Coping With Grief (10 Practical Ways To Process Loss)
An unexpected event takes place in your life. It could be an illness or death of a loved one, a tragedy of your own, or even a natural disaster that hits home. All of those circumstances can leave us in shock, anger, numb, or even overwhelming sadness. This is called grief. Many of us go through it in life since we are not immune to tragedies nor can we control our circumstances. But always remember that there are ways to process your grief in a healthy manner so you are not consumed by it.
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These statements are not intended to diagnose or treat medical conditions. These are all personal suggestions I used myself or others had advised for me to process my own grief. One thing to note. There may be times the grief seems too much to bear and you want to try all of these tips all at one time. That in and of itself will be overwhelming again. Remember, grief isn't something you can just wrestle away and defeat. It's more of a journey as your mind, heart, and body take the time to heal. So, take these tips one at a time and give yourself grace and time.
Tips to Grieve
1. Remind yourself: It is not your fault.
Remind yourself of this fact over and over again. What happened is not your fault. When a person goes through the five stages of grief, the mind tries to make sense of the tragedy we couldn't control by making us think that, just maybe, we had control. Maybe we could have predicted the unpredictable.
And our mind turns to self blame. You could not have predicted what would happen. Unless you had some time-traveling super powers. Nor could you have done anything to change the outcome. Therefore, blame does not lie on you. Forgive yourself. You are human.
2. Permission to grieve.
There are many people in the world who face tragedy and instead of allowing themselves to grieve, they compartmentalise the best that they can and do not allow themselves to process the tragedy. Heartache and trauma are not things a person can sweep under the rug or tuck away in a box never to be seen again. Even if you don't acknowledge the tragedy, your body, your mind, and the depths of your heart know it exists and need to process it.
What happens if we don't grieve?
Not allowing yourself to grieve can lead to acute depression, anxiety, and other health issues that can have a lasting effect. It may not seem like it in the moment, and it may be hard to deal with the grief directly, but it's the healthiest thing to do.
3. Give yourself space.
Space from others. Space from social media. Space from the world. When a person is grieving, they become hypersensitive to that subject they are grieving about. It could be the loss of a family member, a miscarriage of an unborn child, a natural disaster that leaves you feeling hopeless.
Suddenly, so many things begin to remind you of that tragedy. It could be social media, an advertisement, or maybe a friend is sharing stories about their loved one while yours is no longer here with you.
In those moments, it's okay for you to take some time away from all of those things that can trigger sadness. Take a step away. Make some time to collect your thoughts and emotions. Give yourself permission to feel those emotions and process those thoughts.
But don't give yourself space for too long. It's not the world against you. You are not alone. People are there to come back into your life and help you in whatever way you need when you're ready to do so.
4. Talk it out.
Find a listening ear. Find someone you can trust with your vulnerability. Someone you can trust not to judge you. Someone who can create a safe space for you to speak freely whether that be you speaking in a continuous stream until you make sense of it all or just someone who can acknowledge how you feel, accept your grief, and allow you to grieve freely in the comfort of their presence.
It makes a difference to share your burden with someone.
It's not to make your load lighter or your grief shorter. Unfortunately, you have to process it the way you have to process it. There is no timetable there.
Experiencing tragedy can make you feel alone. It may be because your situation seems unique and therefore, you may think no one understands what you're experiencing. But talking to someone doesn't mean you're trying to get them to understand your emotions and thoughts. It's someone who can be your sounding board. Someone you can trust to make you feel less alone in your journey towards peace. That in and of itself can be of comfort.
5. Seek out professional help.
Speaking to a close family member, friend, or colleague about your tragedy can be helpful, but not everyone will know what to say to you. Your mind will keep racing as it tries to make sense of the loss while emotions run high.
Those vulnerable and chaotic times may require you to have an open discussion with someone about how you are handling the tragedy, but not everyone will give you feedback that will help you to move forward.
That's when seeking out professional help may help you in your journey. A therapist can provide insight from a different and unbiased perspective while still validating how you feel, accepting grieving is a different process for everyone, but can also provide you with practical plans of how to move forward in your journey towards peace.
6. Quiet time.
While trying to make sense of everything, your mind may replay memories related to the tragedy and consider different avenues of shifting blame or trying to change the inevitable outcome of what's already happened in the past. With so much noise in your mind, it will feel impossible to understand anything.
