In recent weeks, a flood of media accounts have emerged about the three young women in Cleveland, who escaped after a decade of barbaric imprisonment. Ariel Castro has been charged in connection with the case.
But none of those stories have scratched the surface of the grief that they – or the 6-year-old daughter of one of the women – are experiencing over the extraordinarily joyous change in their situations.
By now, you are quite likely scratching your head. That is because most everyone thinks of grief only in terms of negative events, such as the unspeakable years of abuse that those three survivors endured or the loss of a loved one through death.
The truth is that we grieve all changes. Yes, this includes crises such as the death of someone dear to us or the loss of a job. But it also extends to happy events, such as the birth of a child, a promotion at work or moving into our dream house.
Grief is the natural reaction to change because in any change we lose something and we need to adjust to something new. It can be defined as the period of adjustment from what was to what is now. With the arrival of a baby, for example, there is elation over welcoming a new family member.
However, we are also losing at least some of what life was like before – doing what we want to do when we want to do it, having only our significant other to take into consideration when making decisions, getting a good, uninterrupted night’s sleep.
Grief is not something we can control. It just happens. It can, and usually does, turn our world upside down. It can be frustrating, maddening, scary and sad. It does, however, assist us in releasing what was and incorporating the new into our experience.
Here are some tips on coming to terms with grief:
1. Be patient with yourself. There is no timeline for grief.
2. Do what’s right for you. Those close to you want to feel better themselves and often can’t until you feel better. They will encourage you to get over it or voice concern that it’s taking you too long, that you need to snap out of it. Remember, your journey through grief needs to be your journey. You might thank people for their concern, but inwardly know you have to process your loss yourself.
3. Take care of you – give yourself any special attention you need. You need lots of tender, loving care while grieving. TLC from others is super, but you also need to provide yourself with TLC. Do you like bubble baths or curling up with a good book, or some special comfort food that you occasionally indulge in? Do what helps you feel good.
4. If you are unable to function in your daily life, or are struggling to move on a little at a time, seek professional help from a therapist/counselor.
These recommendations may fly in the face of your previous notions about grief. After all, problems are solved, nice and neat, in an hour or two on our favorite TV shows.
But in a society that notoriously tries to sell us on the “quick-fix” lie, we do well to embrace this truth – we are almost always done with grief before it is done with us.
• Dr. Vicki Alden is founder of St. Charles-based NOVO: Renewing Joy in Life. She has more than 30 years of experience in the social service/mental health field, and her specialties include grief and loss. She is online at www.novocounsel.com. Write to her at email@example.com.