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Loss and Grief are among the most difficult things we deal with in life. Significant loss of all types can disrupt our lives in many ways. It affects our mind, body, and spirit, and unaddressed can change our path forward. This Blog is meant to be a guide to help your personal, unique Grief process, helping you through the often-difficult winding path of Grief, from the initial shock to recovering Meaning in your life. Whether you are experiencing grief, the support network for the griever, this book is intended for you. A grief shared is a grief transformed.
Looking back on my personal experience, I wish that I had received as much support during my many losses as I hope to share here.
We can experience hope, healing, well-being and growth, even in the face of loss, when it seems nearly impossible. By having the tools and techniques to assist us with shifting our thoughts, new actions, and ways of being, we can rediscover Meaning, which can act as a medicine—helping to heal our suffering and ease our pain. Even in life’s darkest and most difficult moments, slowly, step by step, it is possible to find our way back to the light and move away from the pain that holds us back, to live a life with Meaning and Purpose once more.
Although many grief experts outline the various stages of grief, these are only guidelines. People have very different experiences when it comes to grief, and it doesn’t always look like the “textbook” definition. There is no set of emotions in a particular order that is considered acceptable. There is no right or wrong way to grieve!
People experience a wide range of emotions when grieving that are not always expected and that’s okay. During times of grieving, it’s normal to experience a process of exploring the unique meaning of the individual’s loss and what it means to them.
A common question that arises is, “who am I now without this person and who am I going to be?” This process of making meaning out of loss can look like questioning or exploring the nitty-gritty details of the loss. It can also involve asking what this loss says about them as a person, the entire state of the world, or even God.
Eventually, people can begin to rebuild their lives in a way that makes sense to them, even when faced with great loss.
Loss is a tricky subject as there’s no one protocol or template for grief that will answer all questions or guarantee a smooth grieving process.
1. Express your grief - If you want to cry, cry. If you want to feel anger, allow yourself to do so. Express your grief and learn about it. Acknowledging your feelings will help you move forward. Allow yourself to just be, listen and feel anything that’s coming up for you.
2. Surround yourself with supportive people - Find friends or family members who accept and understand your grief. Many people feel as if they must hide their sadness around others, and that can disrupt the healing process. This can lead to isolation and increased sadness. Instead, surround yourself with people who are comfortable with your grieving process, and allow for you to fully express yourself when needed.
3. Be gentle with yourself - There is no specific timeframe in place for someone to accept their loss and move on from grieving. Don’t judge yourself harshly for ‘not doing better’ or ‘taking too long’ along the way. Trust the timing of your process.
4. Pace yourself - Grieving can be exhausting. Allow yourself extra time to rest and process all that is happening. Don’t overbook your schedule or make too many commitments.
5. Allow yourself to have fun - Allow yourself the opportunity to do things you love. Whether it is a hobby, spending time with a friend who always makes you laugh, being spontaneous and setting off on an adventure; incorporate joy into your life, even if it is just a little at a time.
6. Make a list of activities each day - It is common to experience forgetfulness when grieving. Making a list of goals or activities that need to be done will help you stay on track. Keep the list short with only important activities.
7. Journal - A journal is a tool that allows you to safely express yourself. Let all of your feelings flood the paper, whether it is sadness, anger, disappointment, or regret. Sometimes, writing is the best conduit to communicating what can be easily communicated vocally. Finding a safe and personal way to do so will help in processing such feelings. An interesting activity many have found helpful is writing a letter to a person you lost with your dominant hand. Then, write a letter back to you from them with your non-dominant hand.
8. Breathe - Breathing exercises are one of the most helpful things you can do when you are grieving or stressed. It will deepen your connection to your body and help you bring conscious awareness to the present moment. Emotional and physical tension in your body will release, and your mind can take a break from worrying about the past or future, which is often a side effect of grief. Find a quiet space where you can practice, and practice daily.
9. Exercise and move your body - Emotions often get stuck in the body and the more we move, the more we allow the body to release any stuck pain and emotion. Also, exercise helps boost dopamine and serotonin, the “feel-good” hormones that can improve your mood. It’s also particularly helpful for people dealing with anxiety and panic attacks.
Healing Your Grieving Heart - Alan D. Wolfelt. Ph.D.