At those times, quiet your thoughts through meditation. Quiet your negative thoughts. Quiet your racing mind. Meditate by focusing on the positives in life or just focus on the quiet so you can take a break from reanalysing every little detail.
You don't need to stay in this state forever or use this step to hide your pain away. But think of this as a momentary break time once a day to give yourself some emotional and mental rest.
If you need help on how to meditate, find a beginner's meditation guide here.
7. Love yourself.
In the midst of grief, it's easy to stop caring for yourself. Not wanting to eat, not wanting to complete daily routines, or not even wanting to leave your bed can all happen during the grieving process.
It's important that you are reminded that you need to take care of yourself.
Self care is even more important during this time. That doesn't mean go shopping and get manicures. No one wants to do that while grieving. But as you give yourself space, time, and permission to grieve, love yourself with the little things. That can be treating yourself to a nutritious meal even when you have no appetite. It can be as simple as giving yourself a miniature facial at home with just a quick 10 minute face mask, which can also be a meditative situation. Dress up each day in something other than loungewear.
If you need self-care ideas, make sure to check out my previous post.
Remind yourself that when you take care of yourself first, you can then help others in your life.
8. Use healthy distractions.
When you find yourself alone with your thoughts, sometimes they can snowball out of control as a distorted, confusing jumble of a mess. To break out of that build up of negative emotions followed by stress, find some healthy distractions you can easily use.
This can include spending time with your pets. working on hobbies, or even exercise. Now what I'm not referring to is binge watching television or eating junk food. Of course, on occasion, those things can be helpful as well. But I'm suggesting that you focus on one healthy distraction to you add to your daily routine. Something you can use an oasis from your emotions and instead, it allows you to focus on the task at hand. It's another way to centre your thoughts.
As you utilise these healthy distractions, don't become obsessed. it's not intended to become an avenue to hide from your emotions. It's a way to create some normalcy back in your daily life and giving your mind a break from the heaviness of grief. But learn to balance this with the above tips.
9. Look outwards.
In our grief, our sorrows look like mountains and our emotions are staring straight at us all day every day, reminding us that they are present and active. But in the midst of that, it's easy to become too self-focused. When we look only within ourselves to meet our needs, it becomes almost natural to drown in our sadness and feel as though you can't find a way out of your grief because all you are focused on is you.
Then, instead of moving forward, you become stuck. Stuck in a cycle of pain, regret, sadness, and how that affects you.
In those moments, look outside of yourself. After you've taken some time and space for yourself, to push yourself forward in this journey of obtaining peace, help someone else in need. It may be a neighbour or a loved one. It may be volunteering to help a stranger in need. But turn your focus on helping others as a means to also heal yourself.
When you take the focus away from yourself and see the world as a whole and as a place where others are grieving as well, if helps you to manage your grief better. It doesn't minimise what you're going through. But it can help you to move forward by helping others.
10. Get back into a routine.
Even though you are grieving and you feel lethargic, sometimes your body needs to take actions back into the normal routine. Then, your emotions and thoughts will follow.
I don't mean to do this in the initial grieving period, when it's been only a matter of days since the tragedy occurred. I'm referring to when some time has passed. That time, of course, is up to you.
When you're ready.
When you submit to the lethargy that may be brought on by sadness or depression, it can become a continuous spiralling downward movement of fatigue and sadness that compounds on top of each other everyday.
If you can, pull yourself out of it by making a one-time decision to do something you normally would do on a day-to-day basis. Maybe go back to your favourite coffee shop and spend some time there reading a book or people-watching. Quietly walk your dog one extra time each day.
Once you've accomplished this once. Try repeating that routine again tomorrow. And then the next day. Then, slowly try adding on another normal routine maybe a few days later when you're ready.
It's like muscle memory. Sometimes, your body needs to take the action and then, your emotions and thoughts will follow.
These tips are not meant to make your grieving process shorter, but rather, it's all about balancing each step in moderation so that you can have a plan on how to move forward. You can take these tips in any order and whenever you're ready to take the journey towards peace from grief. I know the journey seems long, winding, and maybe impossible at times. But you will make it through this process of grieving. It won't be easy. Grieving is never easy for anyone. But don't hide from it either. Face it holding on to a loved one's hand or by seeking out professional help. We're going through this journey together.