While your grief journey will be unique, all mourners have certain needs that must be met if they are to heal. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D., calls these the “Reconciliation Needs of Mourning.” Though these needs are numbered one through six, they are not meant to be interpreted as orderly steps on the road to healing. Instead, you may find yourself bouncing back forth between them and perhaps two or more simultaneously.
Definition of Mourning:
Mourning — “The showing of sadness at a death; the external actions of expressing grief.” Mourning is essential in order to continue on one’s healing journey. Even though it hurts to feel the pain, it shouldn’t be avoided. We must feel to heal. Tell your story. Make your voice be heard that your grief must be attended to. For some this will be hard to do if you are uncomfortable with taking your grief public which is what mourning truly is. Other may feel that hiding one’s feelings makes them appear strong when all that really does it delay healing. He who mourns, heals. Because everyone’s journey is unique, so too will one’s mourning.
1. Acknowledge the reality of the death.
Whether the death was sudden or anticipated, acknowledging the full reality of the loss may take weeks or months. You may move back and forth between protesting and encountering the reality of the death. You may discover yourself replaying the events surrounding the death and confronting memories, both good and bad. It’s as if each time you talk it out, the event is a little more real.
2. Move toward the pain of the loss.
Expressing your thoughts and feelings about the death with all their intensity is a difficult but important need.You will probably discover that you need to “dose” yourself when experiencing your pain. In other words, you cannot (and should not try to) meet this need all at once.
3. Continue the relationship with the pet who died through memory.
Embracing your memories — both happy and sad — can be a very slow and, at times, painful process that occurs in small steps. But remembering the past makes hoping for the future possible.
4. Develop a new self-identity.
Part of your self-identity comes from the relationships you have a relationship dies, your self-identity naturally changes. Many people discover that as they move forward in their grief journeys, they find that some aspects of their self-identities have been positively changed. You may feel more confident, for example, or more open to life’s challenges.
5. Search for meaning.
When a pet dies, you naturally question the meaning and the purpose of life. Coming to terms with those questions is another need you must meet if you are to progress in your grief journey. Move at your own pace as you recognize that allowing yourself to hurt and find ongoing meaning in your life will blend into each other, with the latter overtaking the former as healing occurs.
6. Continue to receive support from others.
You will never stop needing the love and support of others because you never “get over” your grief. As you learn to reconcile your grief, however, you will need help less intensely and less often. So, while you probably won’t need Day By Day’s support forever, you will always need your friends and family members to listen and support you in your continuing grief journey. Support circles can be another long-term helping resources. http://www.daybydaypetsupport.com/support-circles/
Adapted from The Journey Through Grief: Reflections on Healing. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D. For more information, visit www.centerforloss.com.