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Find the right way to grieve after a loss GUEST COLUMN
There's a right way to grieve

Date published: 8/31/2008

Although we are told there is not one way grieve, I have come to believe, in the year since my husband died, that there can be right and wrong ways to mourn. You may never look at life or love the same way, but if you find healthy ways to grieve, you may enjoy both again one day.

Healthy grieving involves embracing your grief by actively mourning your loss rather than burying it, pretending you are fine or finding distractions (such as finding a new relationship, or quitting your job, selling your house and joining the Peace Corps so you can remind yourself there are others more miserable than you).

Facing the loss and living with it are so important to moving forward on the grief journey--which can take the rest of your life, as your loss will be part of you always.

For me, healthy grieving has come in phases. The first involved the pile of "widow books" I read nightly. I wanted to learn all about grief, to both understand it and prepare for what was to come.

Of course, as with preparing for my husband's death from cancer, it was not possible to prepare myself for widowhood by reading about it. Some things can only be experienced or understood with time.

My early fears that grief would incapacitate me proved to be unfounded as I realized I had no choice but to get out of bed each morning to take care of my kids, myself, my house and my job. Then, my fear that I was doing too well early on went away as time passed, and the shock of the loss took longer than I expected to wear off.

The next phase of grieving for me was seeking hospice counseling and a bereavement group. While I found an online support group early on, I needed to talk through my experiences with someone who truly understood what I was going through and could help me put things into perspective.

My friends didn't really "get it," and couldn't be expected to, but talking to a hospice counselor who works with caregivers, the dying and the bereaved was very helpful. I highly recommend this kind of counseling.

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Cheryl Sutton, 43, of Spotsylvania County works for the Environmental Protection Agency. She is grieving the loss of her husband to cancer.