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Grief And Recovery
Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD, Isadora R. Rosenbaum, MA and Sabrina Selim, MD

To the survivor, grief may seem endless and recovery impossible. Nevertheless, a process does begin whereby grief and recovery occur simultaneously in alternating patterns and moods. Of course, nothing is ever the quite the same again. The survivor's attitudes may be permanently altered by the long acquaintance will illness, suffering and death; quite likely he or she will emerge from the ordeal a stronger, more mature person.

The means and length of time required for recovery will vary. Those who are alone will have a more difficult time and may need additional and continuing support from clergy, social workers or the medical team to help them through their period of grief.

Slowly a new pattern of life evolves. At first the bereaved may feel guilty when experiencing brief episodes of enjoyment. To feel happiness may seem inappropriate, like being a traitor. Yet it is these interludes of enjoyment that gradually create new hope. As they accumulate, they coalesce into a new vision of the future, and the survivor becomes able to acknowledge emotionally what he or she always knew intellectually: that vitality and involvement with others will return.

Little by little, the painful memories of the departed person's suffering and illness become less poignant, and it becomes easier to relive and enjoy thoughts of earlier, happier times. From these cherished memories the bereaved may also derive courage, by identifying with the positive qualities of the person who is gone. At the same time, the survivor begins to recognize with diminishing guilt that his or her own needs continue.

This is the turning point.

There is no prescribed time that elapses before a grieving person begins to mobilize his or her interests toward the present and the future. There is no line of demarcation between grief and recovery. Old memories are kept alive while new ones are being created.

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