When you are overcome by grief, it feels like you are adrift on an iceberg that is breaking up in a dance fog. This can lead to feelings of fatigue, devastation, confusion, chaos, despair, shame, anger, guilt, fear of eternal separation and hopelessness. It feels like these honest responses to this loss could last forever, but what one actually does with these feelings will determine how long they last.

Grief’s grip is when your grief has you held so tight that you feel like you can’t catch your breath. Your mind is always cloudy and in a state of confusion. You feel deep despair and sadness, and you feel like you will never be the same again.

Another thing that happens when you are in grief’s grip is that you feel like you can’t hardly put one foot in front of the other. There is no psychological air, and there is a sensation that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You feel like this will last for the rest of your life.

How can you make your way through that terrible feeling of devastation, despair and hopelessness? You have to resist and persist. This can be done by giving that devastation or hopelessness, whichever is more in the foreground for you, a face. You can draw it or dialogue with it. Once you begin to get a sense of what it is, then you can begin to feel like you are putting a little bit of distance between your true self, who you are right now, and that thing that has taken you into its grip, come upon you and held you so tight.

One client had an image of a red ball that she drew with black hash marks in the back showing the background for her despair. By simply taking it out of her body where she was experiencing it and placing it on the paper in that way, it gave her some distance from it. She could then begin to feel like she had her feet under her and was once again moving forward.

When you start to come back, you begin to get a sense of yourself again. As you are sitting with this image that you have drawn, you can feel yourself sitting in the chair and you can begin to dialog with the picture you drew or with the feeling of hopelessness that envelops you. You can actually give it a voice and allow it to talk with you.

Another thing a person can do with these feelings is simply surrender. By surrendering to the feeling, you give up. You say, “Okay, I can’t resist you. I don’t know what to do. I give up.” At that point, pray or ask for help. Remember that prayer is always answered.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. When you start on a journey, you usually begin with a map. When grief comes upon you, it becomes an unwanted journey because there is usually no map. Very few people have prepared themselves for tragedy by taking courses in grief.

This journey of grief begins by discovering what you have lost. It may be your child, your parents, your sibling or your marriage. Then you look around and recognize that here you are as only shards of your former self, and that you have been devastated and broken. Now it is time to ask yourself what is left, and begin making a list of those things that you know are still true for you. Is it your health, a friend or two or your other children? As you make that list, you will start your journey back to yourself and through your grief. Now you know what you have, and what the possibilities are that are left for you.

As you begin to explore what is left and what the possibilities are, then you can begin to create your own map through your grief. Every person’s map is different. Different people will want different things. For some they may connect to their grief because it connects them to their child or to others like themselves.

Realize that life is about movement as seasons come and go. Like Walt Disney once said, “Without change, there would be no butterflies.” Moving ahead and affirming your loss as you connect it to your body and its still, small voice, will move you forward.

By deviating a little, it is possible to discuss more fully the idea of creating a map to help people through the grieving process. Remember that you are the one who must begin to create the map by simply asking yourself what you have left. From there you begin to make a list of the resources that are left.

Another thing a person can do with the map is acknowledge that yes, this is a horrible, horrible thing that has happened to them, but how would it be if they could look at this with the curiosity and courage of an explorer. The person would then start the journey with a sense of hope just as an explorer would.

This heart expansion exercise will help people feel the devastation and begin to make the connection. Sit in a chair so you can feel your back against the chair with your feet flat on the floor. Imagine the most beautiful scene you have ever experienced in your life. Breathe deeply, and take notice of how you are feeling in your heart and body. There should be a sense of expansiveness.

Another thing you can do with your grief map is to simply begin to give thanks for something as small as your thumb. The next time you turn your key in the car or grip a door handle that needs your fingers and your thumb, take notice of what you are doing and give thanks for that.

Start noticing the places in nature that give you joy, notice if your pets or those of your friends give you joy and take time to be in nature and be with your pets throughout the day and week. Continue to give thanks and do the heart expansive exercise, and you will find the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you’re struggling with the emotional process of grief...

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