Guest Blog Post: Healing Grief

Lauren Zeefe LPC CT

I have been following Lauren Zeefe on Twitter for quite a few months and been inspired by her compassionate and wise “tweets” on healing grief. I wanted to learn more, so I contacted Lauren and asked her if she would expand on these thoughts and share them with us in the form of a guest blog post. She responded straight away and within hours sent me this wonderful post which I am delighted to be able to share with you today.

The world breaks us all. Afterward, some are stronger at the broken places.
~
Ernest Hemingway

As far back as I can remember, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for those people, and animals too, who were either disenfranchised or struggling with an illness.  I was never afraid of their pain or suffering.  I felt comfortable supporting them when many others would not or could not.  I have always had a very special place in my heart for those who have succumbed to and/or survived cancer.  For they are true warriors and heroes  You know who you are.  You carry on your back stories and struggles from those before you and you will support and encourage those whose lives have just been touched.  You are a member of an exclusive club you did not want to join.  So, it is no surprise then that I ended up being a grief therapist and educator.

My clinical experience has taught me that most, if not all, mental health issues are somehow “loss-based.”  Please take a minute to think about it.  Would you agree?  There is physical loss i.e.- death and there is also psychosocial or symbolic loss i.e.- losing your health, a body part, divorce, etc. Many people who have been victims of abuse or violence struggle with loss.  And many of them, to get out of their pain, self medicate by taking drugs or drinking, thus creating  addiction issues (which then are loss-based).

 The day there is an accident, a trauma, a death, a diagnosis (even if there is a positive outcome) your life is now different.  Everything has changed.  Because you have changed everyone around you will encounter change too.  Often times family and friends do not understand or react in healthy or appropriate ways to change.  It is not unusual for expectations to be put upon you such as “snap out of it” it has been a year since your surgery or your diagnosis.  Get back to the way you were.  You will never get back to the way you were because you are now different having gone through your experience.  Most likely you are more focused and viewing life through a different lens. Change is not easy, even when embraced.

 I have been blessed in my career as a grief therapist to work with hospice patients, families, clinical staff and clients living with serious and/or chronic illness.  I would like to share some golden nuggets of learning from my experience:

  • Please, you are not alone. Get support, family, friends, clergy, etc.
  • Empower yourself. Although many things are out of our control, there are still many things we “can” and are “able” to control.
  • Learn that in crisis, many reactions and behaviors are normal reactions and behaviors to not normal circumstances. The best we can do is contain it and then manage it so it does not get worse. Find your voice and your fighting spirit and face the demons. Do not let pain or fear paralyze you. Life is worth fighting for.
  • Life is a precious gift. The life force is innately strong and wants to survive, therefore it heals, naturally. We all have the capacity to heal, to find reconciliation
  • Surprisingly, when we are standing at the edge of a cliff and are pushed off, we fly.  We fly.
Lauren Zeefe is a licensed professional counselor and grief management specialist.  She holds a national certification as a death educator and grief counselor.  Lauren is a nationally recognized speaker in loss, grief and bereavement.  She resides in Miami, Florida with her two burmese cats, Lewis and Clark.