All the definitions and synonyms of honor include the concept of respect. This includes respecting oneself, another, or a situation or an idea. Let me apply the concept of honor to loss.
How to deal with loss, and the subsequent grief that follows, does not come with an instruction manual, and so mourners do their best in an attempt to reclaim their equilibrium. It’s not pleasant to dwell in dark thoughts, so you may busy yourself to avoid thinking about them. Society also says that “you must be strong” and, consequently, you may push aside your grief. These are all coping mechanisms and may give you a respite for a time period. However, until you honor your loss by giving it the respect it deserves so that you may deal with the issues that surround it, your pain will not go away.
1. Know that your grief will look different from others. Some will be able to move through their loss quickly and others may be mired in it for years. There is no timetable upon which you must operate. Each instance of loss is unique, so there is no right way or wrong way to grieve nor does it magically go away on the much-touted one year anniversary. You must honor the length (or shortness) of your own journey and know it is just right for you.
2. Remembering the good times experienced with a lost loved one is a powerful way to keep him or her alive in your heart and mind. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including looking at pictures or videos, retelling the funny stories of his/her youth, and staying in touch with others who loved the deceased as much as you did. As you travel further on your journey, you will also need to readjust the picture of your loved one, perhaps no longer placing him/her on a pedestal. In order to accomplish this feat, you must remember the good and the not so good. After all, your loved one was human and not a saint, and all humans have failings. As you complete this process, you are honoring ALL your memories and looking at them from a realistic vantage point.
3. It is very easy to get stuck in your grief. Even though it may be a dark place and you would rather not be there, you have come to know what to expect. And it is those fulfilled expectations that can become comforting in their own way. You must be careful that you do not start living your story, instead of simply living your life. One of the best ways to honor a deceased loved one is to become the best possible version of yourself – a person of whom your loved one would be proud.
4. Loss leaves no one unscathed. When you experience something as momentous as the loss of a loved one, you cannot help but be affected and changed. Honor these changes. Through introspective thought, learn about this “new you” who is emerging and come to love and respect this person who has successfully moved through the tunnel of grief and is ready to participate in life again.
5. You must also honor your own needs. They, too, may have changed from what they were before your loss. Additionally, if you have lost a spouse, at some point in time, you may want to look for new love. This does not mean that you have forgotten your late spouse or that you are negating your past relationship. Although this is not a situation you would have chosen, here it is. You are still alive, and it is natural for you to look for companionship. The heart is very accommodating, and it can welcome new people to love without evicting the past tenants. Honor your ever expanding heart and your capability to love again.
Honoring yourself and your needs is not just something to do during a time of loss, but at all junctures in your life. It’s about self-love, self-acceptance, and walking to your own drumbeat as you figure out who you are and where you want to go.
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Ellen Gerst is a grief and relationship coach and workshop leader. She is the author of several books on both topics, including: Suddenly Single: How To Move From Loss To Renewal; Understanding Grief From A to Z; 101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping With Grief; Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story and Understanding Dating and Relationships From A to Z. For a full roster of her books, visit her website bookstore or Amazon. Connect with Ellen on Facebook to receive tips on how to find love after loss.