Some situations in life do not have a step-by-step manual on how to get through. We know that loss is a natural part of life, yet we don’t talk about it often and certainly don’t get taught how to deal with it as a matter of regular course.
Most of us have experienced some form of grief at one time or another in our lives. It may be the obvious forms of grief related to death (of a beloved human or pet), a significant change in life (divorce/breakup, job/career changes, moves, medical issues, or friendships ending), or it could even be what we would call “anticipatory grief” (a parent realizing their child will grow up and leave one day, knowing that a relationship will likely end). It is an inescapable, inevitable aspect of our human experience and yet, somehow we never really know how to deal with it.
Grief can be overwhelming, confusing, and unpredictable. We may feel completely fine one moment and something, without a noticeable trigger, sends us into sadness and depressed mood. Conversely we may find we are stuck in the sadness and suddenly we feel okay, cheerful even. It comes at goes at whim.
The path through a loss is not straightforward, and everyone deals with it differently. While one person might proceed through their day as though “everything is fine”, another might have difficulty getting out of bed. Some might cope in unhealthy ways, such as using alcohol or entering into adrenaline-infused relationships to forget. Some might even say they feel guilty if they aren’t crying or distraught. There is no one right way to deal with grief and sadness, but there are some healthy ways to get yourself through it.
In the immediate aftermath of a loss, there is often some shock (especially if it was an unexpected one), so being very gentle with yourself is essential. We may want to isolate, but it is important to surround ourselves with others often. During this immediate time, we sometimes have to have another person ensure we are eating meals, showering, and getting enough sleep at night. Tears may come (or not, once again everyone is different), and it will be helpful to allow yourself to process in whatever way your body and spirit need. Here are some key tips:
- Eat regularly, even if only a snack
- Drink plenty of water
- Get fresh air whenever possible (take walks, open windows and sit by them, go into less populated areas like forests or beaches)
- Attempt to stick to a sleep schedule as much as possible and stay out of bed during the day
- Check in with loved ones regularly, and respond to them when they check in with you (within reason and at your own judgment)
- Allow for your feelings to be expressed whenever they need to be (it is not weak and nothing is wrong with you to feel strongly and let it out!)
- Avoid numbing through alcohol/drug use, TV, sleep, or other distractions
It is important to remember that while we may want to be done with the sadness and overwhelm, grief takes its own time with everyone. There is no timeline for being done – in fact, in some ways it may always be with you, but may be less strong over time.
We may also feel that if we stop thinking about our loved one, previous relationship, or other lost situation we will forget about it. Worse, the loved one could feel they weren’t important to us. Because life is a constant process of change, there will come a time where we think about it less often and the feelings are not as strong. As we feel it slipping away we might want to hold on tighter for fear of forgetting or betraying the loss, but it can be helpful to remind yourself that it is a normal part of moving forward and a healthy sign of working through.
Along with keeping your support system around you and in connection, it can be helpful to find a therapist to work with you through your time of grief. A therapist can provide a safe, open, non-judgmental, and supportive space for you to walk through all of the feelings (even the ones we think we shouldn’t have). A therapist can also help you create good self care habits to ensure you stay healthy while you work through the difficult time in life. There are also often grief support groups for all types of loss, which can help you feel as though someone understands it as they are going through it as well.
If you’d like to speak with one of our therapists to work through a difficult time, we have immediate availability for you. Contact us to set up an appointment for an online session at anytime.