Facing the loss of a loved one is one of the most challenging experiences we ever have to confront. Facing loss alone can feel unbearable and impossible. We often count on friends and family to help us come to grips with our loss. But even when we have supportive people around us, we still may be consumed with sorrow and overwhelmed at facing the unknown road ahead.
Support from friends, family or helping professionals may or may not be forthcoming. Regardless, we are the one person we actually need to be able to count on 24 hours a day. We can be our own most valuable companion, support person, caregiver, and friend. Though we may not recognize this, we are the friend we need to cherish most as we move through and beyond our grief.
I learned this in the months following my husband’s death a few years ago. I found I had to be the one to pull me through my grief. I had to help myself move forward. Nobody else could do that for me. I experienced this again being alone during the many months sheltering at home during the pandemic. I alone had to take good care of myself.
Being our own best friend begins with paying attention to being understanding and supportive. That means we have to allow ourselves to cry when we need to cry or rage when we feel angry. Equally important is to be able to distract ourselves from our discomfort sometimes too.
Accepting rather than judging ourselves for our feelings or behaviors is another way we support and befriend ourselves.
Befriending ourselves is a powerful gift when we face life’s trials. Befriending means honoring our needs, listening to our thoughts and feelings, and asking questions like, “How am I doing?” “How do I feel?” “What do I need right now?” Then allowing and accepting whatever we find out.
This is like holding our own hand as we face all the uncomfortable feelings brought on by our loss. Anyone who has accomplished anything important in life has-had to overcome self-doubt and self-criticism and may have had to fight against inner negativity.
As we grieve we are learning to be our own support team. Believing in ourselves, accepting who we are, and honoring our needs is some of what it takes to be our own friend in the process of facing our loss. Speaking well of ourselves and offering positive words of encouragement instead of blaming or doubting or criticizing ourselves will uplift us on our journey toward healing. We need to trust that eventually we will be able to remember our lost loved one with appreciation and without pain.
– Judy Tatelbaum, MSW, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, public speaker, and author. An excerpt from the Journeys July 2022 Issue; A newsletter to help in bereavement.