Experiencing the death of a loved one is the hardest thing we can go through in this life. What can make grieving even more challenging is the feeling that we’re somehow doing it wrong.
But grieving is a unique experience and there is truly no “right” way to do it. Author Anne Morrow Lindberg put it best when she said, “… suffering … no matter how multiplied, is always individual.”
While there is no one right way to grieve the loss of a loved one, there are some guidelines that will help you heal.
You Will Survive the Loss
The pain of a loved one’s death is so great that we often feel it may cause our own death. But it’s important to remember that emotions, no matter how big, cannot harm you. In fact, not feeling emotions and bottling them up can often make the situation, and sometimes our health, much worse. Avoiding the pain of loss tends to stunt our grieving and we end up taking our pain with us into our future. Allowing yourself to feel the emotions can help you process them. Naming them (“I am feeling so sad and devastated”) can actually help reduce their intensity.
Understand the Ebb and Flow of Grief
Grieving is a process with no stillness. There is always movement; an ebb and flow to our grief. After a few weeks, you may have a day when you feel like you can finally catch your breath; where you notice how pretty a sunny day is, and when you dog can make you laugh again. And then the very next day, you feel that old, familiar darkness and despair slide under your skin. This is natural, and it’s important for you to pay attention to these rhythms of grief. The more you become aware of the ebb and flow of your personal journey, the more you’ll believe that someday there will be more good days than bad. This ebb and flow will also likely last longer than you expect. Loss takes time to heal. Allow yourself the needed time.
It’s important during this time that you care for yourself as you would a dear friend. Make sure that you get enough rest and try and eat well, even when eating seems like the last thing you want to do. Keeping up your strength is important during this time. Grief takes an incredible amount of both mental and physical energy. Clients often tell me they feel like they’ve been running a marathon or lifting weights. When we don’t properly fuel our bodies it can lead to a lesser capacity to handle the strong emotions. Even eating just a few bites of something can help. Try to keep it balanced – some protein (like a hard-boiled egg or cheese stick), some carbs (a few crackers), healthy fats (a handful of nuts), and fruits/veggies (a fruit cup, some baby carrots). Snack packs like you use for a school lunch are great to keep on hand so you don’t have to put much mental energy into staying fueled.
Try and get fresh air and move your body. This will help alleviate the stress and tension you have been feeling. And above all, be kind to yourself mentally and emotionally. Don’t chide yourself for crying in the bathroom on your lunch break. You would never do that to a dear friend, would you? Just let yourself feel your feelings when they come and be gentle with yourself.
The people who love you will want to help you during the weeks and months that follow the loss. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help and support. If you need someone to watch the baby so you can go out for a much-needed run, ask. If you just need someone to sit with you in silence, ask for that, too. It may also a good idea to seek the guidance of a therapist who can help you work through your emotions and develop coping skills.
If you or a loved one is reeling from a personal loss and would like to see if therapy may help, I would be happy to explore that with you. Call 919-891-0525 today for a free, 15-minute consultation. Appointments may be scheduled for my Wake Forest counseling office or online.please contact me today for your free, 15-minute consultation. You do not have to walk through this process alone.