By Susan Drevitch Kelly
Life Transition Coach

When you experience the profound loss of someone you love deeply, it is no doubt one of the most tragic and overwhelming events you have ever had to deal with in your life. But you are stronger than you think and stronger than you realize at this most difficult and challenging time.
Research by many psychologists tells us that human beings are “hard wired” to cope. This ability to cope with any extreme adversity and tragedy, such as the profound loss of someone you deeply loved, is what psychologists call resilience.
Human beings are, by our very nature, resilient creatures. It is this human trait that enables you to survive your loss and eventually thrive once again in the future. Resiliency is essential to recovery from your loss and the eventual rebuilding of your life in this “new world” that you’ve entered without your loved one.
Here are some things you can do to regain and strengthen your resilience during this tragic time in your life:

  • Learn how to manage your emotions and feelings by creating positive thoughts and “turning off” negative ones. We are what we think. Our minds can create thoughts that can bring us joy or sadness. This is a choice you will make many times each day. When a negative feeling or thought comes to mind, acknowledge it and try to replace it with a thought, memory or vision of something positive, perhaps envision some favorite thing you did with your loved one.
  • Develop habits that will help you increase your feelings of gratitude, contentment, and peace, without diminishing how deeply you miss your loved one. For example, start a gratitude journal, making note of three things you are grateful for at the start and/or the end of each day. This will help your mind create positive thoughts and feelings.
  • Work at preventing new fears, anxieties, and “what ifs” from creeping into your thoughts and creating roadblocks that will only prevent you from enjoying the life you have. Embrace the good that still remains in your present life. Learn how to be present in the moment and enjoy the simplest of things: a cup of warm tea, the sun shining through the clouds, a bird singing outside your window, a hug from your grandchild. Meditation, mindfulness and/or visualization are some helpful practices to calm yourself and train yourself to “be present” in the moment you are experiencing.
  • Acquire the ability to manage any strong negative feelings such as anger, guilt, or regret, so that these emotions don’t close you off from your family, friends, neighbors, and community. While grieving, it sometimes seems easier to just isolate yourself from the people in your life who are actually your “anchors” as you drift through this difficult grieving process. At the core of what enables you to be resilient during this challenging time is your relationships. Research has documented that grievers who cope best are those able to find comfort in ongoing relationships as well as new connections. The latter is why so many grievers find participation in a grief support group so helpful with their healing process.
  • Commit to taking action, even a small one, a baby step, to increase your feeling of being in control, rather than feeling helpless in the healing process, and feeling like your grief is controlling you. That action could be saying “yes” to someone offering to help you, or conversely, saying “no” to an invitation to do something you really don’t want to do.
  • Establish rituals to keep your loved one’s memory alive. Researchers found that creating and participating in rituals returns a feeling of control to grievers, and they tend to experience lower levels of grief. Try finding small ways to do this: light a candle on special days and holidays, carry an object that reminds you of your loved one, cook a favorite dish and share with family, collect special rocks on beach walks, plant a memory garden, and the list goes on.
    None of these suggested actions or ways of thinking will completely take away the pain of your loss. And just as your grief experience is unique to you, what creates a state of well-being will be different for everyone. But what we do know is that there are things you can do to ease the pain of your grief journey and help you in your healing and recovery process.