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FINDING MEANING AFTER LOSS

“Grief doesn't change you. It reveals you.” - John Green

I recently devoured an amazing book about grief called FINDING MEANING: The Sixth Stage of Grief, by David Kessler, the co-author of the ground-breaking book by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross ON GRIEF AND GRIEVING.  I was blown away by Kessler’s take on how meaning helps us make sense of grief.  The author also suggests how one can transform grief into something that is fulfilling.  He concretely recommends finding gratitude for the time you and your loved one had together.  He additionally advises finding a way to honor your loved one, and goes one-step further, teaching one to value the brevity of life and use that to shift one’s thinking to a more positive path towards restoration.  I particularly applauded the author’s take on the fact that meaning takes time.  It has been over four and a half years since my husband Peter died, and it has been an uphill battle towards finding meaning in my loss.  The book taught me that grief pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.  After I went into a monsoon-like, devastating, tailspin of grief, I found my way through the pain by writing and giving my grief a voice to tell others that it is OK to grieve fully and thusly lessen the pain.  By helping others, I found a way to find benefit in my loss.

Now that I have been on my journey through grief for a considerable time, I am beginning to observe gratitude lift its lovely and gentle head.  I smile at what I have accomplished, and am appreciative that I am forging forward.  I see hints of my new personality emerging.  Don’t get me wrong, I would give anything, and I mean anything, to glimpse Peter walk through the door and smile.  But I have noticed that I am finding a sense of purpose in my life that is deeper than before Peter died.  I am so proud (notice I didn’t say Peter would be proud) of my writing.  I love the fact that I can help myself through blogging about grief, and have the added benefit of a community on line who write to me and tell me that my blogs help them move forward.  I am rethinking and questioning my priorities and finding some slight benefits in my loss.  I have opted to survive this ordeal and transcend the pain of grief.  My life has a new sense of determination and I am finding that I am evolving out of my cocoon of sadness, and like a butterfly, making a metamorphosis to find more substance and significance in my life.

Maybe you too are finding more meaning in your life. 

Here is a list of HOW LOSING SOMEONE YOU LOVE TEACHES YOU TO:

  • Stop and smell the roses and find joy in life.  You have acquired a new conviction that you don’t want to sweat the small stuff. 
  • Take nothing for granted.  Be grateful for the small things in life that make you happy.
  • Show up in your life and live fully in the present.  Your past is gone, and your future is too scary to envision.  You are keenly aware that you must live every moment to the fullest and stay in the present. 
  • Order your priorities.  You have a new barometer for deciding what matters most and what is unimportant.  The Kardashians are low on this totem pole!
  • Be more tender and compassionate with others.
  • Be more self-compassionate and give yourself room to both screw up, and to forgive.
  • Develop a heightened sense of empathy. Acquire more sensitivity in your life.
  • Come to realize which of your friends are truly there for you.  As an extra-added bonus, discover new caring friends who touch you to the core.
  • Foster a sense of adventure.  The fact that life is so fleeting can help you to take more risks and travel, make new friends, and be more honest with others.  I am still working on this point! I forgive myself for not being more adventurous.
  • Use your power of choice and say no.  You no longer have to pussyfoot around making your needs known.  Use “maybe” to deflect a bit, but always protect your needs and wants, and say no if it isn’t right. 
  • Volunteer! There is scientific evidence that volunteering to help others helps in the grief process.
  • Laugh more.  Laughter is not only the best medicine, but it is diverting and good for the whole body. 
  • Cherish your family and friends as if they were gifts.
  • Appreciate love more. Gratefully look back at the love you shared.  Life can’t be controlled; it can only be embraced. Love what you have in the here and now. Take the time to tell your loved ones “I love you.”
  • Simplify your existence. Try to rid yourself of anger, resentment, stress, and anxiety, and replace them with love, forgiveness, resilience, and gratitude.  OK still working on this one!
  • Cherish your memories as reminders of the love you shared.
  • Realize your inner strength, look back at how far you have come, and celebrate your small victories.
  • Develop the ability to put yourself first and see your new priorities in life.
  • Begin to love without sorrow, and remember without pain.
  • Pat yourself on the pack for being a survivor, not a victim.  You will never get over your loss, but it will become part of who you are.
  • Honor your loved one by living a full and satisfying life, with them nestled cozily in your heart every step of the way.
October 15, 2019, Los Angeles, CA – Cookbook author and television chef Laurie Burrows Grad, 75, sits down to a roasted chicken dinner in her Los Angeles home. Grad’s husband of 47 years, Peter Grad, died four years ago. To cope with her grief, Grad has written extensively about grief and grieving, and her new book, “The Joke’s Over, You Can Come Back Now,” navigates her first years of widowhood, and includes nine recipes with advice about cooking for one. (Sally Ryan for The New York Times)
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