Good Grief. No, I’m not simply quoting Charlie Brown. There is such a thing as “good” or “healthy” grief. For example, for years counselors and ministers told grieving individuals to be strong and don’t cry. This was especially true for boys and men. Then, January 10, 1984, a small article appeared on the front page of the Detroit Free Press. Dr. William Fry brought 400 people into a laboratory and had them peel an onion. When they cried – they took the tears and put them under a microscope. They found basically water and salt. They took the same 400 people and brought them into a movie theater and had them watch two sad movies. When they cried, they collected the tears and put them under a microscope. They found water, salt, and a toxic enzyme by the name of “enkephalin”. It has a numbing effect on the body when a person is grieving – and then – after it does its job, it is removed by the individual crying. Dr. Fry’s conclusion was that if an individual did not cry during moments of grief and sadness, enkephalin would remain in the body and possibly do biological or physiological harm. People who cry are physically healthier than those who do not.
We should never make any apologies for our tears. They are tears of love and the best eulogy we can give our loved one. Crying is one of the many “things” that we “do” that helps us to know we have healthy and good grief. Let’s take a look at some others.
- Tell the story of how your loved one died. Talk about him or her. Make it real so you can embrace the pain. Some days you will feel like you are not going to make it, but you will. Do not deny the facts of the loss or the meaning of the loss. Do not avoid the circumstances of the death or the circumstances of your survival of the loss. It is okay to remind yourself the death is irreversible and that your loved one would want you to keep living. Tell yourself you do not have to be dysfunctional to prove your love for the one who has died.
- Identify and own your feelings. You will have both physical and emotional pain. Physically, you may be nauseated, anxious, stunned. You may have a tight chest and experience difficulty in breathing. Emotionally you may feel guilty or angry. You may have days of horrible despair and extreme sadness. Don’t be afraid to keep a journal and write your feelings down. You may want to write notes to your loved one who has died. C.S. Lewis wrote love letters to his wife after her death, and that is why we have the book, A Grief Observed. Talk to a close trusted friend, a minister, a counselor about what you are feeling. Physically, you need to exercise and eat nutritiously. Emotionally, you need to identify the emotion and express it.
- Be kind to yourself. Building one’s self esteem holds a primary position throughout the healing process. Because the stress of your sorrow and grief can cause depression, your ego needs constant refueling. You need a pat on the back, an arm around your shoulder in comfort. Imagine how good that would feel. The warmth you feel from gentle care does more for your sense of well-being than anything else in the world. This tender stroking can come from within you as well as from others. It’s important to realize just how much you can care for yourself. A good way to start is to take time to think over your good features right down to the fine details. List those worthwhile qualities on paper. Then, on days when you’re feeling especially blue, you can read over the list to give yourself a boost.
- Here are some other “hints” for “healing”:
- Eliminate survivor guilt
- Live on day at a time
- Be positive; find the beauty in life
- Attend a “support” group
- Limit the junk foods
- Stay away from alcohol; and only take prescribed medications
- Make adjustments
- Be open to new experiences
- Understand “setbacks”, but daily give yourself permission to get better
- Understand people die; relationships don’t
Remember that crying is natural and we should never make any apologies for our tears. There is such a thing as good grief.
Updated: March 25, 2013