Ask Golden Willow

It's not about you . . . or is it?


Dear Ted: Two years ago, my son died and I found myself in a complete spin, not knowing what was up or down. I felt that if all I could do was survive another second, that would be a victory. In the process, I ended up with a divorce and I quit my job. I feel that I have survived the fire of chaos and am now starting to build a new life. The other day a person close to me told me I had to quit only thinking about me and my survival and become aware of the others around me who cared. This startled me, but I realized I had become such an internal person that I wasn't very aware of other people's feelings or emotions. I may have been in a place of not being able to hold other people's "stuff," but in that process, I was pushing people away due to being entitled in expecting my needs to be seen, heard and valued but not reciprocating this important magic back to my loved ones. Have you seen this process happen to other people in the journey of healing from loss? Thanks, Diane

Dear Diane, It sounds like you're are an amazing survivor who is growth-oriented as well as open and caring to the relations around you. The loss of a child is an amazingly difficult loss with a pain for which there are no words that can come close to describing the intense and numerous emotions. To survive a loss, such as a child's death, your brain moves into survival mode.

Many people look for change outwardly, and at the same time, you move into a very personal mode in which your whole life is about you. The grief process is very self-centered as you move through internal and external chaos. You have to redefine so many aspects of yourself to navigate the present world around you.

Sometimes this "redefinition" can cause changes in relationships or jobs, and this can cause more loss and grief at a time you think you cannot handle any more. As your world settles back down and starts to find a new status quo, you may have picked up some new ways of behavior and internal thinking than before you experienced your losses.

Some of these behaviors may be healthy while other behaviors may have helped you survive but are no longer serving you. One survival skill that often plagues many people who experience loss or trauma is becoming self-centered and possibly entitled. You expect the world to listen to you, help you out, be aware of your wants and needs while forgetting that you need to do the same to keep a healthy and balanced relationship with those who love you.

By taking time to be aware of the people around you, you will open to new levels of mindfulness and gratitude. You will open your heart for others and allow you to realize what a gift it is to give emotionally to someone else. You will also become more aware of when another "gifts" you by making an effort to see, hear and value you. That is the true dance of relationships and healing from known and unknown losses.

Blessings on your new journey of healing through conscious gratitude and humility. Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Ted Wiard, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at (575) 776-2024 or

This column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.