“How to heal a grieving heart” is probably one of the toughest questions any grief coach or therapist would encounter. The solution largely depends on a number of factors:
- Gender: Guys and girls deal with grieve differently. Girls tend to prefer to talk about it, while guys tend to avoid talking about it.
- Cause of grief: Loss of a father, loss of a pet, divorce, abortion, etc.
- Cause of the loss: Did your loved one died naturally? Or was it an accident?
- Relationship: How close were you towards your loved one when he/she passed away?
- Guilt factor: Were you partially the cause of your loved one’s death? Did your pet dog died because you didn’t provide timely medical attention? Any cheating before the loss of your relationship?
- No closure: Were there many things left unsaid? Many of us weren’t ready to say our last words before our loved one passed away.
We Are Ill Prepared to Deal With Loss
After losing someone so dear to you, you would probably have realized that we are all ill prepared to deal with loss and grief.
This is true and it’s the same for almost everyone in our society. So don’t worry, you’re not alone.
The funny thing is that we are far better prepared dealing with minor accidents than we are to deal with grief. Back in school, we received education on simple first aid, health and safety but none on death, divorce or any other form of emotional losses.
The local Red Cross offers classes on first aid to the community. Nationwide, we also have a convenient 911 number to dial in the case of an emergency. At some level, we are in a way prepared to take action if an accident were to occur.
But how many classes have we taken on dealing with grief? Probably none.
There are about 2.5 million people who die annually in the United States. Each leaving behind at least 5 grievers. If you do the math, there are a lot more people who needs help as compared to those who can assist and provide help.
Loss is inevitable but sometimes, it can be predictable. In spite of these truths, we still fail to include handling grief as part of our school’s curriculum.
Many of a times, when we are faced with grief and loss, we are told to avoid talking about it and to “move on” so as not to “burden others” with our feelings.
Steps On How To Heal A Grieving Heart
How to heal a grieving heart first starts with accepting reality and being willing to heal. This is often followed by having the patience and emotional resilience to follow through.
Techniques such as affirmations then come into play to help give you the assurance that everything is going to be just fine. Setting goals and milestones help to keep you in check on your progress to climb out of grieve.
Writing letters to your loved ones in heaven can also give you a closure to grief. And lastly, seeking professional help is the most important step of the healing process. Professional help can provide the support that you need and speed up your recovery process.
Step 1: Accept Reality & Be Willing To Recover
Accepting reality and being able to deal with both our darkest emotions while going about our daily routine of living is the first step (and also the hardest step) forward.
How fast we recovery largely depends on how fast we are able to look at life ahead as worthy of living.
Full recovery from grief requires us to have the perspective that someday, we will look back and know that we have fully grieved and survived life’s darkest hour.
Willingness to recover is essential. We need to have the willingness to let go of the pain, and the willingness to heal fully.
Negative beliefs are typically the first major barrier that takes you off the road to recovery. To recover, we need to first believe that it is possible. Beliefs are often self-fulfilling prophecies, which means that we act according to the way we believe.
In other words, we create our own reality.
If you have ever joined a grief support group, you’ll notice that there will always be someone who never really recovers from their loss. This is because they choose to believe that recovery is impossible and it is “hard to move forward”.
Changing your mindset will take you out of this vicious cycle.
Step 2: Courage, Patience & Resilience
Courage is an important personality trait when faced with any difficulties in life. The courage to grieve, to face our feelings and to carry on with life is important steps to restoring ourselves.
While everyone loves instant results, patience with ourselves and with the natural process of grieving is another great help in recovery. Being able to tolerate our pain and misfortunes helps us find growth and find peace within ourselves.
Grieve has no expiration date, so take your time and grieve at your own pace.
Having emotional resilience also helps us bounce back from stress. It is a popular misconception that the older we get, the less resilient we are due to our physical limitations. The opposite is actually more likely.
Emotional resilience is learnt and tends to increase as we age.
The more we suffer from the experiences in our life, the more we learn how to manage the pain and cope with our suffering.
