Skip to main content

See also:

Changing the focus of grief

Grief
Grief
JULIE BEHLING-HOVDAL

My primary goal as a grief counselor is to get you over the first speed bump. I hope in our conversation I can help you to change the focus of your grief.

Last night "Rosa" called my hotline to ask for some much needed help. Rosa's daughter took her own life in a moment of pain and anger. As is usual with suicides, the victim does not take time to weigh the options of living or dying. The victim, in a moment of "selfishness," decides this is it and this ride must end. Rosa's daughter was distraught over a terminated pregnancy and financial concerns. Her mother asks, "why did she leave me? Why didn't she talk to me?" Rosa's concern, for a moment, is self-centered. Rosa's focus is on her pain and her feelings of abandonment, not with the pain that her daughter felt. This is completely okay and normal.

I use a mixture of compassion and humor and common sense in my counseling. I pull no punches and my language is frank and honest. This is what makes it a successful service. A caller might not expect to hear, 'that's bullshit.' I am not Dr. Phil, I am not paid to nurture your grief and to prolong your wallowing in self pity. I am here to get you over the hump and to give you a successful plan for healing. On average, most of my client's begin our conversation in tears, but we end in laughter. The laughter comes when you can envision your loved one no longer in pain, no longer in angst, and free to explore the universe, awaiting the day when you shall be reunited.

I never bought into the commercial school of thought, there are 'seven stages of grief.' That's a notion that may sell a lot of books but the reality is much different. The reality is what you make it. When it comes to emotions, you are completely in control. You alone have the ability to accept a situation for what it is, heal and move on. You also have the ability to let it consume your soul. You have the ability to surrender and allow your life be completely destroyed by anger and rage, directed at a dead person. When I share this with clients, there is always a long pause, and a "damn I didn't think of it like that moment."

I take people on a very real and shockingly visual journey inside their grief. Rosa told me that she was so paralyzed with anger and sadness that her other relationships have fallen to pieces. My instant cure for that is to ask, 'would your daughter approve of this?' "Certainly not" she replied. It's easy to forget that suicide is a person's way of, in the loudest voice possible, to say 'I want out of here, I can't take one more minute of this life!'

If I can retrain your brain and heart to feel empathy or compassion for the pain this person felt, I can help you to change the focus of your grief. I can help you with perspective. Together we can develop a plan to honor the good parts of your loved one, and we can give 'purpose' to their death. The focus of what I teach is reality-based, the reality of death, the reality of the afterlife, and the reality of grief.

I see only two real emotions that follow the loss of a loved one. The first being anger and the second being sorrow. Your anger is most easily replaced with compassion. If you can empathize and imagine how the pain would feel if you were "tormented, bullied or abused;" you can more easily let go of your pain. If you 'understand' why someone wants to leave, or you're able to accept their life is over, you can move on. It doesn't mean you don't love them or their life had no meaning because of the manner of the death. It means that you have to continue to live. The best way to honor a person's life is to live, and live a full and rich life at that.

My grandma Macy told me once, "everyone needs to wallow for a bit." She meant it's normal to wallow for a short while in your grief and in pity. That's traditionally what funerals are for, but once they're buried or scattered, the healing should begin.

In an hour or two I can help you begin the healing process. Healing comes from continuing to live and prosper. Our grief is often an anchor to the soul we mourn. Would you do anything to hinder your loved one from crossing over or moving on from this world? Most would not. We all want peace for the people that we loved and mourned. Peace comes when you continue to live. Peace comes when you survive.

Copyright©2014 Michael Einspanjer

"All Rights Reserved."