The light at the end of the tunnel could be a train…or could it be progress? I guess it depends on your perspective.
I was emptying yet another box (seems like hundreds since we moved a few months ago). It must be progress though because there is only about 20 boxes left to go through. In this particular box I found a file with a sheet of paper entitled “Tasks of Grief” written by a psychologist by the name of J. William Worden. I found it interesting. It gave me something to think about and it might have the same effect on you. Do you believe that the light at the end of the tunnel is a good thing or a bad one? Read on for Dr. Worden’s “tasks” for grievers.
Task 1 To accept the reality of the loss.
Task 2 To experience the pain of grief.
Task 3 To adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing.
Task 4 To withdraw emotional energy invested in the deceased and invest it in new relationships.
When I read the first one I felt as if Dr. Worden had not ever experienced the loss of a loved one himself. Unless someone is completely lost in denial he or she is living with the reality of the loss. I do agree with his idea that the griever should be encouraged to talk about the death to make it more real for him or her.
Number 2 also felt as if the good doctor thought people could turn off their feelings. While I have seen one person in particular do this and as I have mentioned before it came around and slammed her into a brick wall a few years later. I believe that far and away most people experience the pain and want to make it stop. That becomes a dangerous way to cope because many will use drugs and alcohol or sex. Great distractions of course but not what I would recommend. I always tell people to feel the pain and that you have to go through it to get to the other side of it. Ignoring the pain and the loss won’t help.
To adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing…again, that seems like any one faced with a significant loss is forced to adjust. It may take some people longer than others but what choice do you have? “Learning new skills by performing necessary tasks previously done by a spouse, helps the survivor assume increasing for his or her new life.” I lost a friend years ago. His wife didn’t know the first thing about paying their bills or whom they owed money to etc. I was shocked. After the recent death of my brother, my sister-in-law felt completely lost and was faced with all of the tasks he had taken care of that she never knew about. So, now she knows that her furnace needs to be winterized and her chimney needs to be swept annually. These are just examples – I am sure there are many more. My point is that Dr. Worden making this a task seems odd to me…you have to adjust because he or she isn’t there any more and it is evident each day. Well, that has been my experience anyway.
Task 4 sounds bad but he wasn’t just talking about the loss of a spouse. I interpreted this one as him advising that investing in new relationships will help a griever do more than sit around focusing on his or her loss. I believe he was suggesting that new friendships and new interests can help give one other things to think about. He also acknowledged that bereaved persons may be working at this task for the remainder of their lives. I agree. We all react differently and heal at different levels. Be who you are and cope the best you can. Eventually we all learn how to make it through each day. The pain doesn’t go away we just get used to it.
If you have any thoughts about these tasks I would love to hear from you. Remember the light at the end of the tunnel could be a train coming to flatten you or it could mean that you are on the other side of that light making progress in your grief journey.