JUSTin Time: The Power Behind a Red Door

“Accept the Loss and Face it Honestly”

In January, the Quad-City Times featured an article in their Health section on grief. A sidebar to that article was on “Grief’s 5 stages and recovery tasks,” as outlined by Dr. Erling Larson, chaplain and grief counselor with Genesis Health System. 

1. Accept the loss and face it honestly. This also means taking an inventory of other significant losses in the life of the one grieving and considering the secondary losses related to the primary one.

2. Release emotions. Grieve honestly and don’t cover up your feelings.

3. Store good memories. Carry good memories of the person who was lost in your heart. Recovering does not mean forgetting.

4. Separate your identity from the person, from what you have lost.

5. Reinvest in life. Part of the healing process is to begin to think and act outside yourself.

These are five tasks that need time and a lot of thought to let them really sink in. So my next series of posts will focus on each of Dr. Larson’s stages and recovery tasks, which he cites as being the work of John James and Russell Friedman in their book, “The Grief Recovery Handbook.

According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, known for her 1969 book entitled “On Death and Dying,” Denial and Isolation are the first stage of grief. Denial can be as mild on the spectrum as saying you’re fine when you’re not, or as extreme as ignoring that fact that your loved one is not coming back.

To be honest, thinking in terms of Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief can be a bit depressing. So I like the positive spin that Dr. Larson takes by adding recovery tasks.

Accepting the loss and facing it honestly is nothing that will happen overnight, that’s why it’s part of a stage. Here are some things I think qualify as accepting the loss:

  • Beginning to think in terms of “me” rather than “we” again;
  • Doing things you want to do, not necessarily just sticking to the routines of what you and your loved one always did;
  • Smiling in memory of your loved one rather than always turning to tears;

How are you accepting your loved one’s loss?

Taking inventory of other losses in your life is also important. Nothing will compare to the lose of your loved one, but you’re probably also experiencing losses in terms of:

  • Friendships changing;
  • Family members may drift away;
  • You no longer have a routine to your life and may not know what to do with your extra time;
  • You may face a change in job or career;
  • Going from an “us” to a “me.”

The list of secondary losses can go on, and is different for everyone.

I think the important take away is that if you don’t accept your loss and face it honestly, then there won’t be room in your life to come to terms with these secondary losses. This is when we get stuck in the stage of Denial and Isolation and don’t give ourselves a chance to really heal and continue on to the next step.


– Kelly

Kelly Hendershot has been active with Gilda’s Club since 2008 as a family member, bereaved, intern, group facilitator and president of the Associate Board.