How to Work Through Grief
For many survivors, working through grief is a matter of letting it take its course. The more survivors try to fight off their grief, the worse it can be when it finally hits them. Some people do not want to express the grief because they see it as a sign of weakness. Others find it difficult to experience their grief because they must acknowledge that not only is their loved one really gone, but that their life is altered forever. The best way to start working through your grief is to first accept the death and understand that everyone needs to grieve in their own way. To do so, there are several things to consider when grieving:
Grieving can be a long process, so be patient with yourself.
Request help from others.
Speak to your physician and/or mental health professional.
Utilize resources around you such as your church congregation or support groups.
Stay as healthy as possible.
Be cognizant of how you treat your spouse, partner and friends.
Know that holidays and special occasions may be difficult and do not hesitate to lean on family and friends during those times.
Realize that most people are not able to take enough vacation from work or daily activities to be able to get through the grieving process but must resume their daily lives while still in emotional turmoil; do your best to cope with the grief and do not be afraid to ask others for help every step of the way.
Proper Nutrition / Hydration
One of the most important ways to help yourself heal is very basic: proper nutrition and hydration. It seems like common sense, but many people will stop eating when they are grieving. A loss of appetite is normal when experiencing grief, but eating nothing for an extended period of time can have adverse effects on your health. Try to keep healthy snacks and water around you so if you do feel hungry, you can avoid filling up on snacks and beverages that don’t nourish you. Even if you can’t bring yourself to eat three meals a day, try to have several small meals or snacks throughout the day. And drink as much water as possible.
Sleep is also an important aspect of health that needs to be considered. The effect of grief on people’s sleeping patterns varies from person to person. Some people sleep all of the time and find it difficult to get out of bed to perform daily tasks. Others have difficulty sleeping and find themselves lacking the rest their body needs to function. If this is the case, try sleep remedies that have worked in the past such as warm milk, soft music or reading. At the very least, rest your body by meditating or sitting in a quiet place.
If possible, make your primary physician aware of the loss you’ve suffered so they can help you monitor your health while you move through your grief. Getting through grief can take a very long time and if you are unaware of your physical health, having an outsider to help monitor it is important. They might also be able to suggest a counselor or support group that can be helpful.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
Stay away from drugs and alcohol. While they may seem to temporarily help with the pain, they offer no long-term solution. If your physician offers you sleeping pills, be sure to follow the prescribed dosage to avoid addiction.
A counselor, support group, or your church or synagogue are just a few of the outside resources you might use to help yourself through the grieving process. Family and friends are also good resources and, though it may be difficult, asking them for help may be instrumental to your healing. Some survivors feel that the community in their local church is also helpful; attending services with the congregation can be enough to help work through grief, as well as the specific services offered by the church community and congregants.
Many support systems recommend taking care of you first. It might seem selfish, but it’s important that you give yourself whatever you need to work through the grief. For some people, that means more alone time. For others, it might mean rewarding oneself or pampering oneself occasionally. Unfortunately, some survivors have a tendency to punish themselves when they are grieving, as if grieving is wrong. This is not a recommended course to take. You need to give yourself the latitude to work through your feelings and punishing yourself will only prolong your struggle. Allow yourself to experience your feelings, whatever they are. Whether you need to cry, shout or laugh, allow yourself to experience the feelings that come. One helpful tool for both understanding these emotions and expressing them safely is journaling. Sometimes the simple process of writing can help you feel less burdened and give you a better sense of how and what you feel.
Sometimes our relationships can be damaged when we are grieving; some people respond by pushing everyone away, including spouses and close friends. This happens for a number of reasons and usually is a result of how we individually respond to grief. To avoid damaging these important relationships, it is important to share how you’re feeling with loved ones so they know what you’re going through. If you are having a particularly bad day, for example, communicate this so your spouse or friends know how to react if you get angry or frustrated. Remember: only you know what’s going on inside your head and heart. You cannot expect others to understand without telling them. Naturally, if you and your spouse or friend are both grieving over the same loss, remember that everyone grieves differently and neither of you is right or wrong; you are each different.
Holidays and Special Occasions
Holidays and special occasions can be extremely difficult, especially when coping with the loss of a parent, spouse or child who was actively part of the celebrations. In addition, many cultures anticipate and plan for upcoming holidays months in advance which can be just as painful as the actual occasion. Many survivors can be sensitive to the role their loved one used to play and find it hard to reassign tasks or make up that vacancy in other ways. Know that everyone else is probably feeling similar, even if they don’t express it. To help everyone cope, one idea is to list the items that need to be done for your holiday celebration and delegate tasks to friends and family. The tasks that were traditionally done by the decedent will be the hardest to plan, but you can try to carry on their traditions by using their recipes or completing tasks the same way they would. In fact, these special occasions are often a good time to start memorializing the decedent, to take time out to remember how much you loved them and how much they meant to your friends and family. Sharing stories and photos of them might be therapeutic for everyone involved. There’s no need to pretend that you’re okay and you’re not feeling the loss; experiencing it is part of moving on.