By Dr. Ted Wiard
Golden Willow Retreat
People often do not like to hear that grief is a lifetime process, but it is, due to the fact that grief has derived from the fact that someone has had a loss in their life.
No matter what that loss is, it means that person’s life has been changed and the person now will go through a transitional time in order to adapt to that loss in their life. This experience of the loss and adaptation to that loss is now there for someone’s entire life. The goal is to not have a loss confine or define someone, but be a catalyst of change in a healthy way.
Adaptation from loss has to happen as there is something missing, and the psyche will need to transition from what used to be, to what is now reality. This adaptation from loss is not always healthy as negative behaviors may begin or increase to try to avoid the acknowledgment and feelings from a loss.
When negative adaptive behaviors increase or are instigated, the loss continues to cause a residual reality of what used to be, leaving one caught in the past while scrambling to survive the present moment. The emotional wound is left to fend for itself rather than receive the attention and care to move from a severing wound, to a scar of healing. For most people, after a loss the loss itself becomes all encompassing and seems to demand a high focus on the loss itself.
For example, after a death the bereft will focus only on the loss/death and those moments right before, during, and immediately after the death. This hyper-focus can be agonizing, and someone may think this will be forever. Over time, if someone consciously works with their loss, they will slowly start to expand the hyper-focus of the loss to include their history, the loss, the present, and start to reestablish the notion of a future.
This takes time and as time continues forward, the person’s emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual state is given the opportunity to move onto a new path, adapt, and normalize the new status quo. This can be unnerving to many people as they did not want to have to change due to a loss and may feel this means they are disenfranchising or disrespecting the loss in their life.
Healing from loss and redefining oneself into the present situation is the natural and normal healing process from a loss. If we take the idea of being deeply cut, a healthy person does not keep reopening the wound, but bit by bit with conscious cleansing and being attentive, the wound will scab over, then start to turn into a scar. As the scar evolves, less pain and attention need to go towards that wound and instead can focus on present issues in the world.
It does not mean the experience that caused that wound is not still a deep disappointment, but it no longer holds the person to that event and instead is part of their story. Grief allows a person to do the same thing and by consciously healing from loss, losses become our scars of wisdom to navigate one’s inner and outer world more consciously. I wish you well, and until the next article, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct questions to Golden Willow Retreat Founder Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC at 575.776.2024 or learn more about virtual grief groups at GWR@newmex.com.