PART ONE of this series, “Gone (Maybe?) But Not Forgotten,” dealt with mourning a physical absence, while experiencing psychological or emotional presence. For example, one cannot mourn a child given for adoption, because the baby is alive and well, but not with you.
PART TWO, “Lights On, Nobody Home,” addressed mourning a psychological absence while still dealing with a physical presence, as in the case of dementia or autism.
This article, PART THREE, will discuss recovery from ambiguous grief.
“This is major Tom to ground control, I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
Here am I floatin' 'round my tin can far above the world
Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do “ (Space Oddity, D. Bowie)
A person in the midst of ambiguous grief – loss and pain with no definition, no ending action – feels as though floating in space, no connection to help, limited interaction with reality.
Before very long, your physical and mental health suffer. People avoid you because they don’t know how to interact with your weirdness. Do you have any semblance of a personal support group left? Have they stopped asking you out? Stopped offering to cover things for you for a few hours?
It feels as though there is nothing you can do.
There really is, but it takes one major, humongo, gargantuan element on your part. You have to ask someone to help you find help. Then let them. Start by looking for a support group, perhaps through a local hospital or church. Also use your browser to find a national organization. Even a research institute can give you some local contacts.
For now, that’s it. Find help.
Your ultimate goal is to bounce back, and be able to bend in the wind when the next storm comes through. This is called resilience.
re•sil•ience –noun 1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. 2.ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
When you’re able, read through this list below. Find some teeny tiny part of it that you think you can do. Baby steps is all that is expected of you. There is no time deadline. The most important thing is that you start. Two words – Help me. That’s it.
Prepared by the American Psychological Association (APA) in a brochure, entitled "The Road to Resilience." For a copy of the brochure, which also lists places to look for help, call 1-800-964-2000, or visit the APA Help Center.
1. Make Connections
Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.
2. Avoid Seeing Crises as Insurmountable Problems
You can't change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.
3. Accept That Change Is a Part of Living
Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
4. Move Toward Your Goals
Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, "What's one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?"
5. Take Decisive Actions
Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
6. Look for Opportunities for Self-Discovery
People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, a greater sense of personal strength even while feeling vulnerable, an increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and a heightened appreciation for life.
7. Nurture a Positive View of Yourself
Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
8. Keep Things in Perspective
Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
9. Maintain a Hopeful Outlook
An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.
10. Take Care of Yourself
Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.