Do we ever really get to the other side of grief? You may feel there is no end to grieving a devastating loss. Grief is powerful and overwhelming. At any moment a memory of your loved one pops in your mind and emotions take over. Sometimes it’s so real you can reach out and touch him or her. Does this mean you haven’t “healed,” or is it the reality of loving and missing your loved one? Grief lets us know how much they meant to us and will always live in our experience of life. We don’t forget them.

The experience of grief has a wide variation and strength of memories, feelings, and thoughts. A visual for understanding the process is to see grieving and healing as a spectrum, an ongoing process in the cycle of living each day.

Healing includes sadness along with all the other feelings you may experience. Healing a broken heart is a process. And in this process, the heart expands to include the emotions of grief right alongside joyful memories and some everyday comforting feelings.

Moment to moment, we can allow a bit of happiness in between the sadness. Sometimes we may feel it’s disloyal to be happy. But that’s just the either-or thinking of the mind, whereas the heart holds all things, feelings of sadness and happiness, guilt and gratitude.

Healing comes through getting to the incomplete emotional conversations that go on in your head and heart. Expressing regrets and remorse, resentments and anger, to a witness, a professional who has no agenda and no judgments regarding you or the person you are grieving, brings about understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. This is more effective and even more practical than talking directly to the person involved, so you can heal from the past even though the person has either passed or is not available.

Forgiving past actions, words, betrayals, does not mean forgetting him or her and the ups and downs of the relationship. Forgiveness is the action of saying “I forgive.” Feelings follow. The action may need to happen over and over. Forgiveness is a process, not an occasional act. We need to make forgiveness a permanent attitude.

As you go on living, keep on sharing, either in writing or talking, not suppressing the emotions that come up, taking it one day at a time, and you will find new hope, a new sense of wholeness. The more you heal your broken heart, the more fully you will be able to be present in your everyday life.

Devastating losses may leave a gaping hole of sadness, yet the heart can heal, it can expand to include more love and aliveness. Recovery from grief allows you to be capable of fully engaging in life.