Grief is our natural healing response to the loss of someone or something that we had loved or when we are faced with extreme change. It is a complex process, not an event, proceeding in stages from initial shock and chaos through adaption on to acceptance and transformation.
PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR DEALING WITH GRIEF
Taking the time to recover from a life crisis is essential to surviving, and even thriving. Here are some practical suggestions of what you can do:
1. Time becomes a great healer of loss. However, it can also be a burden if you do not attend to your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Grief often takes much longer than the bereaved or the people in their lives expect. It is unwise to place a time limit on your grief. Be realistic about it. Time alone does not heal; it is what we do with the time. It is often important to recognize anniversary dates and other milestone events that you may have shared with a loved one that has gone. Keep in mind that recognition with gratitude and self-care is really important and talking about your feelings at the time is very helpful.
2. It is important to balance one’s need for solitude with healthy pro-social interactions with others. Symptoms, such as headaches, insomnia and fatigue, anxiousness, irritability and crying spells, are common during recovery from a life crisis. Staying active with regular exercise and social outings can help reduce stress and depression. Mini-breaks to go see a movie, take a walk with a friend, or a weekend getaway can help you step back from your situation and regain perspective. Pro-social interaction is an inoculation against deep dwellings of depression or isolation that can happen in severe grief reactions.
3. It is important to refocus on self-care and looking towards your healthy self-interest in the matters of life and practical living. Getting proper rest and nourishment and asking for help when needed are all essential. Eating and sleeping may be problematic for a while, but you must remember to focus on little improvements as time goes on.
4. In the early stages of loss and grieving, requesting help if you become overwhelmed with the practical matters of living is strongly encouraged. When you are in the midst of a crisis, it’s easy to isolate yourself. Yet reaching out to others is crucial. Try to increase your circle of support—connect with old friends or join a support group. Sharing with others who care about your suffering or have been in a similar situation is healing. It is also helpful for those around you to help, because they, too, are grieving at some level and being able to give of themselves allows them to process their own grief in a good manner. If you become stuck in pain, you might also want to contact a mental health professional.
5. Since your body is under stress, don’t allow yourself to get worn out; get extra rest, eat properly and avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope with the emotional pain and distress.
6. Try to maintain as “regular” a schedule as possible, but don’t force yourself to do things that are too uncomfortable. Avoid unrealistic expectations and pressures. Set small goals for yourself that are achievable. Put major decisions or changes on the back burner for now, especially early in the process of grieving. Give yourself time to adjust to your new situation and your loss.
Remember that grieving is a process and you will get through it. When it feels like a roller coaster of emotions, remind yourself that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that the healing process will end and that the growth and development that come out of it is there, even though this may be unpredictable at the time you are going through it.