One of life’s most difficult challenges is dealing with grief, the feeling of sadness over the loss of someone or something significant. Although grief is normal, the pain can be overwhelming, and the sorrow so profound that it defies description. You wonder if you can ever heal yourself.
The most common causes of grief are the death of a loved one, divorce or breakup, diagnosis of a grave illness, and loss of a job. You’ll experience a plethora of emotions, such as anger, despondency, guilt, anguish, and despair. The intensity and duration of grief differ in each situation. The death of a child can bring on excruciating pain that may diminish over time but never go away while an aging parent’s demise is expected, making the loss more acceptable.
If you’re grieving over a loss, keep in mind that it’s a normal phase and you can work through it. But if it has gone on too long and interferes with your daily activities, affects your work and relationships, or puts your mental and physical health at risk, you should seek professional health. In the meantime, here are steps you can do to help yourself accept the loss and move forward.
What you can do to heal from grief
Express your grief.
Talk about your feelings to someone you can trust, a family member, friend or therapist. Speaking out loud makes your emotions clearer to you, releases your pent-up feelings, and puts things in perspective. It also lessens the risk of you turning to drugs and alcohol.
A friend’s divorce had her calling me at ungodly hours to rant about her ex, then weep uncontrollably. I was her listening ear then and now, looking back, she says all those times spent on pouring out her emotions was therapeutic for her.
Look after your health.
You may have lost your appetite and feel listless all day. But not taking care of yourself only makes you wallow deeper in your grief. So, eat regular and healthy meals, exercise and get out of your house, and have enough sleep. Return to your normal daily routine to help you heal faster.
Every once in a while, treat yourself. Eat chocolates. Buy that pair of shoes. An occasional slip or extravagance won’t hurt you but will temporarily raise your spirits.
Seek closure from the loss.
When you seek closure, it’s not denying that what was lost never existed. Rather, it’s accepting that what was once with you is now gone. You lose someone through death or divorce, or you lose something, like a job. Those people and that job were real. They’re gone now but the memories will remain. If it was an acrimonious process of losing, leave the bitterness behind. When you accept the reality and let go, you find peace and can move on with life, making new goals, and building new dreams and wishes.
Take your time and put major life decisions on hold.
The grieving process is fraught with emotions that can interfere with your rational decision-making mind. You might regret impulsive actions, such as moving to another place, getting married again too soon, or suing the boss who sacked you.
Give yourself ample time to think properly and get back on your feet before doing something you might regret. After a profound loss, there’s no rush to find a replacement or compensation to fill the void. In its own time, healing will come to you.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself. Stop the self-blame. The death of a loved one, a divorce or loss of a job can bring about feelings of guilt and anger. You ask yourself, “What could I have done to prevent it?” or “I should have been…done…tried harder…” The self-recriminations and regrets come when you dwell too much on the ifs, buts, and what could have been.
I’m still hounded by sadness over my pet dog dying. His beseeching eyes haunted me. But I have since accepted his untimely and unpreventable death. What’s left is the fondness and the memories that are indelibly captured in pictures.
Anticipate sad events.
Birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas seasons will bring back an avalanche of memories spent with someone who has gone away. To face these events, make plans for the day. Instead of trying to forget a loved one’s death, remember the day with a visit to the cemetery. Play your favorite songs. Bring flowers. Pray. Read a book.
Your first Christmas alone will be particularly painful. Get off social media where everyone’s posting family reunions, travels and gifts. Keep busy. Plan to be with family and friends. Volunteer in charity organizations. Meditate daily. Once you get through the holidays, you’ll feel a sense of renewal and peace.