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Learning How To Grieve: Seven Steps to Mastery
© 2003 John M. Schneider, PhD

I hear people say, "I don't know how to grieve".
Yet grieving can be learned!

The following seven steps help in grieving a loss:

1. Find or create a place of sanctuary. Grieving involves turning inward and reflecting. You need to have a place that permits that to happen. It might be a special room, or the beach. Whether it requires a mountaintop, bed or a church, the feeling is the same: That in this space, you can turn inward safely, and seek connection to powers beyond the self.

2. Experience a sense of safety. To open to your grief, you also need to feel safe to do so-that judgment; shame and consequences don't overwhelm you. Avoid those who doubt, judge, never forgive or forget and criticize-even if they are supposed to help-e.g., health care professionals, family, gurus from churches, ashrams or synagogues. Find people who believe in you, affirm the best in you. You may not find them where they are supposed to be, but they make it safe to be yourself.

3. Gain validation for the fullness of your grief. Some exaggerate your losses and assume you can never recover. Some minimize the loss and dismiss the need to grieve it. Unfortunately these people are often health care professionals with their own problems! Validation permits finding out just how bad things are-and what remains. It allows you to face the crucibles of grief. It also permits hope-or letting someone hold it for you.

4. Find comfort and healing. Grieving is stressful and exhausting, deep and painful. Everyone needs times of respite. Use those places of sanctuary. Be with people who let you be yourself. Laugh often. Watch sunsets, gaze at stars. Smell the blossoms.

5. Find the grace to endure and the courage to move on. Growth requires wisdom and strength. It involves giving up the hope of deliverance. Instead, find strength, grace and courage to complete the incomplete, make restitutiion restore the injury or forgive injustice. Affirm a spiritual discipline that involves mindfulness, meditation, intentionality or prayer. Read inspirational books. Seek mentors with integrity, wisdom and a loving heart.

6. Challenge yourself. This loss couldn't be survived. You hit bottom, found a way to keep going. Later you felt stronger because of the loss not in spite of it. You not only endured but grew. If that didn't stop you, what can? Live life fully! Open to new challenges! Revisit old fears! Let go of what no longer is! Risk loving again!

7. Renew through grief: to love deeply, live fully. With every change you grieve-the price and reward of living fully. You grieve in order to love again, renew and find meaning, missions, and creativity-not the same ones, but more inclusive and spiritual. Grieving opens the heart, breaks out of the ego shell, and allows risk. Grieving makes the journey through life worth it!