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Healing sorrow through grieving

Neil Rosenthal

Dear Neil: I wonder if you could write about the slow ending of a relationship through a long illness. Thanks.

– Grieving in Wellington, New Zealand

Dear New Zealand: To say “goodbye” to someone is accepting that a connection has ended. It means breaking the energetic connection that keeps you tied together. It is essential if you are to move beyond sorrow and have hope and promise for your future.



Below is a list of common emotional/physical manifestations of sorrow, taken from Peg Elliott Mayo’s book “The Healing Sorrow Workbook” (New Harbinger). Write a few sentences about how you experience each of them:

n Fear



n Anxiety

n Fatigue or exhaustion beyond what is expected from my activities

n Confusion to the point where I don’t feel efficient or able to conduct my life as I once did



n Helplessness. “There is nothing I can do.”

n Guilt. “I feel responsible for what has happened.”

n Taking your blessings for granted and feeling no joy in them.

n Shame. “I feel totally unworthy of the good things that have come my way.”

n Sadness. “My mood is almost entirely dark and little amuses or intrigues me.”

n Having the impulse to do harm to another or take revenge.

n Mistrust. “How can I ever trust again?”

n Cynicism. “I don’t believe in good motives or that things can possibly turn out all right.”

n Isolation. “No one’s company appeals to me, or I feel that I’m such a drag, I should stay away from human contact as much as possible.”

n “It’s not fair!” I am offended or outraged that such a loss could occur.

n Abandonment. “I feel deserted, forgotten or disregarded.”

n Impotence. “There is no influence I can wield that makes any difference. I am powerless and helpless.”

n Denial. “If I just don’t think or talk about it, I won’t feel very much.”

n Chaos. “I have no guides, no map, and no vision of what to do next.”

n Hopelessness. “I think of my own death a great deal. Nothing makes me smile, and I can’t imagine being happy, productive or valuable.”

n I hurt terribly.

Mayo recommends that you write on your intentions for your emotional well-being into the future. Then include your physical well-being, your intentions for your social life (including family and friends), your academic or intellectual life, your spiritual life, and your intentions for the service you would like to give to others.

n Then address the following questions thoroughly: To regain my physical strength and vigor, I need toS; I will refresh my mind by engaging in interests such asS; I will set the following reasonable, achievable goals for myselfS; I will actively reach out to several people in a social context byS; I will open my heart to messages in my dreams, visions and fantasies that hearten me by S .

If you pay attention to when a tree sustains a wound, nature’s first response is to seal the injury with protective pitch. Then new cells form to replace those damaged. Does this analogy fit you?

Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at (303) 758-8777 or his Web site at http://www.heartrelationships.com


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