“How To Get Through Grief? in 3 Pages or Less

Grief is something that most of us never learn about until we are forced to face it by the death of a loved one. Many even avoid those grieving worried that they, too, will be pulled down into their despair and sadness. However, grief is something as natural as birth, and it is not contagious, but it will be extremely painful to those of us that are not prepared for it – which is most of us.

Sink or Grief

Our schools, colleges and universities are failing at properly educating ourselves and our children about the natural grieving process, and what we should be ready to expect from that experience before we are forced to sink or grief.  From the personal psychological challenges we may face to the painful grief attacks to the potential health issues resulting from grief to its impact on our relationships, families and work. 

We will never be fully prepared to face the death of our loved ones, but having a solid understanding and acceptance of what will be coming with this part of our lives will serve us and our families well when faced with this uninvited guest. This is why we believe that integral to this book is the co-development of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Grief.  A Grief MOOC that will use the book as its guiding source, and integrate it with other industry and academic resources; including the partnering with a reputable and MOOC experienced Higher Education institution.

Earlier this year, I was faced with the unexpected death of my mother only days after spending a wonderful holiday season with the entire family. I felt like I had gone from a relaxed hot-tub oasis into the iced cold spa of grief and I could not breathe. I was not prepared for grief, and even the mention of it would make me face the reality that mom was gone, so could not even get myself to say the word.

I was so frozen in time that I could not even walk out  of the hospital after mom died in the ICU unit immediately after being connected to the dialysis machine. I stood in disbelief for hours. I kept looking at the sky and waited for the rain to wake me up from this nightmare. I only made it to the car after friends kept pushing me gently and step by step.

How to get through Grief Attacks

The days that followed were filled with these grief attacks that would paralyze me and that I knew nothing about.  Many meant well in their advice, but words like “it is going to hurt forever” or “she is in a better place now” were sharp knives that were going through my heart over and over again, and making the intensity and frequency of these grief attacks worse.

As mom always taught us to do when faced with big life challenges, I searched for help and a better understanding of how others had overcome their grief. 

How did they get through this unimaginable pain?

How did they breathe when they got these  unpredictable grief attacks?

What specific coping strategies did they use to just function through the day?

I felt there was an expectation that I would know how to get through this grief, and I was ashamed that I had no clue on how to even get through the next hour; least of all a lifetime without Mom.  I had always been the rock for my family through any and all the challenges that life had thrown at us before, but not this time. I took my brothers aside, and told them: “I cannot be the rock on this. You have to be our rock now.” While two of us had been educated in all the intricacies of Crisis Management at top universities, it was our brother who had been trained in law enforcement that steered us through this real-life case study.

“How to” in 3 pages or less

 After an extensive online search, I found hundreds of great books on Grief where the authors had poured their hearts into sharing their experiences and incredible personal grief journeys, but I could not get myself to read any of them.  I couldn’t even read more than a line or two of my emails, so the covers and online descriptions of the books were as far as I could get. Friends gave us many of these books, but I couldn’t get through any of them – too long on the painful journey and too short on my most critical need at that time: “How can I get through this? What specifically did you do to get through your grief and your grief attacks?”

The truth is that I just wanted the 3 page “How to get through Grief” power-point presentation that would show me how others had gotten through their grief.  

Grief has been around since the beginning of times so I expanded the search time/geographic parameters and kept looking for books, articles and online sites that could provide me with specific coping strategies used by real people to deal with their grief and grief attacks.  I know we all grieve differently, but I just wanted to learn what techniques others had found helpful in making their way through their grief. I wasn’t looking for a turnkey solution to my grief but I needed it in twitter-sized paragraphs that I could get through in between the painful grief attacks.

My search was a bust, and this is when I sought the help of my good friend May. May and I had been friends since we met on the first day of classes at Harvard Business School. While there were plenty of neurotic folks at HBS, May was not. Regardless of the pressure we were under, May had the same peaceful approach to our many every day challenges. I don’t know how she did it, but whenever I was feeling stressed during that first year – I looked to my right and I knew May would help me to calm down. If there was ever a time I needed May’s calming influence, it was now. May lost her mom, one of her sisters and two other family members a couple of years back, so I thought if anybody could help me in my search for answers on getting through this grief – it would be her, so I reached out to her for guidance.

“How could any Good come from our Grief?”

I shared with May how one of mom’s favorite sayings was “No hay mal que por bien no venga” {Good things can come from bad} but that I couldn’t even remotely understand how this could apply in dealing with the pain that I was experiencing.  May confided that one of her Mother’s signature phrases was, “Always Count Your Blessings / Find the Blessings In Every Situation”, but she also could not fathom how her dear Mother and sister’s passing could ever be viewed as blessings.  In fact, initially, it seemed more like a dreaded curse one would never wish upon another.  So as our mothers would have wanted us to, we started an in-depth philosophical search for answers to “What good could ever come from our grief?”

It was from this initial discussion at a Cuban-Brazilian restaurant with conga drum stools, that the need and idea for this book came about. She had a very similar experience to me, and had herself unsuccessfully searched for the same type of books and resources that  I had been searching for. It was from that meeting, and the many others that followed with her husband helping her get to them while recovering from foot surgery, and her great two daughters sitting by coloring while we developed the book’s concept – that “Good from Grief “ became a reality.

We set out in our research to identify a few specific examples of coping strategies that others had successfully used to move beyond their grief, but one theme rapidly emerged:

Grief is a force for Good worldwide.                            

It is empowering many grieving individuals to turn their grief into something positive.

These pivotal and genuinely life changing transformations are not a one-time phenomenon but are happening over and over again.  And, it is these stories of grief empowerment that we felt we would have appreciated, and needed to be heard and shared with others because they are truly inspiring examples of the best that the human spirit can achieve again and again despite enormous pain. 

288 Inspiring Twitter-sized Case Studies

In this book, we bring forward a collection of 288 uplifting stories of how ordinary people, in the midst of unimaginable pain, are turning their grief into something positive for all of us – every day. Through their actions and courage, they have helped us in our healing, and we hope it will help others.

This is a project that both May and I never envisioned being involved in, but it is also one that now we could never envisioned not bringing forward for others grieving, our families, our friends, our communities, and the 220 million that will grieve this year alone.

How Grief Empowers Positive Change in the World

We all grieve differently, and we are not sure we will ever come close to being able to turn our grief into the inspiring positive contributions the folks in this book have been able to, but their unselfish actions brought us a ray of light during some very dark times.

We may not have the strength now, but reading about the incredible commitment of these individuals through what had to have been one of the most painful times of their lives – gives us hope that someday we may get there ourselves – in our time and at our own pace.

In this book, we highlight a collection of some of the thousands of inspiring real life stories of superhuman courage we came across in our research. Stories of ordinary people who in the midst of unthinkable pain turned their grief into good. Through unrelenting advocacy, educational and awareness campaigns, fundraising, support of new laws, and other means – they put their own pain aside, and set out to help others. They, and their actions have been healing inspirations for us, and we are honored to be able to highlight some of their grief empowerment stories here.