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by Dr. Valencia Wiggins, assistant professor at Moody Theological Seminary. A clinical psychologist and licensed professional counselor, Dr. Wiggins enjoys helping individuals become emotionally healthy.
A few weeks ago, I discovered a small, dusty cedar box filled with rusty trinkets, a few pennies, and old letters from college friends. To my surprise, I found a postcard from my father, who passed away many years ago, with a beautiful message of encouragement.
Immediately, I began to cry and experience a range of emotions from grief to joy, and even a moment of laughter. I expressed gratitude to God for this reminder from my father, as well as thankfulness for his life and legacy of faith that he left behind for me and my family. After this wave of emotion and reflection, I smiled one more time as I placed that precious postcard from my father on my refrigerator and breathed a prayer of thanksgiving.
Grief is the normal response of sorrow, emotion, and confusion that comes from losing someone or something important to you. It is a natural part of life.
Take a moment and do a brief inventory of loss in your life. Have you experienced a major loss in the last year, month, week, or even yesterday? Maybe your loss includes a loved one, a financial loss, a relationship, a pet, or even the loss of something small such as a watch or necklace that may hold a significant memory. Whatever loss has occurred, a process of grief will follow.
Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross developed one of the most famous concepts on the process of grief. She observed that people who are dying often experience five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
This leads to a question: If someone experiences each stage of grief, have they grieved fully?
Grieving is a personal experience. How you grieve depends on various factors including your personality and coping style, life experience, faith, and the type of loss. Grieving and healing take time, and the grief process looks different for each individual. Someone may start to feel better in a few weeks or months, while another person may grieve for many years. Whatever your experience with grief, it’s important to be patient with yourself.
So, what does it look like to “grieve fully”? Below are some suggestions as you move through grief:
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