Feel the pain of the loss and recognize how your life is different and then take a break.
Grief seems to have a life and timetable all its own. What I mean is that we can’t decide when we’re done grieving and we can’t predict when we will be hit by a wave of grief. It’s like grief is a living entity that takes up space in our head, heart and life and sometimes it feels like it’s running the show. Those of you who are grieving right now or who have grieved in the past, understand what I’m talking about. We hurt every day – sometimes more and sometimes less. We can feel like we’re on a runaway train unable to change direction or speed.
So, what can we do? Grief seems to take over when it’s least convenient – when we’re sitting at our desk trying to get work done, when we are at the movies, or when we are trying to show up for someone else and celebrate something happy for them, etc. Part of the grieving process that can be tricky is realizing that we can’t control it. And we all want to control things! So the fear that comes with a lack of control coupled with the pain of the grief itself can feel overwhelming! There is one approach that I have found helpful. That is to fully live in the moment. So when a wave of grief begins to swell up and wash over you, allow it. Be present in that moment. Feel the pain of the loss and recognize how your life is different and then take a break. Here are some suggestions for how to do this:
1. Name your feelings: “I feel overwhelmed by sadness and pain right now because I know I can’t go back in time before my loss”, “I am so lonely and my heart feels like it weighs a thousand pounds”, “This pain feels like it’s engulfing me right now”, “My heart is broken and I don’t know if it will ever feel ok again”. Naming your emotions (not judging them) helps you put words on feelings and gives you power. It helps you gently move from feeling helpless to finding ways to move through the feelings.
2. Breathe. Take deep belly breaths that start at your diaphragm and fill your lungs all the way up. You can combine this with pressing your feet into the floor and your hips back into your chair as you inhale then relax as you exhale.
3. Blow out your breath when you’re crying; pretend you’re blowing out a candle when you exhale. Oftentimes we hold our breath when we cry and that leads to an increase in stress on an unconscious level. If you have a tendency to cry till you are doing that hiccupy kind of crying, it probably means you’re holding your breath. So, blow it out. It will help you self-sooth and you won’t typically cry as long or as hard.
4. Seek the company of a support person or furry friend. Some people are really good at sitting with us while we cry or feel deeply sad. If you don’t have someone like that in your life, find support from a pet. I remember one particularly low moment in my grief process. I was lying in bed crying and my Australian Shepard got on the bed and laid down on top of me the length of my body with his head snuggled against my cheek. He just laid there till I was ready to get up and keep going. Our pets are sensitive to our physical reactions to grief and they show up for us in different ways, but ultimately their message is often, “love me so that you know that I love you”.
5. Take breaks. Force yourself if you have to, but find ways to distract. Watch a funny movie, get outside and move your body, get a massage, etc. You may do these things half-heartedly, but do them. Your grief will be there waiting for you when you’re done. You need a break so you can keep moving forward.
6. I realize there are times when following these steps isn’t really possible – at work, for example. So if you have to escape to the bathroom for a few minutes, shed a few tears, and tuck the pain away so you can get back to work, that is understandable. When you get home take some time to honor the feelings that were crashing around you, feel them and acknowledge how much courage it takes to grieve.
We can’t control what when we will experience a loss, but we can choose what we will do to cope once it has occurred. In this exact moment, you can take control by choosing to feel your grief. Embracing your feelings will help the sadness, grief and loss flow over and through you rather than getting stuck. It will be difficult and it might be scary to be vulnerable, but remember there is no way to out run or escape your grief. The only way is to move through it. Be kind to yourself and trust that even though you hurt right now, you won’t always feel like this.
Hello, this is one of the best read on Grief….thank you…I loss my husband Jan-2-2015. And oh boy! This is the most pain that I have ever felt. It did almost kill me.
My sister is great she does stay with me on the phone and does fly out to see me. I’m so very greatful for her love. I have two dear friends that been holding me up for a long time now. I feel that they need time to there own self and life together. I have taken to much of there own space. They are the best angels that I have.
Love & Light ~Kathy
I’m glad you found the article helpful and I’m so sorry you’ve been in so much pain! I’m so glad you have support – it makes a world of difference! I hope this new year brings you more peace and hope!
Chris Richards, LCSW
This is all fine and dandy , and I do have people around me , but I don’t want anyone by me except my husband, because I’m not good company and not in any mood to deal with anyone beside my husband. I don’t want to have to explain why I’m feeling this way.
I’m so sorry you lost your husband! Grief is so painful! All the emotions and frustration you’re experiencing make sense and I hope you’re able to talk to people who get how hard it all is! Sending you light and comfort as you grieve.
