The Painful Road Of Grief
Grief encompasses all kinds of loss whether it's a job, a relationship, a home, the death of someone you love or a pet. Any significant change can produce grief.
Giving yourself time to grieve is the most important thing you can do to heal.
There is no timeline. The five stages of grief are still considered the standard because they clarify the process. Knowing what to expect normalizes it. If you are new to grief or have many losses, the emotions can be overwhelming but you can get through it.
Knowing what to expect
The stages are Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Sadness and Acceptance. Here is a short summary of each.
- Denial - denying the loss because you're in shock and it's too much to absorb
- Bargaining - wishing that it didn't happen or that you could have changed the outcome
- Anger - feeling angry at the loss or being more irritated than usual
- Sadness - feeling sad and wanting to escape those feelings if too intense
- Acceptance - the loss is finally accepted and you are able to recognize the gifts in your grief
The stages of grief don't necessarily happen in chronological order. You can bounce from feeling sad one minute, angry the next and then wonder how this could have happened (bargaining). If these stages don't fit for you, that's okay. There is no wrong way to grief.
Sometimes, grief makes people uncomfortable so you start pretending that everything is okay. This creates more pain because when you deny the grief you get stuck in it. Unexpressed feelings get stored in the body as stress. Crying relieves the stress hormones so your body can relax.
Let yourself grieve by setting aside 5 or 10 minutes to sit and cry. This may sound silly but when you give yourself that time, you start to heal. It takes energy to hold everything in. And that energy prevents us from being in the moment.
The time it takes to grieve depends on several factors such as whether the loss is unexpected, the state of the relationship (if you were in conflict or had unfinished issues), and having adequate support. Once you've worked through all the emotions you can reach that acceptance stage.
How to grieve
The courage it takes to grief is immense. The feelings can be overwhelming. You might start taking it out on family and friends because you're more sensitive. Anger might become an issue if you don't know how to handle these feelings.
If you haven't processed other losses, the grief gets more complicated. It takes longer to process because each loss needs to be acknowledged. You may think some losses "shouldn't count" but they do.
The hardest part of grief is embracing the pain. That explains why most people don't do it. It's fear - False Evidence Appearing Real. Here are some common fears that get in the way.
- If I start crying, I won't ever stop.
- If I let myself feel it, others will get tired of me.
- If I grieve, I won't be able to function.
- If I stuff it, I'll be able to cope better.
- If I ignore it, the grief will go away.
Most of us don't realize how many losses we've had. Honoring what is unfinished takes time and plenty of support.
It takes the time it takes
After a few weeks or months, many people think the grief should be over. Unless you've experienced loss, grief is largely misunderstood. And it feels very lonely unless you have someone in your life that gets it.
It's a time when you are off center. Things feel like they are in slow motion especially if the loss is unexpected. It's a shock to your soul.
You may find that you can't think or go at the same pace. You want more sleep. Eating can be affected whether it's eating for comfort or losing interest in food. Both are reactions that usually subside with time.
If you drink or rely on other substances to cope, this can lead to more problems. Finding healthier ways to handle grief is vital. For those who are sober, learning to handle these feelings is necessary for continued recovery. It often means getting extra support.
If you are having trouble adjusting to daily life, it might be time to seek additional help. Some places offer free or low cost grief counseling. Being understood through the grief is so important because when it's hidden, grief isolates us from wanting to participate in life.
What has helped you deal with grief? I'd love to hear from you.
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