Dear Ted: Continuum of care

Ted Wiard

This weekly column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. List a first name that grants permission for printing.

Dear Dr. Ted:

I read your article June 18 on "Where's the good?" and I liked your approach that "even though [the loss may be] overwhelming it gives all of us a chance to evaluate the norm and see how we can improve our present way of living."

If the loss is truly devastating, however, there may be a period of despair, anger and depression, when you are nonfunctional. Support from family and friends, I think, may help more than anything. What else can you recommend for the immediate time period following loss - a time when you may be drifting and totally lost yourself? Is there an answer to the question: "What is the purpose of life?"

Thanks, Warren

Dear Warren:

Thank you for reading the article "Where's the good?" talking about the opportunity of healing and transformation.

Your thoughts about a time of high levels of despair, anger and depression after a devastating loss is absolutely correct. This would make sense, as what you knew as your reality was decimated; you find yourself in a free fall while trying to rebuild a new foundation and definition of yourself in order to have a stabilized feeling.

The grief process is magnified during these early months with a level frequency, intensity and duration being highly felt in the areas of denial, anger, bargaining and depression. Even though family, professional and nonprofessional supports may be helpful, there is an isolation period which is a very individualized internal piece that is usually completed alone.

Even if you have hundreds of people around there are aspects of grief that are undertaken alone, with no words and no rescuing from the outer world. This introspective piece of grief can be scary and trigger many emotions.

Some people may call this "the dark night of the soul," where you have to dig deep into your soul and remember, investigate, examine and redefine all the fibers of who you are on the deepest level of what gives you reason for waking up in the morning.

You might call this time period "a time of drifting and totally lost," which seems so appropriate. During this introspective time, there is yearning, wondering, deep introspection and a metaphorical bubble that makes you feel separated from the rest of the world.

Slowly you start to reintegrate into society and build a new infrastructure that allows you to step back into the world once again. Your question of what can be done during this drifting time, besides family support, is a great question.

It is important to accept that this "drifting" is common. During this drifting and searching time, many people will explore their beliefs on spirituality, look at self-care, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. You may find parts of yourself that have been overlooked, such as interest in music, literature, yoga and other more introspective aspects.

This is a time to examine yourself and start to rebuild your foundation in order to step back into the world as the new you, built from your past, but redefined.

Similar to a recovery room, taking time and giving care after surgery can be difficult, frustrating and painful, but by taking that time, with support, will help you have the emotional foundation to reintegrate into society with a stronger understating of yourself and how you wish to navigate your present life.

I wish you health and safety. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat, at

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