Grieving: Landmarks and milestones
By Leanne Billiau
Change does not come all at once, as we sometimes wish it would. Instead, it happens in small bits and pieces, over time. This is why it can be difficult to recognize the progress you are making along your grief journey.
Mrs. S had been married to her husband for 47 years and had always referred to him as her anchor. When he died she said she felt lost at sea, drifting aimlessly. She wanted to know where the landmarks were and how she would recognize the milestones on what she was afraid would be a long and perilous journey through grief.
I pointed out the landmarks that I noticed and the ones she was describing to me. They were things like seeing her smile for the first time; the first time she said his name without feeling a lump in her throat; being able to concentrate long enough to read something; and getting through an hour without thinking of him.
Over time, she began noticing these subtle shifts in her own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. She noticed when she slept through the night for the first time and when she felt joy without guilt immediately following it, that these were milestones for her, as was the first time that, on his birthday, she was able to share happy memories and to celebrate his life instead of feeling the pain of his absence.
While no two people will experience grief in exactly the same way or in the same time frame, we can all learn to notice the changes that are happening within ourselves. We can learn to recognize the landmarks and to gratefully acknowledge the milestones along our life’s journeys.
“Look well into thyself.
There is a source of strength which will always spring up
if thou will always look there.”