Working through grief cannot be rushed, and everyone deals with it in different ways. (Photo credit: pxhere)

Working through grief cannot be rushed, and everyone deals with it in different ways. (Photo credit: pxhere)

There is no single way to deal with grief, but there are tools to help

Take time to grieve in your own way, and accept the supports that others can offer

By Elvenia Gray-Sandiford

We will all experience loss, and need to grieve that loss at some point in our lives. Some common losses include the death of a loved one, death or miscarriage of a child, or the loss of a job.

Even when we think we are prepared for the anticipated loss, it can still have a powerful effect on us. These situations signify an end of something significant in our lives. This is now a part of our life story.

Grief is a unique experience for each individual, and working through it can’t be rushed. It takes commitment, mindfulness, time, and patience to push through the loss. Experiencing loss can create fear and the illusion of insecurity, and likely throw our whole system off-balance. The more significant the loss, the harder grieving is likely to be.

As a society, we despise pain and suffering, and can get paranoid about loss and grief. We often view grieving as the opposite of happiness, and something we must quickly get over to restore balance and happiness. Sometimes, when the pain is too great, rather than accepting the process to grief, we learn to avoid or relieve pain through activities like comfort eating, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or just keeping ourselves busy.

These actions may bring temporary relief, but they will never be the answer to healing our wounded heart. Instead, they will offer us more sadness and grief each time reality sets in, forcing us to revert to more temporary relief.

Grief is unpredictable. It is not a problem which requires a solution or demands an answer. It cannot be put in a timeline. We need to grieve to restore our balance, yet we have to be very mindful not to get stuck in the process by allowing grief to become our identity. We are not defined by our tragedies, and healing is so much more than just talking through it.

Depression and anxiety can take over when the adrenaline that carried us through the initial shock wears off, or when our supporters get back to their normal life routines. That’s when we find ourselves confronting grief at a deeper and lonelier level, and it may feel like continuous midnight.

Often without knowing it, we go into denial because we believe that we are not strong enough to work through it. However, we must believe that we have profound strength to carry on and heal. We can walk through loss and grief in a way that leads us to health and wholeness. By understanding the stages of grief, we can find healthier ways to cope. A loss not grieved stays in our body, and manifests and keeps compounding each time we have an emotional set-back or a disappointment.

While there’s no one way to grieve, there are tools we can use to help the process. Where do we begin, to move in a new direction? Instead of ignoring our feeling, we need to release the pressure by acknowledging what we are feeling, and allow ourselves to feel it for a bit. The act of naming what we are feeling allows us to stand in truth. We are much more than just our thoughts and feelings. Life will be different now, but this is not the end.

Care for your heart: Pay attention to your heart. Your heart does not know time, and it cannot be ordered to heal. Listen to it. Care for it. Show compassion to yourself, then allow your heart the time and space it needs to heal.

People will want to tell us to “move on” or “get over it,” or will say “Aren’t you past this yet?” Only you know your own heart. Listen to it, and validate what it is feeling. Take those walks. We will cry when we need to. Pay attention to what you are thinking about and adjust the thoughts from negative to positive. Sleep (even if it’s hard), eat (even if food is unpalatable), and exercise (even if you are unmotivated). These are necessary to the physical body, and actually aid our bodies in recovery from grief.

Embrace the change: Change is always hard, but loss brings change that alters us. Values, priorities, and commitments can easily get thrown out the window. Routines and things we enjoyed may now seem trivial or pointless.

To minimize the stress and burden of change, try not to make major decisions in the first few months or year after loss. This could include deciding to move or undertaking a major career shift.

Welcome support: Welcome others to support you. When we grieve, it is tempting to isolate. This is challenging when sadness threatens to overwhelm us. Be mindful of your health: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Be open to having your physician as a part of the process; they can often see things (physical and mental) that we may overlook.

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