“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” Vicki Harrison
No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you do, there is one certainty in life: change. Often change comes in the form of a loss of some kind. Loss of a loved one, a job, a pet, a relationship, health, etc. Loss can also come as a result of trauma. We may lose our sense of safety, ability to trust others or ourselves, we may lose faith in people or a higher power.
All of these kinds of losses cause us pain, can challenge our identity, strain relationships and present distinct challenges that may feel overwhelming. There are some very important things to keep in mind as we go through different stages of healing after a life-altering experience.
1. Grief is painful, deeply personal and can be exhausting.
These points may sound obvious, but they are important to keep in mind. All grief hurts so don’t compare yours to someone else’s and decide you don’t have a right to be sad or that you (or they) “should be over it by now”. Grieving takes time, energy and effort, but healing is possible.
2. We all have the right to grieve in a way that works for us.
As long as we aren’t harming others, we get to decide what we need to heal. This means we may not feel like talking much about our loss, or we may want to talk a lot. We may feel overwhelmed, or it may pass more quickly than we expected. What matters is that we process the feelings brought on by the loss. If we push them down, ignore them, or cover them up with alcohol, drugs or other unhealthy coping mechanisms, they will continue to burden us and we will continue to be in pain until we deal with the loss.
3. No matter what your loss or trauma, grieving requires two things; you must face it and feel it.
This is the scariest part, at first. However, the beauty of this process is that after taking the first step or two we realize that facing our loss and acknowledging our new reality helps us begin to feel better. If we are unable or unwilling to take this step we can become stuck in our grief and we may suffer far longer than necessary.
Sadness, heartache, tearfulness, and exhaustion are very common during the grief process. Some prefer to go through this process on their own, others seek out support. Neither way is right or wrong. It is important though to make sure that grieving doesn’t bring about unsafe or unproductive thoughts, feelings or behaviors.
Here are some signs to watch for; if any of these arise, please seek out professional support:
A) Feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide
B) Difficulty sleeping, eating or working
C) Frequent tearfulness
D) Use of alcohol or drugs to cope
E) Relationship problems
F) Anger outbursts
Grieving takes time, but the heartache can lessen, the burden lift and we can find joy again.