By Dr. TED WIARD
Golden Willow Retreat
Any type of loss can be shattering emotionally, physically, intellectually, and/or spiritually. Loss causes a need to redefine the perception of a person’s self-identity and redefine that perception into the present situation and identification.
This redefining process is the natural and normal healing process from loss. It would be convenient if this redefining process called grief was instantaneous and effortless but that is not how it works.
It seems that due to past losses, grief should be easy and quick as there have been past losses that one has survived.
The difficult piece is each loss has its own individualized healing process, as the relationship with the latest loss is its own personal experience, and is in the present moment and not a historical experience.
Grief helps rebuild how someone interacts with the world around them after the old way of being has been severed in one way or another. Grief is the process of incrementally rebuilding the foundation to navigate the world once again after a loss. Grief gleans the smallest of victorious moments from the past and present in order to be able to reestablish a foundation to step back into the world again, feeling partially whole.
It is the small victories that start to loosen the grip of the historical way of being and start to build a more present platform in the present moment.
If you think of a puzzle and you empty a box of jagged confused puzzle pieces onto the table, it may feel as if there is nothing but chaos, confusion, and an overwhelming task that seems impossible, to rebuild a shattered picture that makes no sense in that moment.
It may be so overwhelming that for a while, the pieces of confusion are avoided, and the pieces sit in a daunting pile of confusion. The only problem is there they sit, slowly catching your attention with a demand for action, as life seeps into someone’s everyday life. As someone recognizes that something has to happen with that pile, there is a victory just in the recognition that there is a need to start to move from the past and establish a new present.
As time goes on, more and more small victories occur, and the pieces of a person’s shattered picture puzzle start to come together. A corner piece is found and then, a straight edge, slowly an external structure is established that holds all the inner pieces, and through trial and error, a new picture starts to develop.
From all those little pieces, a new definition and direction is established which makes more and more sense to move towards a new picture.
Over time, as someone has losses and rebuilds more and more puzzles of themself, they learn little tricks, nuances, and skills that help manifest the new picture from chaos with more trust and grace. But it doesn’t mean they get to skip the work of actually building the puzzle pieces into a picture. With each puzzle they gain confidence that the impossible is possible, and that the chaos is not forever, as things will change as more pieces connect and the present picture presents itself.
This is similar to grief, as the beginning can be so overwhelming and you wish that the pieces of life were not all sprawled out on the table. As life seeps back in and conscious grieving happens, there is the opportunity to build a new self-definition while learning new skills, realizations, and insights to help navigate the present world. As well as acquiring more tools to help process the next loss.
Remembering that each little victory is what establishes healing and can be a reminder that the transformation from loss to a new definition in the present is an incremental healing process … one breath at a time.
I wish you well, and until the next column, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions or learn more about virtual grief groups to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat GWR@newmex.com or call 575.776.2024.