Help for Coping with Grief & Loss
Unfortunately, none of us are exempt from experiences of loss in our lives. From the time we are children, losses happen. Life involves a series of losses, growth, and then losses and growth again.
Does grief happen only in cases of a loved one dying?
Loss comes in countless forms. It may be loss due to death of a loved one. It may be loss of your own health, loss of a beloved pet, loss of a job/identity, a move that creates many other losses, or loss of relationship.
Most often, in response to loss, people go through common stages of grief that include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Any sort of loss tends to bring up similar responses - with differing levels of intensity.
Is there a difference between grief and mourning?
There is a difference between grief and mourning Grief is what you feel inside after loss; It’s the sadness, the regret, the numbness, the anger. Mourning, is expressing those feelings. It’s the tears, the journaling, the talking about the loss, the pounding your fist on the pillow. Mourning requires great courage. Many people strive to avoid the mourning. As difficult and painful as mourning is, it is the pathway to the most healing.
This is truly challenging! Our culture is uncomfortable with mourning. Likely, you have learned to avoid mourning. You may find that other people around are communicating (verbally or otherwise) that it’s time for you to move on, to ‘get over it’. They are uncomfortable with seeing your sorrow. This is a time to seek out support from people who have the ability to be with you in your deep pain and not feel compelled to rush you through it.
Is it normal to feel like this ?
Deep loss can feel devastating. It can cause you to lose your appetite (or engage in emotional eating), to experience insomnia (or excessive sleep), loss of energy, a desire to withdraw from others (or to fear time alone), worry, guilty feelings, regret, confusion, anxiety, panic attacks, loss of motivation, and low mood. It hurts horrifically, and yes, you are normal! And, you won’t always feel this way.
How long does it take?
The reality is, grief and mourning take as long as they take. Grief and mourning don’t hurry. The grief journey is a unique path that is very different for each person. Don’t compare yourself to others. There is no ‘right’ way to do it. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Let yourself feel and express whatever it is you feel. Take good care of yourself and practice self-grace.
When people try to hurry the process by suppressing their pain, it doesn’t go away. I’ve heard it said that “The only way around grief is through” and that “Grief is patient - it waits”. Those are not the words we want to hear when we are on the incredibly painful journey of grief.
In my own experience, traveling the hard road of grief and mourning is the most difficult challenge I’ve experienced in my life. It’s a critical time to seek support. You may find you are wanting to isolate yourself as ‘no one else gets it’, or because you don’t want to bring others down with your sorrow.
But, we are hardwired for connection and we heal and grow best in the context of community. Grief support groups are one way to find a place that you can be supported in this process. A stress response that psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, describes as the “tend and befriend” response refers to dealing with challenge by reaching out to others. This tendency is associated with building resilience and strength.
Author, William Bridges, calls part of the process being in the ‘neutral zone’. He compares the grief/mourning journey to a time of aimless wandering in the desert. We can feel confused, without direction, not knowing what to do next. It can feel bewildering. As unsettling as these feelings are, try to just notice what you feel and remind yourself that you won’t always feel this way.
How do I get through this?
Trust the process. Give yourself the time and space to go through the process. Get good support and practice taking care of yourself with lovingkindness. Eventually, this empty space will evolve into a place of new beginnings for you. We come out on the other side different than we used to be. While we may not have chosen the loss in our life, there will be times that joy will seep in again. We develop strength and resiliency we didn’t know we were capable of. We are able to reach out to others in more deeply compassionate ways after getting through our own mourning process.
Once you begin to ‘get on your feet’ I encourage you to look for opportunities to reach out to others. This is also part of the ‘tend and befriend’ stress response mentioned previously. Look for opportunities to give to others. The act of giving helps facilitate healing in you as well.
Giving can refer to small or large gestures. It may be holding the door for the senior at the grocery store, taking chicken soup to a sick neighbor, or serving food to the homeless. It may be giving financial help to someone in need. As we actively seek opportunities to give, positive momentum is created.
You have options for support.
You can call me for a free 15 minutes consultation or to schedule an appointment for counseling.
Call and ask me about current life coaching groups, or find a grief support group in your community.
Wishing you comfort, love, and healing.
“Tear Soup” by Pat Schwiebert, Church Deklyen
“The Way Of Transition” by William Bridges
“Making Sense of Life’s Transitions” by William Bridges