NPR ran a story about Veterans with PTSD. A client sent me this line from it, “ … all people have the ability to reason, unless they’re grieving. So oftentimes I ask the veterans, “If you can’t reason, what is it you’re grieving?”

We often believe that relationships are to be permanent, yet loss and grieving is a theme in our lives. Somewhere along our path someone dies or will be left behind. Loss of a relationship plays a significant part in all of our lives. As many of us define ourselves by our relationships, we may believe something is wrong with us if we do not keep our friends for life.

What I have learned is that relationships come and go from our lives. When someone dies, leaves us, moves away or becomes estranged, it may be a double loss: the loss of the relationship itself, and the loss of the relationship as a source of our identity, of who we think we are.

If you have been the dependent partner in a relationship you will find yourself after the loss of a relationship, through divorce or death, forced to undertake tasks that you never dreamed of. It is through these tasks that a new sense of self will evolve. You may have a new career or the education you always wanted but did not have time for.

Whenever we are forced to let go of something or someone a psychological death occurs and we need to grieve for our loss. Death comes in many forms; it may be an aspect of ourselves, our youthful qualities, our health, or a dream that is no more. Or it may be a relationship that is ended.

With every death or mini-death a rebirth occurs; something of value is growing inside us. Through acceptance and allowing ourselves to grieve the loss, we can grow and develop wisdom. How we react to the constant changes that occur in our lives is probably the only aspect of any relationship that we have choice over.

Allowing ourselves time to grieve without justifying or judging our reason for grieving is vital for healing our wounds. Recognizing that you may experience grief very differently than other people is often key to allowing ourselves to grieve. When we try to grieve the way we ‘think we are supposed to’ or ‘the way we have seen others grieve’, we are in judgment of ourselves and this will stop us from grieving and healing.

Elizabeth Kübler Ross lists 5 stages of grieving Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Whether we like it or not, we humans will go through each of these stages in our healing process. To stop them is to stop ourselves from healing.

An exercise I often recommend for grieving is the following:

  • Once a day for 21 minutes, sit quietly. Light a candle that you have purchased for this exercise. During the 21 minutes watch the candle and allow your thoughts to focus on what you are grieving.
  • Do this everyday for 21 days, and then discard what remains of the candle.