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Working Through

Finding Solid Ground

by Elizabeth Harper Neeld

This is a time of finding new solutions. We begin to discard the assumptions that no longer hold. We begin to determine how to solve issues that are critical to creating a shape for our lives appropriate to who we are now. Perhaps we have to work on developing competencies so that we can do things we have never done before. Perhaps we are assessing ways we can contribute from experiencing this terrible loss. We reassess our talents and capabilities. During Working Through we often experience life as a double thread. We must solve problems that result from having the courage to replan our lives after the death. And we are trying to find a way to bring forward things from the past that gave us meaning and purpose. There is much trial and error. “I’m growing by delays,” is how one person put it. We are working to find solid ground. We are positively altering ourselves.

Working Through: Finding Solid Ground

What’s Normal

  • Experiencing new problems related to changes we are making
  • Dealing with breakdowns and finding creative solutions
  • Practicing new roles
  • Risking

A brother reports:

Probably the hardest thing for me to tolerate after Les died was the lethargy. I lost all ambition. Until that time I had been gung-ho about everything. I had a game plan that excited me. I worked out regularly at the gym. My brother and I were turning a small electrical company into a good business. But with Les gone, I just didn’t care about anything. However, I admit that something has started to change. It’s like I’m waking up. The thing that is exciting me is the idea of simplifying my life. I’m looking to see how many things I can get rid of that are just clutter. It’s becoming a game for me to find as many ways as possible to make things more simple. The rewards are strong. So I’m keeping moving.

A woman says:

At first I blamed my problems on Kim dying. But I know now that some of those problems already existed. I have always had trouble showing affection. I’ve been acting as if that problem is related to being in grief. But the truth is I was uncomfortable showing love long before Kim died. I’m also having problems with some of Kim’s family. But I’ve had problems with that family ever since I met them. What I have to do now, though, is deal with these issues like an adult. I can’t keep claiming that these problems all come from Kim’s death. These relationship problems are old problems. Now there’s no convenient place to hide them. I’m having to find ways to solve problems that I’ve avoided for years but know can no longer be avoided if I am ever to have any kind of happy life.

The Choice for Working Through:

Engage in the Conflicts

When we are working through new problems, we see clearly that moving forward on the grief journey is not automatic. Time does not heal all wounds, however, time passing is valuable because during that time we can take actions. We can solve problems. We can have insights. It is our choices that move us along the journey, not time passing. We have a lot of new problems that occur because we are building a new shape for our life. The choice is to be willing to engage in solving these problems.

What helps during Working Through

  • Seeking out people who are proficient at what you need to learn
  • Focusing on solving problems rather than being upset that the problems are there
  • Replenishing yourself—sitting still, taking walks, writing poems, looking at art you love, listening to music, cooking new recipes, gardening, fishing, getting massages

© Elizabeth Harper Neeld, PhD