In Part One of this two-part series, I introduced you to two broad coping styles that I've noticed in adolescents facing the loss of a brother or sister. Since these processes seem to apply to grownups, too, I've summarized them in case they might be of help. Below, I introduce you to styles three and four. Just remember that you may relate to these styles, or you may not at all. Your grief, like you, is unique.
The Replacement: Like the Old Souls discussed in part one, Replacements feel the need to take care of other grievers in their lives, and they do so by trying to fill the very big shoes of the person that has died. Replacements are thoughtful, empathetic grievers who may even suffer from survival guilt, feeling that perhaps they should have died instead of the loved one that did. Replacements may find themselves gravitating toward the hobbies and relationships of the person that died, and they may feel pressured to keep the memory of their loved one alive at all costs. This is an enormous burden for a grieving person to bear. If you're feeling like a replacement, take a minute to practice "I" statements in the mirror, or write them down in your journal. What do YOU need in your grief? Examples may include: "I need to forgive myself and feel forgiven by others if I can't always keep the memory of my loved one alive" or "I need to find ways to stop feeling guilty". Finding a therapist to help you cope with the burden of guilt, loss, and pressure can be immensely helpful as you maintain your own unique desires and wishes as you grieve.
The Rubber Band: Like a rubber band, these grievers stretch, but snap back instead of breaking. Interestingly enough, they experience all the feelings of the Old Soul, Breakaway, and Replacement as they grieve, but with time, they settle into their own unique way of grieving. This may be through therapy, practicing art, visiting a memorial site, or creating a unique grief ritual. Research suggests that most grievers are, in fact, Rubber Bands. In the face of loss and hardship, most of us find ways to create meaning from our loss and find a deeper connection to our loved ones through time and space. Rubber Bands benefit from trusting, non-judgmental relationships, supportive role models, and personal spiritual practices like meditation, prayer, or yoga. Rubber Bands come in all shapes and sizes, but they endure their grief and find ways to maintain their shape.
How do you feel about these coping styles? Can you relate to them, or would you like to add a few more to the list? I'd love to hear your ideas about grief and grieving, and share more of mine with you. If you know a teen who has recently lost a brother or sister or would like to learn more about these coping styles, check out my book, Grieving for the Sibling You Lost.
If you feel you're struggling through grief, know that you don't have to go through it alone. We stand ready to help you here at the Center for Growth. Just give us a call today.