GPS for Grief

GPS for Grief

Everybody seems to be using a GPS (Global Positioning System) system in their cars these days to know where they are going and how to get where they want to be. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we bereaved could just plug in a gadget to know where we were going and how to get there?! How much trouble that would save us in our struggle to know what direction to take, what crossroads to choose, which route is the fastest, and how long it will take. That would make our grief journey much smoother and easier to handle. After my two eldest children, twenty-one-year-old Denis and nineteen-year-old Peggy, died in a car accident, I sure could have used some clear-cut directions on how to survive. Now, years later, I could invent my own G-GPS (Grief-Global Positioning System) for the bereaved that would include:

Exact Route.

This would be a major challenge for my GGPS, since experts tell us there is no “one way” to grieve, that we all grieve differently. But this new GGPS, with the touch of the thumb, would pick up our DNA and know instantly which way to send us, which fork in the road we should pursue, which rest stop we should choose, and which points of interest would ease our pain. It would guide us to the homes of loving relatives and friends, steer us away from those trying “to fix” our grief and direct us to places that would soothe our souls. In brilliant color, like the yellow brick road, it would light up the path to the nearest support group where we could find friendship, understanding and hope.

Alternate Route.

For born shoppers like me who like to look at everything before making a decision, my new GGPS would offer a few choices that I could try to find just the right one for me. Since we have little energy and little desire to do much, we could start by picking simple things we can do each day, hoping to find what eases our pain and what we can handle without being overwhelmed. This GGPS would keep track of the helpful choices we discover so we can repeat them over and over again when we are having a tough day. It is also comforting to know this new GGPS can detect our feelings, knowing whether it is an up or down day for us and can provide an alternate route for us to fit our moods. This is the genius of the system, understanding that grief is a roller coaster ride with lots of scary twists and turns and steep valleys. It generously supplies information to confront those alarming conditions by providing a safe, comforting path to match our frame of mind. It could point out special prayers that whisper to our hearts, comforting music that sings to our souls, a precious book that motivates our wills or a fragrant flower that lifts our spirits. It will direct us along the scenic route feeding our need for nature’s beauty and renewal while shielding us from the bumper-to-bumper highways devoid of inspiration for our beleaguered spirits.

Wide Screen Map.

How helpful to get the big picture of grief, opening our eyes to the many facets involved in the Grief Process! For the newly bereaved, this feature alerts them to the tasks of grief that they must face and deal with in order to get to their destination of healing and having a meaningful life again. What a gift to be enlightened about the myriad of feelings we might encounter! It lifts a burden off our shoulders as we confront shock, disbelief, denial, bargaining, depression, guilt, anger and all the other feelings of grief, learning that they are part of the grief process. Our new GGPS shows us the lay of the land and what lies ahead for us to face, pointing out the grief work we must do to reach our destination.

Colored Map.

Our GGPS provides an explicit, vivid map for us to follow by feeding us with questions to write about, prompting us to keep a journal, jotting down our thoughts and feelings about the things that give us a boost and those that are devastating for us. Just looking over what we have written points us in the right direction showing us what to continue doing and what to avoid, which people to stay away from and which places or social situations are too painful for us right now. It also gives us a chance to say what we wanted to say but never did. It allows us to be the “keeper” of precious memories. Like a rainbow or a flash of lighting, our emotions paint a colorful map for us to follow.

Voice-Prompted Directions.

We get many of these from various sources, but our GGPS would allow only soothing words from those loving people who do not put us on a timetable or tell us what to do. It would sense and delete insensitive comments. That would probably be the best selling feature of this system. It would protect us from feeling the sting of those painful comments that might cause us to veer off the road of recovery into a ditch of depression. This GGPS would also enable us to hear that tiny voice from within that cheers us on to believe, “I think I can,” and guides us to choose life. The “step-by-step” directions are like a faithful lighthouse, illuminating our thoughts, sparking ideas and inspiring us to action one step at a time as we find our way through the maze of grief.

Predictive Text.

