How To Overcome Grief In A Healthy Way?
Learning How To Cope With Grief Can Be A Difficult Lesson.
When we lose someone, be it through physical death or relational death, we go through a natural process of grief. The way in which we express our grief or move through the process differs from person to person. Some persons are instrumental grievers where they focus on physical, problem-solving tasks during their time of grief. Thinking is predominant to feeling, as an experience. These persons try to control and minimize their emotional expressions. Then there are the intuitive grievers who experience heightened emotional experiences. These persons express themselves through crying most times as it mirrors their inner experience.
For some, grieving may feel like nothing else matters and as if their world has ended. For others, it may feel as if they are stuck in the bereavement phase where they feel intense periods of raw sadness for an extended period of time. The way that we grieve is greatly influenced by our temperaments, coping mechanisms, cultural norms, support systems, and the way in which the person passed away or the relationship ended.
Still, even though our brains are aware that loss (of any kind) is inevitable and we understand that we all will express our emotions differently, in the midst of actually going through a season of unspeakable pain, we can feel uncomfortable and view grieving as unacceptable or wrong.
How To Overcome Grief Grief?
I’m pausing to share a few suggestions of how you can allow yourself to grieve and move through the process to overcome grief healthily as possible.
- Feel The Emotions. Many times avoiding feeling our feelings seems like the easier thing to do. We assume that we can distract ourselves to the point of keeping our pain and hurt at bay. But that is rarely the case as our emotions always manifest themselves in one way or the other, and it is hardly helpful.
As my therapist has advised, and as Tina Gilbertson suggests in her book, Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings By Letting Yourself Have Them, we can only get through a difficult period by actually going through the difficult period and emotions.
So the next time you catch yourself trying to run from the emotional pain that is associated with grief, identify how you are really feeling. Welcome what you are feeling. If you wish to scream – scream. If you can’t help but cry – cry. If you just need to sit still – do that. Don’t fight your emotions, judge them, or try to make them go away. Allow them to speak to you.
I jokingly tell those around me when it comes to their emotions, “Don’t be so quick to kill the messenger”. Our emotions are messengers and they are always delivering a clear message about our core beliefs and priorities to us. Often, they gift us with the clarity to take action. That action may include expressing ourselves to someone or engaging in an activity that brings us peace.
- Respect The Process. The grieving process does not follow a black and white timeline. Its intensity and length vary from person to person. The process can be prolonged and some phases often overlap – there is shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. With such a dynamic emotional set – it is important that we not only respect the process but seek to better understand how we can manage ourselves at every stage.
Respecting the grieving process means that I will not rush my grieving process. It may take two months or it may take two years, depending on my attachment to the person, dream, relationship, or place. I may grieve differently on Monday than I did on Saturday. That is okay.
Respecting the grieving process means that I will not shame or bully myself into grieving in an “acceptable” way or urge myself to move on too quickly.
Respecting the grieving process means that I can appreciate that grief is universal and it is still unique.
- Allow Others To Journey With You. While I was silently grieving the end of a relationship that meant a lot to me, I didn’t share with anyone what had happened or how I was feeling. Mostly because I was in shock and denial. So I went inward with my pain and kept pouring myself into my studies and job. That worked well until in the midst of a conversation one day, someone mentioned attending my wedding and like an avalanche, feelings of deep loss and sadness moved through me and I began crying, uncontrollably.
I had experienced my very own grief burst – a sudden wave of emotion and grief that hit at any time. It is usually triggered by something someone says, a song or a memory.
For me, it was triggered by the innocent reference to my wedding.
I knew after my emotional episode that I needed to tell those closest to me. I needed to pause and feel my emotions, and allow my inner tribe and my immediate family to journey with me through the process. This is easier said than done, as sometimes grief and the distractions that we use to keep our emotions away, can bring us into isolation. This isolation compounds our grief and it is often difficult to move beyond it. Thankfully, when we eventually find the courage to allow persons to journey with us to healing, we actually begin to move toward healing.
Connecting may mean letting those closest to you listen to how the loss took place and allowing them to respond to your pain. For you, their presence may be enough, for another person, constant text messages may work best. For many, including myself, allowing persons to show up in unexpected ways can bring comfort.
After I opened up to my inner tribe, one of my close friends lovingly offered to take charge of my online ministry. They took my raw thoughts and refined them into content, found images to accompany written pieces, and began scheduling posts so that while I was processing my emotions, my audience was catered to. That simple act spoke to my heart and I believe that there are unique things those around you can do to speak to your heart while you grieve.
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