Statistics say that it can take some five to eight years to recover from a devastating loss of a significant loved one in your life.

When my hero and best friend (Marty) died, I thought that I was going to die too. In a way, I did just that! I did die. My broken heart and my longing to see and talk to him was more than I could bear. Not only that, there were things just he and I did together or talked about and then all of a sudden he was no more. The painful thought of living without him kept me in a prolonged state of isolation. He died on the first Monday in June, and now every first Monday in June is like a dentist hitting a nerve in my mouth, and in my heart and eyes I relive that moment over and every year with tears.

Statistics say that it can take some five to eight years to recover from a devastating loss of a significant loved one in your life. It indeed took me even longer to work through the painful emotions as I tried to understand it all. I felt so alone. I felt no one understood. I knew every June going forward would have no meaning. He was not only my dearest and best friend, but he was a touchstone to every element of my life! Marty served as the Chairman of the church board where I worked. He was my co-worker in calling, teaching, my traveling companion to Christian conventions, and special events.

How could this preacher survive without him? Yes, I was a grown man, but that didn't matter. "It just takes time," everyone told me. Marty’s family and friends tried to console me. The funeral director and church members tried as well. They all kept telling me "Time heals all wounds. Time will pass, and you will feel better." So, I waited for time and time passed and time passed. Sure, time will always change things, situations, and we even change with time, but what about my broken heart? No one ever told me that there was a provision. No one ever shared about this thing called the grief journey, the grief experience, or the grief work. No one told me that I wasn't alone, or that my feelings were normal and natural responses to loss.

If you are where I was, this message is for you. You are not alone, and you don't have to wait solely on time alone for that sinkhole in your heart to fill with whatever “time” fills it with. Here are three suggestions to help you navigate through the wasteland of grief.

Give yourself permission to grieve. Acknowledge that the painful emotions you are feeling are normal and natural responses to loss, so go ahead and experience them, whatever they are for you: anger, sadness, guilt, regret, loneliness, disappointment, fear, etc. Give them a name whatever they are.

Understand that no one can tell you how to grieve. Just as we have our unique DNA or fingerprint, our grief journey will be exclusive to us. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for grief.

Accept that the only way out, to see the light again, is to go through. Make the decision to experience your grief so that you can move forward and live your life. Yes, you must utterly live the rest of your life. How can you honor the life and legacy of your loved one? What legacy will you leave? Living a well-lived life is always a great place to start!

Your life going forward will be different, but it can have a productive meaning and purpose. May God bless you with wonder, love, and light on your grief journey!

John T. Catrett, III serves as a Chaplain with ONHL Hospice. ONHL Hospice currently provides services to the majority of Northeastern Oklahoma but is available to accept patients statewide. Learn more at http://onhlhospice.com.