There’s really no other way of describing it for me. But, at the same time, it’s an inevitable part of life, which most of us will experience at some point or other.
Grief is painful and it hurts us in a way like nothing else. It’s very easy to point the finger at ourselves for the very reason why we’re grieving as we can feel guilty, shameful and anxious, but in doing so a snowball effect takes place which can spiral our emotions out of control.
Grief can leave you feeling helpless, with a lack of hope and not knowing which way to turn.
Unfortunately, part of being human means we identify loss with an ending, and the thought of something ending is what promotes sadness and, at times, despair.
This is conditioned in us, and probably in our DNA. We see and attach sadness with something that is finalised, whether that is a friendship, relationship, job or death. The brain instantly thinks ”PAIN, SADNESS, DESPAIR” when something ends.
Yet, what if we look at this differently? What if we could understand why there is a link between grief and something ending?
I think the core reason why we suffer so much is due to our attachment to someone or something that has gone. Sure, attachment is expected to a degree, but I see many, many people emotionally attached in what is a co-dependent way, which is extremely unhealthy.
This is where suffering lies.
So with ending I think we need acceptance. Acceptance is allowing what is without a co-dependent attachment, which is what creates despair.
Another thing that I see all too often is people suppressing and ignoring the grieving process. They cover up like a turtle in its shell, hiding away to avoid facing the pain. And when they’re around others they hold a stiff upper lip, stick their chest out as though everything is okay and crack on.
I get it, and I’ve been that person so I resonate with those who do similar.
But, this approach doesn’t facilitate the grieving process. What it will do is edge us closer to having a breakdown in the near future if we’re not mindful.
It’s really important that we allow ourselves to experience the grieving process, and with that in mind I’d like to share with you 8 tips on how to cope with grief and loss.
1. This too shall pass.
As hard as it may be at the time, it’s worth constantly affirming to yourself that feeling this way isn’t going to last forever.
Accept and allow what you feel, but cast your mind back to previous situations where you’ve lost someone or something. Did you get out of the rut you may have been once in? Can you remember how you were feeling as time went by?
The thing is, if we don’t tell ourselves that this spell will pass, we subconsciously give ourselves permisson to enter a state which can be very negative, and one which can last a long, long time if we’re not careful. It’s so easy to slip under that dark cloud and feel like all hope is gone and that we’re going to be like this for good.
I can use myself as an example here.
If we can accept, allow, but always affirm that this too shall pass, we are coaching our mind to see it from a more positive stance, which bit by bit is aiding us towards making progress with seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
2. Know there is a difference between grief and depression.
As I mentioned above in point number 1; it is very easy to slip into a state of depression through not grieving correctly if we’re not careful.
Grieving is a period of getting over the shock of loss. It’s the brain having to adapt to a change that it held on to. It’s a transition of acceptance that something isn’t the way it once was on a psychological and emotional level, and to let that go towards feeling freedom.
But this can take time.
Depression can stem very easily from grieving, which I’ve witnessed on a number of occasions. Be very mindful and pay close attention as to whether you’re spiraling on a downwards slope for a prolonged period of time.
Despite grieving being hard – and that there’s no time frame to it – it will get easier and it shouldn’t stop you from wanting to do anything; not long-term anyway. That is depression.
3. Pay attention to your physical health.
A common byproduct when grieving is that people’s physical health can suffer.
Many lose weight due to not eating enough with feeling anxiety, stress and sadness. On the contrary, there’s some who overeat when they are suffering stress as this acts as a form of comfort.
Either way, when emotions are high, so are our hormones which can send signals throughout our body, so it is important we pay attention to the feelings and sensations we’re receiving – specifically during a period of stress and grief.
By becoming aware of our habits we can change them at any point. Ask yourself if you are eating too little or too much? Am I losing or gaining weight? Do I feel sluggish or comfortable? What types of foods am I eating? Is my fluid intake adequate?
Try to keep the body moving during this time too. There may be days when exercise is the last thing you want to do, but this should be the exception and not the rule. Be mindful of excuses you may make to get out of exercising or moving the body. Be honest with yourself.
Commit to getting some fresh air by going for a simple walk, or if you feel up to it, go to the gym and do a short workout just to get the body moving and to release some endorphins. When you have finished, stop and give yourself a pat on the back for making the effort to go.
Even little bits of exercise whilst grieving can be enough to start a domino effect which impacts your overall mood.
4. Remove self-blame.
Watch out for the voice in the head playing the blame game.
Often during grieving we encounter thoughts like ”I should’ve/could’ve done more..”, and ”It’s my fault this happened”. This needs to stop.
Sadly, there’s no rewinding the clock as to whatever has happened, so forgiveness and letting it go is imperative here.
Am I really responsible for this or am I allowing my mind to convince me that I am? What would I say to a friend who was feeling the same as me right now? Will I see an improvement taking the hit for this and living my life feeling this way, or is it in my interest to let it go and focus on moving forward?
These are some basic questions you can keep asking. There’s no rewriting history; it is done and we have to move on in order to be peaceful.
5. Plan your next step.
A good tool to move forward is to plan some next steps.
This stops you from entering into that dark rut we talked about earlier. It helps you make some short (or long) term goals and to work towards them. By doing so, it will give you the drive and motivation to move forward and return to normality, as it were.
Perhaps you will commit to going away with your partner and/or family for a weekend break in 2 months? Maybe you will sign up to that race in 12 weeks time knowing you have got to train to complete it?
Or, how about arranging to go to that gig you discussed with a friend before you were in the situation you’re in now?
Next steps don’t have to be necessarily big – it’s about doing something – committing to something, big or small to stop you from regressing.
6. Go at your own pace.
Following on nicely from the point above, is to do everything at your own pace.
The last thing we want when we’re grieving and feeling stressed is to be under – or put ourselves under – pressure. This is a time to be gentle to ourselves.
If you need a few weeks off work, then take it. Don’t feel like seeing many people initially? Then don’t. You only feel like chatting to that friend over the phone for 10 minutes who you normally would do for an hour? That’s fine.
This is your time. But, remember: this should not be used as an excuse to live this way on a continual basis, just a temporary thing until the cobwebs come off.
7. Allow all emotions.
During grieving especially, this is the time to simply allow whatever it is you’re feeling.
Playing the hero really isn’t going to make you deal with emotions. I understand why people put on a brave face – and there’s certainly times when we need to – but I can wholeheartedly say that if you truly want to heal and come out the other side during a grieving period, then allowing what you’re feeling is the only way you’re going to do it.
You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. You don’t owe anyone a facade, but you owe it to yourself to be real with what you’re feeling.
Remember: suppression = prolonged pain. Allowance and feeling your emotions = acceptance and moving forward.
8. Reach out to others.
This is a time to lean on the people who matter most in your life.
Don’t think you’re a burden to anyone and talk openly to family and friends. If there are people in your life who aren’t open to supporting you during a time of grief, then I’d strongly suggest reviewing your close environment.
Pick up the phone or go round to see someone you value who can listen to you. Maybe there is someone who has been through similar and can share some pearls of wisdom?
What would you suggest to a close friend if it was them in the same position?
You’re valued by others – don’t forget that.
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