What is Grief Work and Why do It?
Work! Who likes it? Possibly, just the word, W-O-R-K, conjures up negative memories of pulling weeds in the ivy bed as a kid. At least it does for me. But for the sake of honesty, there is some work I love to do. Possibly you enjoy certain types of work as well. For instance, I really enjoy ironing. The transformation of wrinkled shirts to crisp, pressed ones ready to wear is very satisfying. In addition to a quality iron and ironing board, I always toss in a favorite movie and I’m set to iron while revisiting old classic stories. How about you, do you enjoy yard work? Maybe it’s doing the dishes . . . or cleaning your boat. Just now, think of the one or two types of work that you like doing and identify what it is that makes it enjoyable for you. What tools make your work more satisfying and productive?
What is Grief Work?
As I continue to coach others through their grieving journey, we often explore that to grieve well means doing grief work. What do I mean by “grief work?” It is quite simple; grief work is paying attention to the grief journey and responding in healthy, appropriate, and at times, painful ways. It means facing the emotions and dealing with them in the moment. This can be awkward. When we are in the middle of a busy day and a wave of grief over takes our thoughts and feelings, it is awkward to excuse ourselves and interact with the grief. However, when we do, we are always better for it.
Grief Work Tools: Journaling
What are the tools in grief work? My favorite tools are a paper, pen or pencil. Keeping a small notebook handy helps us capture our response to the wave of emotions in the moment. Sometimes a good night’s rest changes the perspective of the monumental pain and we awake ready to journal about what is in our hearts. As confusing as it might feel, journaling about it somehow brings clarity. Journaling, random writing rants, poetry, letters addressed to God or the deceased are all good places to start. As you experiment pouring your heart out on paper you will discover which forms of pen to paper are most effective for you. And then do it regularly, like brushing your teach or doing the dishes. Comfort for the Day is filled with Scripture guided writing prompts that are specific to the grief experience. Check out this link to order your copy.
Another tool includes exercise. Often the buildup of grieving emotions is released during exercising. When we exercise, our body is fueled with fresh oxygen and that is just what is needed to put us back on the healthy grieving path. In addition, positive hormones, such as endorphins, are released that give us a better frame of mind. Exercise also helps us rest better and we need all the assistance we can find to improve rest during grief.
A huge and often painful part of grief work includes forgiveness. When we find ourselves in the vortex of blame, regrets, and guilt, it is time to get serious about grief work. It is time to be honest, take responsibility for what is real and true. It is time to be forgiven and forgive others. It is hard work and for many they need some assistance to navigate this section of the journey. It takes courage and hope. One little step at a time can lead you the whole way until you are out from under the shadow of remorse and suffering. Forgiveness is the best way to begin healing the pain.
Other tools for grieving well include gardening, taking up a hobby, fishing, hiking, sketching, painting or listening to soothing music. Choosing any of these types of activities connects you to a brief respite. It is a way to experience self-care. For a time, the intensity of grief can rest while we engage in activities that comfort.
Tapping into educational and support resources are additional grief work tools. Some of those might include:
- Join a grief support group.
- Attend a workshop or seminar on the topic.
- Find a grief coach or therapist.
- Research web sites and blogs that you resonate with.
- Check out books that can be supportive and useful for your grief.
- Arrange for a few visits with your pastor or spiritual mentor to discuss issues of faith and God as it relates to suffering.
Reaching out to resources puts you back into the driver’s seat of your grief life. You educate yourself and move from fear, uncertainty, and ignorance to peacefulness and application of new knowledge. These are important grief tools.
Why Do Grief Work?
In short, grief work is simply paying attention to your grief and responding intentionally in ways that you know will help you heal and discover restoration. As a follower of this blog, you are already well along the way to understanding and practicing your grief work. Keep it up, even when you don’t feel like it. Just like ironing shirts is satisfying to me, your grief work can bring you hope, encouragement, understanding and satisfaction. Considering the option of disengaging with your grief and allowing it to rule you, trapping you in suffering; grief work is such a better choice. Putting into practice some or all of these grief tools can transform your grief work into something you look forward to doing, because you know it will help you feel better.
©Karen Nicola September 2017