Step 3: Affirmations
Affirmation is a common technique employed by grief coaches to help their clients heal from grief. In times of uncertainty, affirmations can help reassure your unsettling emotions. It makes you feel sufficient when you feel you are lacking something.
An affirmation is basically a statement or an assertion of a truth or a fact. Affirmations can therefore become self-fulfilling prophecies.
An affirmation should always be a positive rather than a negative statement. The only rule for making an affirmation is that you need to clearly state the intension that you desire. In addition to saying it, you need to picture and imagine it. Reading out your positive statements in present tense also helps with the healing process.
For example, instead of saying “I will be courageous”, say “I am courageous”.
By using the present tense, we put whatever we are affirming within our reach.
Some positive demonstrations of the use of affirmations might be “I am strong,” “I am resilient,” or “I can cope well with my life.”
It is also best that we use affirmations that fit our particular situation more accurately. It might also be a good idea to include specific personal details in our affirmations. An example would be, “I have the strength to face my grief and to cope with the loss of my father” or “I have the courage to live alone, now that my spouse has passed on”.
As a guide, we can say our affirmations out loud to ourselves several times a day. Another effective technique would be to write out these positive affirmations a couple of times a day.
This will help us focus our energies on the actions we wish to have in our lives.
Step 4: Goal Setting
It is always important to have a goal in mind when we begin anything. Having a goal is akin to having a destination when you’re on a journey. You need to know what you want, before you can take necessary steps to reach where you want to be.
I often encourage people who are grieving to practice saying what they truly want out loud and as often as possible.
In periods like this, we feel low and unworthy, and we tend to shut off wanting. By allowing ourselves to want and desire something, it revitalizes and helps us find a new sense of purpose and direction.
At the beginning, people may notice that their wants are very simple, like “I want to have an ice cream cake” or “I want to head out to the cinemas now.”
But as we pay more attention to ourselves, we start to discover our heartfelt desires, an example would be “I want more love in my life” or “I want to feel closer to my children” or “I want to explore ideas for changing my career.”
Setting goals during your grief healing journey is truly important and I encourage you to take time out to think what you hope to achieve during this period of grief.
Step 5: Writing Letters To Your Loved Ones
When we grieve after the loss of a loved one, more often than not, we tend to have many things we wished we had said earlier, especially when your loved one was still around. Writing a letter can help to express the grief by releasing the feelings and emotions that are still lingering on your mind. These emotions are usually the feelings that prevent you from letting go and from moving on with your life.
Begin the letter by sharing how you remember your loved one. What were some of the moments that you’ll never forget? What were some of the highlights that people shared during the eulogy speech at his/her funeral?
Thank him/her for the little things in life that made a difference in your life. Tell him/her how much you missed him/her and share what it was like when you had a dream about him/her.
Acknowledge that you still cry when you think about him/her in the letter and ask for the forgiveness to move on with life. Explain that “moving on with life” doesn’t mean forgetting about the person but to carry on living life as per God’s plan.
Make a promise to your loved one that they will not be forgotten and that you’ll promise to take care of those who your loved one previously cared for.
Step 6: Seeking Professional Help
Seeking professional help from a therapist is the most common method to recover for grief. Seeing a therapist help us grow and develop new strengths naturally. They provide support and give us new ideas to speed up our recovery process and most importantly, they keep us in check and make sure we meet certain milestones during various phases of our grief.
There are many options for professional help. You can consider working with a grief coach, an online therapist/psychologist or even find a grief support group within your local community.
Personally, I prefer working with a therapist because I am able speak my mind freely in a controlled environment without any judgment from others. A therapist will be able to examine your personal beliefs and deficiencies which will help to bring about the desired change in our lives.
If you’re too busy with life or work and do not have the time to head down to your local therapist, my suggestion is to get in touch with an online therapist. These skilled professionals are a few text messages or phone calls away and most importantly they are very affordable as compared to visiting a therapist on site.
These are my six steps on how to heal a grieving heart. Grief is essentially a mixture of many emotions, and nothing that we can do or say that will bring your loved one physically back to life.
However, I strongly believe that if you follow these six steps, you’ll be able to heal faster and pick up the pieces of your broken heart and get on with life from where you left off.