Dealing with Grief

Loss is a part of life. And while some aspects of grief are universal, it’s also true that everyone deals with grief in their own way. Grief doesn’t only come when a loved one passes away; it also comes when people or things are no longer a part of our lives.   It’s not just depression or sadness or missing someone/something.  It’s so much more complex than that.

One of the best definitions of grief I’ve seen is that grief is all the love you want to give but cannot: “all of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, in the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest.  Grief is love with no place to go.” It’s also mourning the future you thought was ahead of you but now is not.  There’s really no easy 1-2-3 way to just “get over it.”

Here are some things that have been helping me deal in my recent grieving time:

Realize that every day is different. Most of us have been taught the 5 stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. What we’re not usually told is that these stages often come to us all mixed up and in waves. Some days anger and sadness both are my constant companions – sometimes I’m convinced if I just do xyz then I won’t have to deal with this anymore – sometimes I’m sad all day. And some lucky days I seem to be fine most of the time. So don’t feel discouraged if you’re feeling better one day, and then the next you wake up feeling so much worse.

Spend time in mindful meditation or prayer. Spending 20-30 minutes a day in mindful meditation (or prayer), can help your mind and body find a few minutes of peace. It will also help you to sleep better, as insomnia can often accompany times of grieving. Feeling love and guidance from a higher power can be both healing and encouraging in this time.

Eat healthfully & mindfully. I’m guilty of not always following this rule. But I’ve found that when I don’t – when I binge on chocolate or sugary/starchy foods or have a few drinks – my mood eventually spirals and then I feel so much worse than before. The relief from unhealthy foods feels real, but is sadly temporary. Sometimes lately I’ve also been forgetting to eat, or I haven’t felt like eating when mealtimes come around. When that happens, I try to eat something small but healthy – an apple, a few bites of salad, a bit of chicken breast, half a protein bar, or even just a handful of raw almonds. Your body processes grief as chronic stress, so you need to take care of it. Make sure to drink plenty of water, too.

Reach out.  You need a support system. Talk to or text people who care about you. Even hanging out with friends who aren’t aware of what you’re going through can be uplifting – “get you out of yourself,” as they say. I know if I spend too much time in my own head, repeating the same thoughts & feelings over and over, I start to spiral. So return those phone calls & messages, and try to get out for a little while every day or so. If you wait until you feel ready to socialize again, you’ll be waiting a very long time.

Set goals. Aside from the daily responsibilities of going to work, paying bills and feeding the dog, start to figure out the kind of life you want for yourself. Start with small, manageable things like going for a short walk every day. And be gentle with yourself – you’re not going to run a 5k or learn a new language right away (remember your brain is in survival mode right now). But say you’ll spend 5 minutes today walking/jogging around the block or looking at a couple new vocab words. Visit a farmer’s market (you don’t have to stay long or even buy anything) or try a new recipe.  Start picking up those activities & hobbies that you used to love doing (writing is one of mine 😉 )

The key here is to be patient and gentle with yourself – you’re not a machine, and it’s going to take time for your heart, mind, and body to process all of this. Sometimes talking to a therapist can be wonderful to help you focus your energies and find ways to help you feel better.  And if you’re simply not functional and it’s been a couple of weeks, you might want to see your doctor about some medications that will help get you back on your feet.

Blessings & light to you!

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