Heading for Hope

Are you looking for hope? Do you feel like you will never find or feel it again? These are normal reactions when someone you love has died. Sherry Williams White, nurse, writer and grief specialist shares six tips for finding hope again.

by Sherry L. Williams

Karen reached across the table in a noisy restaurant teeming with afternoon chaos. “I’m afraid,” she finally said, and her admission tears swiftly flooded her eyes. “I want to feel hopeful again, but I just can’t." One tear slipped from her left eye. “That seems impossible right now.” As Karen and I continued our meal, we talked about hope. “Healing might be impossible right now,” I offered. “Freedom from fear might be impossible, too, but you can find hope.”

Second the Emotion
If you are grieving any kind of loss right now, you, like Karen, may feel unable to hope, especially if you are swept up in a swirl of overwhelming emotions. But you can take hold of hope in those very emotions, because they are working to restore your life. Did you know that fear can encourage you to seek answers? Anger can spark you to make a change. Sadness gives you time to gather up your memories and evaluate your life. Joy is your reward. What other emotions are you feeling? Can you pin point their benefits?

Control Freak
One of the most stressful things about loss, especially death, is that its events are beyond our control. You can restore your hope by finding what you can control, and controlling it. For instance, choose which route you will drive to work today and drive it. Decide to eat one healthy meal. Do one load of laundry. Take a walk. While these seem small, even insignificant, doing them will once again give you a sense of control over what is happening to you.

Get an Attitude
The most important thing you can control is your attitude. Not your feelings, but how you accept and respond to them. Controlling your attitude – your approach – is a direct path to restoring your hope. Here are some tips to help:

Distract Yourself.
When you start to think negatively or to criticize yourself, do something dramatic to change your focus. Slam your palm down on a table or wall and shout “stop!” Then force yourself to think about something else.

Set a Time Limit.
If you just can’t think about something else, or if you need to give attention to a particularly negative problem, limit the time you devote to it. Set a timer in your kitchen or on your watch. If you need more time, schedule it later.

Let Go.
If you are struggling with regrets, try not to let the words “should” and “could” consume you. Each of us makes the most reasonable decision we can at any given moment, without the luxury of seeing the future. Letting go of what is already done frees us to say hello to what is now.

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