Grief is the emotional response to loss and is a universal, yet profoundly personal journey. It can leave you feeling sad, lonely, angry, and numb. Sometimes grief can feel like a tidal wave that knocks you off your feet and other times it might resemble a quiet undercurrent, subtly affecting your daily life.
Understanding and dealing with grief requires compassion, patience, and self-awareness because here is the thing, it doesn’t ever go away and you don’t magically move on. You won’t suddenly wake up one morning healed, it takes time to find your new “normal” because grief changes you forever. While we cannot remove the sadness or heal our hearts magically, we can learn how to process grief in a healthy way, leading us to feel incrementally lighter and better able to function, amidst the pain.
1. Varieties of Grief
Grief isn’t always a result of death. It can occur after experiencing a relationship ending, losing a job, or witnessing a tragedy. Acknowledge your feelings without judgment, understanding that grief can stem from various circumstances and they are all valid.
2. Stages of Grief
Although not a linear process, understanding the stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - can be a helpful roadmap. Recognize that you might oscillate between these stages, over and over and it is entirely okay to do so.
Developing Coping Strategies
3. Acceptance and Self-Compassion
Allow yourself the space to feel your emotions without any pressure to "move on" or "get over it". Understand that grieving is a deeply personal process, and everyone has their pace.
While the United States doesn't have any laws mandating Bereavement Leave, talk to your manager about taking some time off to process, even if it isn’t paid time off (see if your company has a program where other employees donate their unused vacation day for those who need them), take the time away, no one should have to sit at their desk and weep into their keyboard.
4. Seeking Support
Sometimes, the burden of grief feels too heavy to bear alone. Do not hesitate to reach out to friends, family, a professional therapist or grief counselor who can provide a listening ear and guidance.
We have a group specifically for grief which you can find here: https://www.supportgroups.com/grief
5. Expressive Outlets
Finding outlets to express your grief can be therapeutic. This might include journaling, art, music, or talking about your feelings and experiences.
6. Physical Health
Remember that your physical health is intrinsically linked to your emotional wellbeing. Try to maintain a routine that includes adequate sleep, nutrition, and physical activity. It is so easy to feed your pain with junk food and liquor and in moderation, that is fine, but remember, no amount of liquor or food will stop your heart from hurting.
7. Mindfulness and Meditation
Engaging in mindfulness practices or meditation can sometimes provide solace and a respite from the turmoil of grief. Quieting your mind and your thoughts is the relief we cry out for during grief, learning how to be mindful and meditate gives you this ability for a moment or moments in time. YouTube and other online sources have free guided meditations you can access.
Honoring the Loss
8. Memorials and Rituals
Creating memorials or engaging in rituals can help honor the memory of what or who has been lost. It can be a space to reflect, remember, and even find a semblance of closure. It is no wonder so many cultures prepare altars or other visible ways to remember those who are dead. Even if your culture or religion doesn’t do something like this, do your own version. Buy a bench in their name, plant a tree, frame a picture of them in a prominent place, create a safe space where you can go and grieve and remember.
9. Legacy and Learning
Sometimes, grief can be transformed into a powerful force for change. Channeling your grief into projects or causes that honor the legacy of the lost can be a way to find meaning and purpose.
10. Resilience and Growth
Over time, you might find that grief fosters resilience and growth. It can open up avenues for deeper connections, empathy, and a deep understanding of life's fragile beauty.
11. Future Planning
As you navigate through the tides of grief, remember to plan for a future where joy and happiness can coexist with your loss. It doesn't mean forgetting, but learning to live anew, bearing the marks of your experience with grace and wisdom.
Understanding and dealing with grief is a journey filled with challenges and learning. Be gentle with yourself as you navigate this complex terrain, knowing that it is okay to stumble and falter. Your grief will forever be a part of your life, but our hope for you is that it becomes lighter, less overwhelming, that the beautiful memories flood your thoughts and that you find a way to live a life that is meaningful.
Wishing you all the best,
*Through our partnership with BetterHelp, you get 10% off your first month. www.betterhelp.com/themisunderstood
Food for thought:
What is one thing you have learned about dealing with grief?
What is one thing you would share with someone dealing with grief that has helped you?
What is something you wish people would stop saying to you?