These words can steer us from problem areas. We can be more aware of the pitfalls that are out there; the potholes of grief that we want to avoid. We are advised to deal with our feelings rather than ignoring them or stuffing them down inside us to erupt later. We’re guided to wear out our guilt, to find the source of our anger, to reinvest our love and to rediscover our inner strength and innate center of peace. Paying attention to Predictive Text could make our journey shorter and more bearable.


This feature enables us to try many different ways to grieve, not being tied down to one method. We might want to smash that tennis ball, whack that golf ball, walk the dog, run the marathon, hike the treadmill, stroll the beach, pray in church, howl at the moon, scream in the shower or cry in the car. We find what works for us, what gives us energy and the will to keep going. Today’s challenges will lead us to new meaning and purpose. We try to remain open and receptive to life’s lessons, gaining a new level of understanding and awareness as we explore new roads and highways through grief.

Radar Detectors.

How wonderful to be alerted that there is a nearby reason to slow down! This new GGPS would warn us about the people to keep at arms’ length until we are strong enough to deal with them, especially those urging us to “get over it.” It would caution us about the overuse of alcohol and drugs to ease our pain. It would steer us from social activities we are not ready for yet, and it would gladly inform us about new ways to make time to relax, meditate and pamper ourselves. This would be like having our own Guardian Angel watching over us twenty-four hours a day.

Touch-Screen Display.

This marvelous invention would keep us in touch with our feelings. With a touch of the finger, we would be reminded to appreciate each person who “walks with us,” to be in touch with God and all of God’s blessings in our lives and to reach out to other bereaved persons to share what we have learned. The touch-screen display feature would keep us keyed in to beauty as we can gaze with admiration at a sunrise, count the stars in the sky, feel the power of the ocean or the majesty of the mountains and be renewed with nature’s bounty. It sparks a sense of fresh energy and excitement within us.

POI (Points of Interest).

We don’t want to miss any place that might be a beacon of light and hope for us. This new GGPS would happily inform us of points of interest along the way that could offer a menu for healing. It would alert us to churches, libraries, museums, theatres, spas, gyms, boat rides, bike paths, support groups or any program that would stir us into action. It would invite us to step out of the house to reconnect with life.

Where Am I?

This marvelous feature helps us find the closest hospitals, police stations and fuel stations. Its ultra-thin stylish design fits in our pockets or purses to be taken with us to navigate on foot and find our way back to our vehicle while visiting parks, stadiums, theatres and malls. In our grief, we do tend to get confused and find it hard to concentrate or remember. How safe we feel when we have a Godsend like this. To know we will not be lost encourages us to try new things. We do not want to be sidetracked or delayed in our quest for peace and harmony in our lives. We know our lives have forever changed, that this is not a short-term process, or a long-time process, but rather a lifetime process. We learn to use whatever it takes to point us to true north, discovering a meaningful life again. So, what do you think? Should I hurry and get a patent for my GGPS?

About the Author

Wife, mother, grandmother, educator, author and speaker, Elaine E. Stillwell, M.A., M.S., shares her gifts of hope and inspiration with the bereaved, simply telling what she has learned to cope and survive following the deaths of her two oldest children, 21-year-old Denis and 19-yearold Peggy, in the same 1986 automobile accident. In addition to being Founder and Chapter Leader of The Compassionate Friends of Rockville Centre, Long Island, New York, (along with her husband Joe), she is Bereavement Coordinator for Ministry to Families, Diocese of Rockville Centre, reaching out to the bereaved in 134 parishes and also organizing and training the bereavement facilitators through special conferences and enrichment programs. Elaine shares her unique gifts of caring and humor with audiences across the United States at workshops and seminars, in radio and television appearances, and through magazine articles and her 65 minute DVD, Helping Your Heart Through Grief, Volumes I and II. She is the author of two crafts books for bereaved children, Sweet Memories and A Forever Angel (Centering Corporation); two pamphlets for grieving adults, Healing After Your Child’s Death and Stepping Stones for the Bereaved (Liguori Publications), and a book for parents who have lost a child of any age, The Death of a Child (ACTA Publications).

Mar 6th 2020 Elaine E. Stillwell, M.A., M.S.

Recent Posts