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In this video, Dr. Wolfelt provides three different lenses through which we can view the process of grief and the movement from pain to acceptance.

Hello Before Goodbye

Throughout history, people have responded to the loss of loved ones by gathering together for days to be with each other and with the body. Today, we tend to adopt a mentality that encourages us to rush through the proceedings. Many of us feel that we must accept the loss quickly so that we can get the goodbyes behind us. Those who came before us had a better grasp of the concept of grief. They knew that to get to goodbye, you had to start with hello.

Darkness Before Light

Traditionally, people wore mourning clothes and death symbols when a loved one passed away. There was an understanding that downward movement in the psyche must precede any kind of movement toward the light. Now, there is a tendency to try to put a positive spin on everything. Common, light-based messages such as “God wouldn’t give you anything more than you can bear” may sound inspirational, but can actually be counterproductive to the health of those who are mourning. People must be affirmed when they are in the dark, for this is the path to eventual light.

Backward Before Forward

These days, most of the messages that people receive after experiencing a loss are forward moving: “carry on,” “keep your chin up,” “I’ve got somebody for you to meet.” But it is essential that we move backward before going forward. Once again, the wisdom of history prevails. Our ancestors understood the importance of taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture before blindly attempting to move forward. Taking the time to mourn, reflect, and support each other is a critical part of the healing process.

Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at


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