L. Fuller

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“Grief does not require us to be strong it requires us to be vulnerable” @survivegrief


Photo Credit:Asif Akbar

Who are you?

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Are you your grief?


Who are you?

Are you your work?

Are you where you live?

Are you the house you live in?

Are you your parents?

Are you your children?

Are you your church?

Are you your community?

Are you your clothes?

Are you your hobbies?

Are you your pets?

Are you what you hate?

Are you what you fear?

Are you the people you love?

Are you your grief?



Susan FullerSusan L. Fuller


Photo Credit: asifthebes

Sleeplessness and Grief

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

sleeplessness in griefI was reading Marty Tousley’s article on Coping with Sleepless in Grief today.

It’s a good list of tips, and I would agree that getting enough sleep is important. We’re much less able to cope well with our grief when we’re down to the bone exhausted.

Unfortunately sleeplessness is an incredibly common experience for those who are grieving especially in the first few weeks and months following a death.

Immediately following a death, our minds are going over and over and over every detail of the illness, accident, death, funeral and post-funeral experiences. It’s how we come to terms, make meaning and find the capacity to eventually move on.

Often, too, we manage to stay busy during the day only to find thoughts flooding back at the end of the day when we try to sleep.

Though the tips shared are good, they are all designed to do battle with the demon of sleeplessness. In my experience engaging in that kind of battle is often counterproductive. It just gives too much power to the sleeplessness.

So I’d like to offer some additional tips for dealing with sleeplessness when you’re grieving.

1. Accept that you’re having trouble sleeping. So often we get incredibly anxious when we can’t sleep. We know we need it and the more trouble we have falling asleep the more agitated we get which just makes it harder to fall asleep…and around and around we go.

This is often how long standing patterns of insomnia begin so don’t go there.

Cultivating an attitude of acceptance will probably get you to sleep a whole lot faster.

2. Rest is the next best thing to sleep. Even if you’re not actually sleeping, you can rest with your eyes closed. Sometimes you might even fall asleep for a few hours but even if you don’t, the rest will help.

3. Get up and do something. Do some niggling little task that doesn’t take much time and then go back to bed.

Breaking the cycle of tossing and turning diminishes the anxiety and will improve your chances of falling asleep when you return to bed. If it doesn’t, either get up again or go back to resting.

4. Get up and write. Do a brain dump of all the thoughts spinning around in your head. Yes, they may be back tomorrow but getting them down tonight can give you that much needed window to fall asleep.

5. This bears repeating…accept your sleeplessness. Stop worrying about it. For most sleep does return as we move through the grieving process and begin to think more about the person rather than how they died.

Hope that helps,

Susan FullerSusan L. Fuller


Photo Credit: intuitives