Grief. It is one of the saddest words I have ever uttered.
Simply saying the word brings a momentary feeling of melancholy, and if I’m not careful it has the potential to impact and bring me down.
Grief is about one’s response to loss and the emotions experienced. It is not about drowning sorrows or a cry-fest. It’s not even about forgetting because tears and memories can be very healing and healthy if you allow them to be.
Honestly, grief is an emotion I don’t like, one I did my best to hide from for several years after the sudden death of my husband in 2006. But the more intentional I was about my journey to self-care and wellness, the more I learned that hiding from grief was only a temporary solution. In fact, hiding from grief actually made me unhealthier and kept me from living the life I desperately wanted but didn’t know how to find.
Grief is not one size fits all.
I think it’s pretty safe to say no two people experience grief in the exact same way. Fourteen years ago today, my children and I felt tremendous grief, but we each experienced it in differently. We could support one another because we all lost something significant that day, but the experience was not exactly the same.
In my book The Gift of Loss: Transforming Tragedy I talk about finally dealing with grief head on and in a big-girl, grown-up fashion. It took me the better part of 11 years to understand I hadn’t dealt with my grief and nothing in my life would change until I did. I didn’t like it, and it did not go quickly or easily, but it had to be done. I had to face my losses and actually grieve them – acknowledge and move through the emotional pain – before I could move forward.
Grief affects every aspect of your well-being. It affects the way you think and feel, the way your body moves and functions, the way you sleep and eat, even the way you think and interact with others. Whether it’s from the death of a loved one, a job, an opportunity, a life-changing illness, even a pandemic, it is important to allow the grieving process to occur naturally, in your time, so as to free-up energy and reinvest it elsewhere.
Grief is a normal, natural response to loss.
When you allow the process to happen naturally and don’t have preconceived expectations as to how long it should take and what it should look like, you can actually come to a place of peace, a place of less pain.
Yes, when you open up and allow yourself the time to grieve your loss, you can find peace with your new circumstances. I can say that with confidence because I finally did and my life became amazing again!
Coming to peace with loss is not easy. The good news is your body is self-surviving and therefore has built in mechanisms to help you come through any loss. I learned the hard way that you have to give up control of the emotions, the expectations of what grief looks like, if you want to come to terms with it.
Grieving is more than just giving yourself time.
Oh it’s okay to be sad for a while and take time to reflect, but healthy grieving is an ACTIVE process that takes work. You have to balance what you feel with your day-to-day wellness. You have to balance your time with others, alone, caring for others, caring for self. You cannot push your thoughts, feelings or self-care aside and think it will simply get better with time. You have to work at these four steps/tasks:
1. Accept the finality of the loss
2. Acknowledge and express the full range of feelings you experience
3. Adjust to the new circumstances of life
4. Say goodbye as an act of moving to new peace
Yes, there is life after grief, but you have to actively work at it. When you learn to be at peace with your loss, you will be able to live the life you desire. When you trust your self-care and your body’s ability to heal itself when you listen and provide what it is asking for, you will be able to be grateful in all things – an important aspect of any journey to self-care.
And let’s face it, grief is healthy when you remember to care for yourself as part of the process. Here are a few of the things that helped me along my journey:
- Give yourself time.
- Expect and accept you will have good days and not so good days.
- Talk about your feelings, and feel them; don’t suppress them.
- Accept help from those who love you.
- Be mindful of your health and wellness.
- Plan time with family and friends.
- Do something for someone else.
- Pray and connect with God.
- Journal your experiences and what you learn along the journey.
- Write a letter about the loss.
- Listen to music.
- Get out in nature.
We are all in a time of grief as we have all lost what was – a way of life that was normal and comfortable. As you navigate the world and all that is happening, remember to grieve what was but find peace with your new circumstances.
I’d love to hear how you are caring for yourself during these interesting times and what you are doing to move forward to a place of peace and living. Until next time, be well…