On December 17, 2010, my son Mike ended his life on this planet. Yes, he died of suicide. And so began my journey of walking the path of grief into healing.

Now this walk is not one that any of us have chosen. Many were hurled here without warning, those that did have warning were often overwhelmed before this all began.

This sort of loss is complicated and traumatic. It’s sometimes hard to keep our focus and find our direction. Be assured, that these are all completely natural and normal human reactions.

When things are the most muddled and confusing, I find it can be tremendously helpful to step back. Sometimes quite literally! Remove ‘me’ from the thoughts, feelings, conversations, and behaviors of myself and others. Become ‘The Observer’.

Imagine what the current situation (whatever it is) might look, sound, and feel like to someone who knows nothing about what is happening.

Perhaps someone from far, far away. With no history that connects to any of us, what would they see? Most of the time when I do this, I can easily imagine The Observer is aware of people who are in great distress. Doing the best they know how to do.

The one who is telling others what they should be feeling, or perhaps tells others that they don’t care? The Observer may become aware that this person is feeling confused about how to express their own fears about those who are also grieving. They may be judging their own behavior of the past very harshly.

The one who… fill in the blank. We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s as simple as that. We imagine that we know and understand what is happening within ourselves and everyone else as well, but the truth is that we can’t know all of these things, at least not as humans. It becomes easier for us once we recognize that reality.

The one who never sheds a tear? That some have decided is cold and unfeeling? Perhaps The Observer is able to see that this person is in such deep pain that they might fall apart if they let the tears begin.

Let your own tears fall. They are cleansing and healing. It’s okay. When the accusations come, let them go on by, and remind yourself how much you always loved this person and always will.

Feel the love. In the end, love is all that matters.

The rest will heal. In time and with work. And oh boy is it work! At the same time, it is work that is so worthwhile because you see as we continue to do the grief work, we heal and that helps us to feel that ongoing love more fully. To embrace gentle memories. To remember smiles, hands holding ours. The life we will always cherish and celebrate.

This exercise allows us to see or at least consider seeing things from the point of view of others.

There have been more times than I can count that people who I know in my heart love me. And they have sometimes said awful things. They didn’t say those things to hurt me, they were expressing themselves as best they could at that moment, from their own vantage point.

Step back. Take a deep breath. Let some of the anxiety go.

Yes, I fully realize that this is easier said than done. At the same time, I want to assure you that it becomes easier with practice.

Once we are able to take that step back, and hold open the possibility that even those who are hurting us are really doing the best they can at this moment, we experience much less stress.

In its place, a feeling of compassion for ourselves and others can emerge. You might be surprised how much easier stepping back gets with practice and more importantly and how your perspective enlarges.

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Certified Grief Coach Sandy Walden