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The long and winding journey of grief

You may feel your loved one's presence and find comfort spending time with nature
You may feel your loved one's presence and find comfort spending time with nature
Sandy Wallace

Life is full of good-byes, but some are much more difficult than others. Saying the final farewell to a parent, child or dear friend is one of the hardest things in life. Letting your loved one go will bring peace and comfort as death approaches.

The journey of grief isn't a straight path, but a winding road filled with ups and downs
Sandy Wallace

Although death may be peaceful for your loved one, the winding journey of grief is not easy for those left to mourn. Hospice services are offered to caregivers and family members for a year or more following the death of a loved one.

Many hospice services also sponsor bereavement groups for anyone who has experienced the death of a friend, family member or loved one.

Much has been written about the stages of grief: shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger, bargaining, depression, reconstruction, hope and acceptance of your new normal.

However, grief isn't a straight path with a visible start and finish. Grief is a winding journey with no real beginning or ending. You may feel upbeat and happy one minute and feel deep pain, sorrow and depression the next minute.

Each person's grief journey is different and each person handles the many emotions associated with grief differently. For some, the easiest way to deal with the pain of loss is not to think about their loss or talk about their loved one at all.

Others think about their loss constantly and talk about their loved one all the time. They may spend hours looking at photographs of their loved one, reading old letters and remembering happier times.

Most people who have suffered the loss of someone they love deal with the pain of the loss in ways somewhere between these two extremes, moving through daily activities while pushing back thoughts of their loved one, yet unable to sleep at the end of the day.

Although it's easier to see the grief of those who immerse themselves in their loved one, the grief is no less for those who bottle up their thoughts, feelings and emotions about the loss.

Here are a few ways to remember your loved one while helping yourself cope with the painful emotions during the long and winding journey of grief.

Plant a small memory garden filled with flowers in your loved one's favorite colors. Add a bird feeder, garden flag, bench or other items that will bring you joy. Creating a quiet reflective place in your loved one's honor may bring you comfort.

Visit the cemetery if it brings you comfort. If it only brings you pain, choose a different place to remember your loved one. A local garden, favorite hiking trail or your own back yard may become your favorite place.

Spend time outdoors. Visit the beach, mountains, woods or your loved one's favorite places. Although you may not be able to leave a lasting memento in those places, you will feel your loved one's presence when you visit.

Display photos of your loved one in your living room, bedroom or den. Make a photo collage or choose a few favorites that will help you remember happier memories.

Create a virtual memory book to share with relatives and friends. Many families create private rooms or in memory Facebook pages of their loved one where friends and family can share favorite memories.

Allow yourself to mourn and cry for your loss. Even if you are grateful that your loved one is no longer suffering, it's okay to feel your own pain of loss. Sometimes it helps to set a specific time to allow yourself to feel the pain.

Spend some time every day remembering some of the happy memories of your loved one. Look through old photos, cards and letters and allow yourself to feel joy. Remind yourself not to cry because it's over, but to laugh because it happened.

People are sometimes afraid that they will cause you pain if they talk to you about your loved one. Share favorite memories with family members and friends. Let them know that it's okay for them to share memories with you too.

Remember that your loved one is with you forever in your heart. Even during the darkest times, the sun always rises again. Nothing can take away your memories or your love for the person you've lost.

Find joy in something every day. Spend time with family members, eat your favorite comfort foods, read a book, watch a funny movie, visit a park or playground or enjoy a favorite activity. Allow yourself to enjoy life as a tribute to your loved one.