How to Heal from Grief

Today I know that the purpose of my life is to help others heal from grief.   I know the struggle, the pain and the deep grief I endured was designed to mold me into who I needed to be to best serve others who are hurting from their own grief.

In the months and years after the loss of my son, I spent countless hours searching for the meaning of his death.  I wanted to know why this happened and why this happened to ME.  I spent nights awake in the dark looking up at the ceiling as if the answers might reside there.  I spent days reading about grief, pain, and suffering and questioning how a kind and loving God could take away my child. I spent time in guilt wondering if I should have taken better care of my body while I was pregnant.  Should have eaten better or rested more?  Should I have been more careful when I lifted that instrument I sold for work?  I frantically searched for answers to make sense of it all.

One school of thought suggested that death happens randomly and statistically – and for no good reason, I drew the short straw.    As I walked through my life numb from the pain, I asked myself, “could it all be random?”  But as I sat alone staring at my computer screen, I refused to believe that my purpose in life was to learn how to go on living my life without my son.  I needed to know why he died and what it all meant to MY life.  I wanted to understand why God would inflict so much pain and suffering on me.  I needed purpose and meaning.  Today, I continue to study grief, the suffering it creates and how it affects us.  Marianne Williamson highlights the path from suffering to true healing with her eloquent words in her book, Tears to Triumph.

“We begin to feel peace where before we knew agonizing anxiety, to feel hope where before we saw no possibility of breakthrough, and to learn to forgive and to feel forgiven.”

As I began to share my story and listen to others who were grieving, I knew I had found MY purpose.  I was compelled to share the knowledge I had gathered to help people like you who were newer to grief and the grief process.  As I dug deeper into my own healing process, I found ways to ease my anxiety and find peace. I found hope in my new life and wanted to help others step out of the darkness of grief and into the light of hope.  Today, I want to help you navigate your grief and help you find meaning too.  Grief and loss is now part of your life, and part of who you are.  There is no way to escape it.

The newly bereaved often ask two questions.  First, they ask, “How will I get through this”?

To heal from grief, you need to become a student of your grief, dissect it, ask questions of it, and be open to the lessons it will teach you.  It’s a learning process for both your mind and your heart.

The second question the newly bereaved ask is, “How long will I grieve?” 

No two people heal in the same amount of time, so it’s a tricky question to answer.  I’ve heard grief compared to being ill with a fever.  Grief can be thought of as an illness of the mind and heart while a fever is an illness of the physical body.  Two people can each have a fever. The length of time they suffer physically and when the fever breaks will be different for each person.  Healing from grief is similar.  The intense, overwhelming, debilitating pain of grief will subside when we are mentally ready and you’ve put in the work.

So, how do we begin to heal from grief?  We begin by surrendering to our grief and understanding that there is no easy fix.  We learn to sit in our pain and pray for peace to present itself to us.  We learn about our life and the love we have for others.  We acknowledge our anxious hearts and minds, and ask for relief from our anxiety.  We recognize what makes us feel slightly better and move toward it as a way to love ourselves.  We ask for guidance and pray that answers will come in time.

As we practice praying for peace, releasing our anxiety, and looking for the answers we seek, we begin to find hope in moments of stillness.  We recognize that the pain we feel in our hearts is the result of love.  We begin to learn more about ourselves and our lives and how to be compassionate with others.  We move through guilt as we shift toward acceptance of the events surrounding our loved one’s death.  We boldly accept that we are forever changed by loss. We move forward stronger and enlightened with insights we couldn’t know any other way.  We continue to reflect on our past and our future to encourage our hearts and minds to expand to a new level of understanding, compassion, and love.  We begin to understand that even though we have experienced tremendous sadness, our futures are ripe with possibility because now, our futures have purpose, born out of a knowing that only grief can bring.  We begin to make different decisions, move toward new people and places that bring us joy and live our lives with a new found meaning in purpose.

For me, although the grieving process was riddled with pain and confusion, I can now see what a gift grieving has been.  I pray that one day you will too.

And, as our heads hit our pillows at the end of the night, we realize that we are blessed with the gifts of grief.

In love, hope and healing,

Catherine McNulty

To listen to Catherine’s appearance on the Open to Hope Radio Show, click the link here.  Strategies to help you Heal

To get Catherine’s book, The Gifts of Grief, click here.  The Gifts of Grief, How to Do More than Survive Grief