Losing someone we love is an inescapable element of life. Loss and grief will test us all at some point in our lives; death is where all living ends. But those of us left behind, awash with grief and despair, have a duty to honor our loved one and to care for our own well-being.
Dealing with loss and grief
Dealing with loss can be the toughest challenge many of us will ever face. Coming to terms with bereavement is intensely personal and there is no right or wrong time period for grief to last. It’s when you feel unable to deal with daily activities that you should look for ways to help yourself.
The way we eat, drink, love, and cope with stress, depression, anxiety, and sadness all play a big role in the state our mental health is in. Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing for you, and not the easiest thing. And when you start to make unhealthy choices, it’s important to learn how to be strong enough to make changes.
Be gentle on yourself by taking small steps towards self-care. The simple process of taking a daily shower or eating something other than cereal can help you begin to get your grief under control.
Managing grief is (mostly) possible
The popular belief that grief always consists of five definable stages is not accurate as research has shown. Everyone will experience the death of a loved one in different ways.
Most of us have the resilience to cope with loss within ourselves, eventually continuing with our lives. But when grief is new and raw, there’s no emotional space to even think of self-care. It is through the process of mourning and grieving that we overcome these intense emotions and reach a place of acceptance.
Grief is hard. There’s the pain of loss, the crippling anxiety, the anger at your friends who won’t talk about your loved one. Some days will be filled with unexpected tears, other times you won’t cry and be consumed with guilt.
Look after yourself as you heal
The loss of a loved one is life's most stressful event and can cause a major emotional crisis. Every level of our being -- emotional, mental, spiritual and physical -- is affected.
One way to handle the trauma is doing the things you know your body needs. Our bodies need food, bruised emotions need tenderness and rest is essential. Simple routines such as morning meditation or prayer can lend purpose to your day. In the beginning, this won’t be easy -- there will be days when it’s hard to even eat – but as you heal, the misery will fade and life will move on.
Spend time outside in nature, take walks or exercise. Nurture yourself with long relaxing baths, talking with good friends or reading favorite books. Journaling can give your loss a voice.
Help your heart to heal by finding ways to purposefully honor your loved one. Plan and plant a memorial garden or make their favorite meal and share the memories with friends and family.
Living your life well will honor your loved one’s legacy and the life you shared.
Accept that things will never be the same
Grief and loss forces us to accept that we don’t always have control over our lives. There is no normal timespan to grieve the loss of a loved one. Know that grief is a process needing time and space to unfold.
There bad days will happen for no obvious reason. Be gentle with yourself – don’t try to ignore your feelings – step back and give yourself a break. It’s all part of the healing process. And then the day will come when you’ll feel a tiny flicker of joy. Hold those moments close. Part of life is learning to let go.