Chris Richards, LCSW
Hello, I am beginning to realize I need some sort of grief counseling. My beloved 89 year old father passed away about two months ago after he had suffered a debilitating stroke four months before that. My siblings and I took turns every day to stay with him, and keep him company at the nursing home during all that time. We were in the process of preparing his house for him to eventually come home. He passed suddenly after a short illness and now, dealing with settling his estate, his two rental properties, my work and relationships at home have noticed a change in my attitude. My boss and also my husband want me back the way I was. They’ve been kind and say they understand what I must be going through, but I’m not sure how to get back to the way I was. I miss my father’s companionship, advice and his love.
Thanks, Susan Bennett
I’m so very sorry to hear about your father. Losing someone dear to us is so painful and you had expected him to come home. I think counseling can be very helpful after a loss and I would definitely recommend you look for a therapist with experience working with grief. I wish you the very best and hope the grief begins to ease soon!
I lost my husband of 4 years. I do not want to stay here because I moved here to be with him. I want to go back to my area but when I start looking for a place I get so sad. I have lost family and many close friends but I was never in this much pain.
I go from tears to anger. I was alone for 10years after my first husband died and I was content. Then I met Joe and now he is gone. I try to keep busy but the horror of his loss keeps coming back. I have guilt because I got impatient with him when he was sick. I know I am not a bad person but I just could not be the sweet loving wife when he was sick for so long. I guess I was angry even before he died.
I’m so sorry you lost your husband. What a huge and painful loss! I’m not surprised you felt angry before he died. When we know someone is going to pass we begin grieving while they’re still around and anger is a very important part of grief. It’s very uncomfortable, but important. I’m sure you did the best you could with a challenging situation. I hope you can find more support and ways to talk about the grief – it can help. Sending love and light.
My husband died in January 2016, and life is definitely different. It has
been a time of great great grief. I still feel what your article describes. I miss my husband terribly. I take steps forward, but then steps back too. It is a lingering that aches more than I can explain.Thank you for writing this it was something I needed to read today, the day after Christmas.
Thank you for your comments and I’m so glad you found the article helpful! The holidays can be such a difficult time for grief! I’m glad you have felt some movement forward – though as you said, it’s never easy and the progress is gradual. I know that feeling of a lingering ache and I can only hope that yours eases and you have support as you go through this!
Sending love and light,
The grief is engulfing me, and it feels like if I truly let it run through me as you suggest, I’ll never survive it. I lost my wife three weeks ago, and, though we were going through a divorce because of her alcoholism, this is the most devastating loss I’ve ever faced. So many wishes, regrets, so many things left unsaid. It was so sudden and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. So many loose ends and what might have beens. I can’t find any resolution or a steady rock to stand on.
I’m so terribly sorry for your recent loss! 3 weeks is such a short time and I’m sure you’re still in shock. I think sudden losses are incredibly painful and they are complicated by all the things left undone or unsaid. I wish I had some magic words that would help, but all I can say is that it will get better and it will take time. I hope you have support and someone to help and listen to you! I know it feels like you won’t survive it right now when everything is so fresh and raw. For now, just try to focus on your breath. Breathing in and then out all the way will help calm your nervous system a little bit. If you’re local to the SLC, UT area I can recommend a grief group or yoga for grief, which can be really helpful. If you’re not local here, lots of hospitals offer grief support groups and that might be helpful to feel less alone and have people who understand. I’m sending you lots of light and healing thoughts!
I lost my beautiful daughter Louise just 3 weeks ago she was only 34 and leaves 2 daughters and a husband, the grief I feel is so overwhelming it frightens me, my heart is broken into so many pieces, I don’t feel like I will ever feel happiness again, I try to be strong for my grandaughters and my Son but I can’t, I miss everything about her it hurts so bad..
I lost dearest friend, than my father than my husband all a year apart all sudden .
It be 2 years end of the year with my husband . I am so overwhelmed. I feel do much pain . I feel so tired. I feel do lost . I cannot concentrate. I got to weekly grief support and therapy . What is wrong why can’ t I function and focus and take care of important finances and legal stuff.
Grateful for any helpful suggestions and hope.
I lost my younger brother(ten yrs my jr) to a sudden illness when he was 28, in 2017…7 months after we lost our dad to Renal Cell Carcinoma. While I am in therapy, and I do discuss my grief, and the abnormal feelings it causes…along with any impassive suicidal ideations I may be having at the time, there *are* times where I feel like my energy is spent…that *I* am spent, and the only thing that will heal me is feeling his arms around me again, never to be parted. I don’t want to die…I just want the never ending pain to stop.
It really sounds like you’ve been through a lot of loss in a short period of time. I’m glad you’re in therapy and I hope the support helps! It makes sense to want less pain! I want that for you as well! I hope you can get some relief from the pain. I’d recommend reading Laurel Parnell’s book Tapping In as a way to build some of the internal resources you really need right now. It’s such a fantastic resource and one you can do on your own and tailor to fit your needs and situation. I’m sending you light and love!
Chris Richards, LCSW