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Published: January 1, 2020

I was watching a program on television with my husband this past weekend about addiction. In this movie, the star said, “If, is hard to live with.”

I see clients weekly that live with the word “if.” “If only we had not been drinking.”, “If only I had not let my child go to that party.”, “If only I had insisted he go to the doctor.", etc. There is a mountain of “ifs” at the passing of a loved one. If you allow yourself to becoming entangled in “ifs, you will eventually be strangled by them.

My husband always says, “Don’t worry about the things you cannot change.” I believe the military taught him to live by that strategy. He does not become overwhelmed by “ifs”; he analyzes facts and creates successful tactics to chart a course for a positive outcome. I have watched him do this countless times during the course of our marriage; it is an amazing ability. When I am in situations I find alarming, he merely suggests a change of focus and direction, and suddenly those alarming situations improve.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if simply changing your focus or direction would help you recover from grief more quickly and more efficiently? It is a great strategy and it has worked before. Why not give it a try?

Grief is so devastating and is experienced due to our loss of the person to whom we direct and focus our love and affection. Love and affection are very powerful and desirable emotions that we bestow upon others. The reward for these bestowals is the return and validation of these emotions upon ourselves. In other words, the more love and affection we bestow, the more love and affection we receive.

When we have lost the primary focus of these emotions, we feel lonely, devastated and possibly afraid. Our existence has changed. We may experience loss of income or social standing. We may even be in danger of losing our home. The loss of our loved one cannot be changed. He or she is gone, and he or she will not return. The losses of income, social standing and possibly our home, are the results from the loss of our loved one, and results may be changed. The future may look very lonely and bleak; however, by changing your focus and direction, the future may be changed.

I am not suggesting that you forget about your loved one. Doing so is not possible nor is it desirable. Neither do I suggest that you make major changes within the first year of loss. I do suggest that you focus on changing little things. Changing little things is easy, and doing so, will change your outcome for a brighter future.

My suggestions are these:

1. Evaluate your situation. Are there things that you can change, things that you can work on changing or things that you can eliminate that are causing you undue stress and unhappiness? If so, begin immediately on these positive changes. Simply by changing your focus on making your life better, your life is becoming better.

2. Realize that stress exacerbates pain. If you can identify a few slight modifications to your situation that will lighten your stress, act upon them. Doing so will make your survival easier and your life more enjoyable.

3. Understand that you are the survivor and begin acting like it immediately. Survivor's act, they do not react. You must take control of your destiny and chart your course. In so doing, you can control, and potentially deter some of the damages you might otherwise suffer. Start with small things and work up to bigger things as your strengths and abilities return to you.

4. Remember, the more we love, the more we are loved. You have lost your loved one, and you are realizing that all of the time and love you shared with him or her needs somewhere to go. Holding it inside hurts and benefits no one. Share your time and love with others, your friends, your children, your grandchildren, your pets, your associates and even new friends. Your circle of love will grow and eventually it will overtake your pain.

5. Get busy. Volunteer at your favorite charity or church. When we are busy doing, we are not busy yearning. Do not be afraid to lose yourself in the service of others. The individual that grows out of grief might just surprise you.

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