Losing someone you love is one of the most difficult moments a human being can experience. Grief is something that we all go through at some point in our lives but there is no rulebook to guide us through or a linear path to follow, the process of grieving can easily overwhelm us and there are unhealthy ways we can deal with grief and loss that can send us into a spiral. Read on to find out ten ways you can deal with grief and loss in a healthy way that will help you move forward.
What is grief?
First of all, what is grief and why do we experience it? Grief is the natural process that we experience when we lose something or someone. The sudden experience of grief can reveal itself in a multitude of ways and impact your physical, emotional, and mental health.
Types of loss
There are many types of loss. When we think about grief, we often think about the death of a loved one. However, other varying types of loss can trigger grief. A divorce or breakup, losing a job, having a miscarriage, the death of a pet, or seeing a loved one experience a serious or terminal illness can cause grief. Don’t ever feel ashamed about experiencing any type of grief. Whatever your loss, it is personal to you and you should find a healthy way to cope with your pain.
The five stages
Of course, there is no one way to deal with grief but there are five stages that a person usually goes through. The stages of grief is a theory introduced in 1969 by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, she believed that all people suffering from grief go through the following stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There isn’t a route to follow with these stages, a person can feel them in any order or more than once and some may last for a brief time and others may linger for years.
Everyone is different
There is no right or wrong when it comes to grieving a loss. Some people may feel numb and not identify with emotion at all, while others may feel angry and lash out. Just know that grief cannot be compared. Don’t react if someone around you is dealing with grief a little differently than you. Grief can also be influenced by your culture or family traditions on how to view loss. Grief is an ongoing journey, you may feel a certain way when it happens and your feelings will change over time. It can also surprise you and resurface at any time, when you least expect it. Be kind to yourself and to the people around you that are also dealing with the same loss.
Symptoms of grief
There are many ways that grief can manifest and just remember that all your feelings are valid and you are not alone. You may experience some panic or shock when you first experience the loss, followed by sadness or depression or even numbness or even relief if you have watched a loved one struggle with illness. You may also feel angry that this person was taken from you. Now all of these emotions don’t only apply to the death of a person you love, if you suddenly lose a job that you loved or a relationship ends after many years, you may feel similar emotions. Grief is not a rational thing and sometimes it can be overwhelming to try and make sense of it. Don’t analyze your grief, just feel the emotions when they arise and deal with them one at a time.
Unhealthy vs healthy ways to cope
Even though there is no right or wrong for how we grieve any type of loss in our life, there are some unhealthy ways we can deal with our pain. If you find yourself using coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol or substance misuse, this is an example of an unhealthy way to express your grief. Attempting to numb the pain with narcotics or seeking the answer at the bottom of a bottle is destructive and irresponsible. This impulsive behavior may lead to further issues and have detrimental effects on your overall health and wellbeing.
Talk to somebody if you find yourself engaging in any unhealthy behaviors or if you find yourself doing something out of the ordinary. There is a lot of help and support out there, both from the people closest to you to professionals who can help you come to terms with your grief. Another unhealthy strategy is ignoring the emotional pain you feel. If you don’t recognize the pain and find a way to move forward with it, you are at risk of being stuck in a cycle of denial and the grieving will only be more difficult and long-lasting.
Ask yourself an important question, “is this helping me and not hurting the people around me?” If the answer is no, then you may need to look at other coping strategies to deal with your grief. Some examples of healthy strategies include spending time with people who care for you and understand you, getting out of the house at least once a day to get some fresh air, seeing a therapist or counselor if you are struggling and being patient with yourself throughout the healing process.
Know that whatever you are feeling won’t last forever. Feelings are temporary and you can get through them. It’s human nature to avoid painful experiences, but if you avoid your emotions for too long, they are more likely to come back stronger when something triggers them. Be gentle with yourself and have no expectations of how you should grieve and when you should be moving on.
There are many myths about grief that are harmful to your healing journey. Don’t believe the myth of “the pain will go away faster if I ignore it.” Suppressing your emotions will only make it worse when it resurfaces later, it’s healthier for you to address each feeling as it comes and accept it.
Another myth is that you should “put on a brave face and be strong.” If you feel sad, lonely, frightened, or angry, this is a normal reaction to loss, and crying does not make you weak. Don’t feel like you need to protect your family or friends by putting on a brave face, only when you show your true feelings can any of them help you get through it.
A final myth around grief is how long it should last. Unfortunately, there is no timeframe for any type of grief or loss. It differs from person to person and can last longer the more significant the loss is. Don’t rush your grief, you may have years without feeling any form of grief and it suddenly arises, this is normal and you shouldn’t push it away.
Many people also believe that moving on with your life means you are forgetting about what or who you have lost and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Moving forward is not the same as forgetting. You can still keep the memory of what you have lost and move through life again, don’t feel guilty for moving forward, the world keeps spinning around no matter what and you should take it all one step at a time and you will get stronger each day.