If we are fortunate enough to know love – whether people, pets, places, or even material things – then we are also likely to experience loss and grief in our lifetime. Experts have long-studied what grief is, how it affects us, and the things we can do to help us cope. We do know that each of us will have our own unique experiences, and that grief can affect every aspect of our being – mind, body, and spirit. The pain of loss can feel overwhelming and the difficult and varied emotions may catch us off-guard. From shock to anger, to disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. These are normal reactions and the more significant the loss, the more intense our grief is likely to be.
There’s no timetable or pattern that applies to all of us, and while we may not ‘get over’ our loss, in all likelihood we will learn to live with it, even though that may seem impossible to imagine in the beginning.
When considering ways to cope, there are two key points to know and remember:
Seek the kind of support that works for you
Grief looks different for everyone. You may prefer to read and research ideas for yourself, or you may prefer to speak with someone else, for example, a friend or family member, a leader in your community, or a professional and neutral counsellor. Feel free to change your mind and to try different things. What feels like it is working at one time may feel different at another. Maybe you cry, maybe you do not. Some people need a few days alone while others want to be around other people right away. You won’t know until you find yourself in that position, so be flexible and open to trying new ideas and gauge what feels right for you.
Treat yourself the way you would treat your favourite person
Be patient and gentle with yourself, especially when you feel like you’re not coping so well. Remind yourself that grief is a process, and processes are made up of multiple parts. The healing process will likely change you to some extent, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Grief might change the way you choose look at and live your life, how you want to be with others, or change the things that are important to you… and that’s both normal and OK.
Monitor your self-talk. Listen in to the conversations that take place in your head – are you being supportive of yourself or judgemental? If you’re giving yourself a hard time, nip it in the bud and instead be encouraging. Remind yourself you’re doing the best you can at any given time, even if you’re wishing things could be different. Allow yourself to learn and grow through the experience.
When we’re grieving, our mind and body are likely to be more vulnerable than usual, so it’s particularly important that put focus on taking care of ourselves. Exercise is a form of self-care that can help us to feel better physically and emotionally, so move your body. If you don’t feel up to leaving the house, making a point of moving; it really does help. Even standing during television ads and walking on the spot will be better than not moving at all. Trust the process. When you are deep in grief, trust that you will laugh again, you will find beauty out in nature again, and you will find meaning in your own existence again.