Several of our family here have recently either experienced the loss of a loved one, or are facing the imminent loss of a cherished friend. Whether through death or breakup, the steps to working through that loss are quite similar. Even the loss of awareness of someone close to you, in the instances of Alzheimer's or coma, for example, are indeed a form of death. Grieving is part of the healing process each of us must go through in order to become whole again. Good grief! Is there such a thing? No experience of grief feels good. Quite the opposite. The grieving feelings we all have from time to time can fill us with sorrow, despair, remorse, guilt, shame, anger, fear - all powerful, negative emotions. As well, grief is universal and inescapable. It is something we all encounter at some stage in our lives. There is no such thing as good grief, but there is 'good grieving'. Put simply, grief is about loss and grieving is how we handle loss. Good grieving is about being able to work effectively through our feelings of loss, whatever their causes, circumstances or reasons. Good grieving occurs when we are able to work through our feelings of loss within a supportive, accepting and understanding environment. Good grieving occurs when our grief pain is recognised and acknowledged. Good grieving permits highly individual responses to loss and the way it is expressed. Good grieving brings about positive resolution of our grief and doesn't leave us with unfinished business. Nobody can grieve for us. The feelings are profoundly personal and deeply emotional. But others can grieve with us. Grieving should neither be hurried nor delayed. We all have a unique grief timetable and our responses and expressions are very individual. What's more, grief can get us in touch with old, unresolved grieving from our childhood or other life experiences and we may find ourselves dealing with contemporary and archaic grief situations at the same time. There are a number of 'steps' we need to have completed to have experienced 'good grieving'. (1) Accepting the reality of the loss is always important. Initially this may be just too difficult and we can't face it for a while. When the reality hits us, so does the grief. Grieving won't happen until then. (2) Experiencing the pain of grief, although difficult, is vital. Grief pain has an agenda all of its own. The greater the sense of loss the deeper and more disturbing is the pain. Deep feelings of grief are unequalled, almost unbearable, emotionally volatile and often beyond our control. Although frightening, they are natural and need to be expressed. We should never feel ashamed of such feelings. (3) Adjusting to our changed environment is a necessary step for good grieving. Remember we all take these steps in different ways and at different paces. We may have been retrenched or gone through a divorce. Our partner may have died or we have become incapacitated through an accident or illness. Whenever we experience loss we need at some stage to make an adjustment to our changed circumstances. Good grieving helps us to do that. (4) Letting go of our feelings of attachment is required of us. Let me explain. Attachment can come in many forms. It is essentially the depth of "connectedness" we have with people, things we own, or things we do. Love is a very deep attachment. Grieving is letting go of the energy of love. It is not saying good-bye to our love for that person. We can be attached to our house or dog. The deeper the emotional energy we have invested the more difficult will be the 'letting go'. Our job may have given us security, recognition and satisfaction. The loss of our job could mean we are now divested of these things and we are required to 'let go' of the position which gave them to us. (5) Looking beyond the loss becomes a courageous step we all must take at some time. This will depend on the type of loss we have experienced. We may be required through radical changes in circumstances to have to 'get on with our lives' economically, socially or vocationally. If it is a death of a loved one, it may seem a betrayal to look beyond the relationship. If it was a relationship breakdown, we may feel too bruised to 'get involved' again. Given time and good grieving, even this step at some stage will seem more possible. At some stage we will all have to live our lives on the other side of the losses we experience. Good grieving will help us to do this.