Saturday, May 10, 2008

Successful Grieving II

In my last post, I talked a little bit about what successful grieving means to me. The two main ideas I covered were the importance of having a goal, and understanding that success comes gradually, not suddenly.

Tonight, I'd like to share some fascinating information I discovered while perusing a neat website called The founder, Ariane de Bonvoisin, has created a website dedicated to helping people change positively. There is no arguing that the death of a spouse is a major change! Kind of like hurricane Katrina "changed" New Orleans. While the website is geared mainly towards managing less catastrophic changes, like career, attitude, or health-related changes, there are some excellent articles on there about grief and grieving.

The information I'd like to share tonight came from a survey report commissioned to discover how people respond to change. You can get a copy of the 16 page report here. It "found interesting conclusions about the characteristics that make someone succeed through a change:" [pg 16]

Though the passing of time is important and inevitable, people can also be more proactive in responding to change, and with a bit of planning and consciously taking some positive steps, can manage change better. First30Days seeks to help people with this active approach. Within the first 30 days, those who report a successful response to change assemble for themselves, in some manner, three things:

  • attitude (positive outlook),

  • support (they reach out), and

  • a plan (they learn about it, know what to do, and/or make a plan.)
The key is doing all of those, and right away, which is a key premise of the mission of the First30Days.

Looking back at my own grief journey, I can see how I too assembled these key ingredients. Mind you, I'm not sure I did them within the first 30 days of Deb's death. In fact, I know I didn't get started on my plan for at least 5 months. Then again, it is not like the death of a spouse is just one change — it is many changes simultaneously. I wrote a bit about these different losses in Why Grieving Takes So Long.

Still, I know for certain that within the first few days, I had decided that I was going to get through widowerhood. I knew I had support from my family and friends, and I guess my initial plan was to get on with my life after I had finished rearranging my affairs and settling Deb's estate.

For about 5 months, I was successful — at grief avoidance :-P Then, the shock phase wore off and I started experiencing the raw, agonizing pain of grief without the benefit of all those lovely brain-numbing chemicals my body was kind enough to produce immediately following Deb's death. This too was a change! Here's where I started really implementing the 3 keys as outlined in the report. As before, I maintained a positive outlook — I was determined that I would get through that horrible pain. Second, I knew I didn't have enough support, so I went to my first bereavement support group at Bereaved Families of Ontario. And finally, I went to work on my plan. This meant learning about what grief is, as well as how others had successfully come out the other side.

So, if you are reading this because you are newly bereaved, you might want to ask yourself how you too can implement a positive outlook, an effective support team, and a plan of action. That plan might be as simple as, "I will make it through the next 5 minutes." Or, if many years have gone by and you still find yourself "stuck" at some point in your grief, you too can ask yourself how you can implement these 3 keys to successful grief recovery.

How long will it take? Ah, the question with the elusive answer. The only answer I know is that it takes as long as it takes. For me, that hard road was about 16-17 months of heavy slogging.

For my next post, I'll give some helpful tips on how to take action once you've got your grief recovery plan in place. Until then, if the road ahead seems daunting, keep in mind the wisdom of Lao Tzu:

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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