What thoughts come to your mind when we speak of grief?

Most people would say saddens, a feeling of being lost and maybe confused and certainly they would have a picture that includes a lot of crying and pain.

Beyond that, I am willing to bet that most have little idea “what they are suppose to do” when they have the need to grieve. What are we to do when someone or something that we care for is taken from us? How do we respond?

I have spoken about the need to acknowledge our feelings and how important it is to grieve our losses and express our feelings.

I have, however, provided no real help in terms of the necessary things for us to do so that we might one day “recover”.

I will try and offer some basics over the next few entries.

It sounds odd, but grief can be complicated. Without a guide, or some help, we are left to flounder and guess at what things might be helpful.

Understanding and figuring out grief is very difficult. Not only do we have little guidance, but we are often shunned or avoided when we hurt. It’s ironic that in a time when we need a great deal of help, there is often little patience, understanding or help at all.

There are some very basic things to remember when you face a painful loss. These “rules” apply whether we are speaking of loss through the death of someone close to us or the loss of anything else in life that causes us sadness.

There are three things that you will need to experience before you can begin to recover from the pain of your grief.

I call them the Three R’s and over the next few submissions I will try to break each down for you so that from here on, when I speak of acknowledging and processing your feelings, you will know what I’m talking about.

The First R is to realize. Realize that the person who has died is actually gone.

The second R is to recognize. Recognize the significance of this loss for you and your life.

The third R is to rebuild, or putting your life together without the person who has died.

I know it sounds odd but until you have an understanding of what each of these R’s mean, you will likely flounder, having no idea what you are supposed to do or what you need to go through in order to begin to feel better.

Let me take the rest of the time here to introduce you to realize.

If you have never been through the painful sadness that losing someone who is very close to you brings with it, then you may wonder what I’m talking about.

When something is taken away that has been very familiar to you, it can take a very long time to have your new reality sink in.

Your routine and your expectations have been formed over time and it will take time to understand that the things that you came to count on as certain are gone, and changed forever.

When you have someone close to you die, you are unable to grasp that change right away. There may be some protection in this; your psyche is helping you by providing a little space and time to adjust. It’s very difficult to take in great pain and massive change instantly.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking for the person who has died and actually expecting to see them. Don’t find it unusual if you wait for them, set a place for them, lay out their clothes, reach for them and truly expect to be with them again “tomorrow” when this whole unreal thing is over.

Visiting my mother after my father died was difficult for me. For a long time I expected to see him there. It was more than just an association with the things that were familiar. I actually went to their home expecting on some real level to find my “missing” father.

Realizing that your life is permanently altered in a huge way is very difficult to grasp. There will be a period of adjustment when you honestly expect to awaken from this nightmare and have things back the way they were, back to the way things are supposed to be.

You will honestly expect that the voice on the other end of the phone when you answer will be the person who has died. You will look for their familiar email address on your computer or your phone in the in coming mail.

You will certainly make your way, looking into the faces of everyone you pass expecting to find the person who is gone, and you will actually stay up waiting for them to come home and assure you that it’s all ok.

This period of adjusting is how we cope with managing a painful reality.

I want you to expect this and I want you to know that even though you will have lost some of your essential bearings you are not “ wrong “ here, and you are not going crazy.

Quite the contrary; in fact, you are just trying to manage a horribly difficult change in the fabric of your life.

Next time I will apply realize to losses other than death.

The First R is to Realize. Realize that the person who has died is actually gone.