Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, author of Hope & Healing for Transcending Loss discusses grief and loss in the conversation below.
How long does grief last?
The impact of grief lasts as long as love lasts, i.e. forever. However, there is a difference between acute grief and subtle grief. Acute grief, the sharpest and most severe grief eventually fades to a subtle, background grief. However, acute grief resurfaces at times throughout the years in brief ‘grief bursts’. And then, the feelings eventually subside once again to subtle grief.
When will I be my old self again?
You won’t be going back to the old you. There is a new you being formed that is evolving even now. This new you will be impacted by loss as well as by love. Just as all experiences in your life help you learn and grow, this one will as well.
What should I say to my friends who tell me to ‘move on’? Well-meaning friends and family might encourage you to ‘move on’ because they cannot tolerate your pain and they want you to be happy. However, the essence of the grieving process is to feel your grief, express your grief, and incorporate your loved one. It’s not a simple or a quick process. When you are ready to ‘move forward’, it will be with your loved one’s presence firmly in your being. Explain this to your friends and then thank them for their concern about your wellbeing.
Is it best to stay busy and keep distract? I don’t want to wallow in my grief.
Certainly it makes sense to take ‘breaks’ from your grief. It’s true that you don’t want to get stuck in a place of wallowing. However, the pain of grief has to be felt completely and repeatedly in order for it to shift. You must feel in order to heal. Think of feeling the grief in ‘doses’ that are interspersed with the busy-ness of life. Many people are afraid to fully feel their feelings because it is so painful. It’s true that allowing yourself to feel takes a great deal of courage (and the process isn’t particularly encouraged in our culture). But it’s a necessary journey in order to begin to heal and grow through grief. Allow yourself to feel badly knowing that the pain has a purpose.
Is it possible (or desirable) to stay connected to my loved one?
Absolutely! In fact, this is part of a healthy grieving process. Your relationship with your loved one continues even though they are no longer on the planet. Therefore, it is healthy to talk to them and about them, to remember them, to look at photos, and even to write or journal to them. You can use your connection to a deceased dear one to help fuel your continued connections with others who are still on the planet.
No one wants to talk about my loved on, what should I do?
Often people are afraid to mention your loved one because they are afraid to upset you. They don’t realize that you are already upset and that mentioning your loved one is like a gift to you. You can gently let them know that you love hearing about your loved one and knowing that he or she isn’t forgotten. You can also lead the way and be the one who initiates sharing memories and feelings.
Is it possible to transcend loss?
Yes. Transcending Loss has to do with gaining a new perspective. In that new perspective, meaning can be made with space for new openings. When a door closes, another opens. . . sometimes this means a new spiritual life, a new cause, a new commitment, a new investment, a new understanding, a new awareness about life and death. Transcending loss is a choice that is always possible at any point in the process but generally is more possible as time passes.
Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, is the internationally bestselling author of six self-help books including the classic Transcending Loss. She has appeared on the Diane Rehm Show, MSNBC, Fox News, The Iyanla Show, and countless radio programs. She earned a BA from Smith College and an MSW from Columbia University’s School of Social Work. Visit her at www.ashleydavisbush.com.