The Grief Process: How do we Know if we are Progressing?

During our group meetings, members often express that they can’t tell if they are progressing in their grief process or just going in circles. While progress in anything in life is rarely obvious or dramatic, if you are doing the work, you are making progress. At times as supportive as attending our support group can be for members who have lost a loved one to suicide, it can also feel like “ripping the bandaid off” time and again to some members. There is another way to view that feeling. We deal with emotions as we are able to, and gently peeling back that bandaid time and again allows you to heal another layer in your own time. You can click below to read author Marty Tousley’s list of ways to recognize your progress in the grief journey from his book “Finding Your Way through Grief: A Guide for the First Year.”

Ways to tell if you are progressing in your grief journey:

  • Drive somewhere by yourself without crying the entire time.
  • Get through a day without feeling tired all the time.
  • Concentrate on a book, movie or television program
  • Not think of your loved one for a period of time, however brief.
  • Get through a few hours or days nearly free of pain.
  • Return to a daily routine.
  • Eat, sleep and exercise normally again.
  • Participate in a religious service without crying.
  • Accept invitations from friends and family
  • Listen to music you both loved without crying.
  • Be more aware of the pain and suffering of others around you.
  • Be more patient with yourself and with others.
  • Notice others in like circumstances, and recognize and accept that loss is a common life experience.
  • Reach out to another in a similar situation.
  • Realize that the —sometimes —thoughtless comments of others stem from ignorance, not malice.
  • Find something to be thankful for.
  • Be patient with yourself through grief attacks.
  • Feel confident again.
  • Accept things as they are without trying to recapture the way they used to be.
  • Think less about the past.
  • Look forward to the day ahead of you.
  • Reach out to the future less fearfully.
  • Stop and notice life’s little pleasures, the splendor of creation and the beauty in nature.
  • Catch yourself smiling and laughing again.
  • Feel comfortable spending time alone.
  • Remember your loved one less idealistically—as less perfect, with more human than saintly qualities.
  • Review both pleasant and unpleasant memories without being overcome by them.
  • Reinvest the time and energy once spent on your loved one.
  • Remodel your personal space: rearrange furniture; change colors and textures of walls.
  • Re-make your personal image: change your hairstyle, make-up or clothing.
  • Explore new foods, new places and new things.
  • Feel more in control of your emotions and less overwhelmed by them.
  • Feel freer to choose when and how to grieve.
  • Talk about your loss more easily.
  • Feel less preoccupied with yourself and your loss.
  • Feel a renewed interest in giving love and receiving it.
  • Look back and see your own progress.
  • Notice that time doesn’t drag as much; the weekends aren’t as long.
  • Notice that the good days outnumber the bad; the mood swings aren’t as wide; the time between upsets
  • is greater.
  • Plan the future more effectively.
  • Think more clearly and feel more in control of certain aspects of your life.
  • Make decisions and take responsibility for the consequences.
  • Feel open to new and healthy relationships while maintaining old ones.
  • Discover abilities in yourself you haven’t developed before or didn’t even know you had.
  • Fill some of the roles once filled by your loved one, or find others who can fill them.
  • Recognize that loss has played an important part in your life, and that growth can be a positive outcome.
  • Identify how this experience has changed you for the better: what you’ve learned, what you’ve become, and how you’ve grown.
  • Share the lessons you have learned through loss with others.

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