During Loss and Grief, Be Compassionate with Yourself
After five years of marriage, Toni learned that her husband was cheating on her and wanted a divorce. Joni kissed her husband goodbye 18 months ago, when he shipped out; today she learned he’s coming home in a coffin. Dawn had given 20 years to a job she loved, when her boss let her go, because they “have to downsize”. What do all of these people have in common? They all have feelings of great loss and grief. Whether or not they come out of it stronger or damaged will depend on how they travel through the grieving process.
Perhaps you’ve had to experience a similar situation where something you cherish has been ripped out of your hands. That pain can be unbearable and may seem like it will never go away. When this happens, please be very kind, gentle and compassionate with yourself. Your body, mind, and spirit need time to process what you’re going through and learn how to adjust to your new circumstances in life.
Even if you’ve never experienced deep loss and grief, please use this information to prepare yourself. Loss and grief will blindside you otherwise, especially if you have unresolved issues. When you have healthy systems in place before a life-altering tragedy befalls you, you will have the internal resources for coping with it in a healthier manner.
Coping with Loss and Grief
Let me start by reassuring you that the way you deal with loss and grief will be different from everyone else, and that’s okay. The only time it’s not okay is if you choose the self-destructive route of totally isolating and numbing yourself through drugs and alcohol or similarly harmful substances.
While I’m not trying to minimize the anguish, it’s good to know what the basic stages of grief are, so you recognize them and can then choose how you wish to cope with each one:
Denial or disbelief: This can’t be happening.
Anger or blame: Why did this happen? Who is to blame?
Bargaining or yearning: Make this not happen and I will…
Depression: I can’t bear this; I’m too sad to do anything.
Acceptance: I acknowledge that this has happened, and I can’t change it.
You won’t necessarily process through these stages in a linear fashion. You may, in fact, bounce between all of them in a single day. During this grieving process, it’s extremely important that you be mindfully compassionate with yourself, at each stage. Pay attention to what emotions you’re experiencing and how your body is reacting to them. To begin with, that’s all you will be able to do…just notice and tell yourself it’s okay to feel like this.
Little by little, you will be able to open up more fully to each emotion and examine why you’re feeling the way you are and, if that emotion isn’t serving you in your healing process, you can gently nudge it towards a more positive emotion and thought.
For example, when you tell a funny story about your loved one, you release powerful chemicals into your brain, which helps re-wire it for more positivity. Being self-compassionate means you’re caring for your needs, such as…
- restorative sleep,
- healthy eating,
- refreshing exercise,
- relaxing activities,
- Getting out in nature,
- mindful journaling (here are some examples of things to track),
- positive interaction with your support system,
- and intentionally creating fun again.
Along the path of healing from loss and grief, you’ll have moments of introspection — thinking about who you are, where you’re going, what course corrections you need to make, and more. These quite moments of reflection will help you dig deeply and come to a stronger understanding of what’s truly important to you.
Be mindful that anniversaries will often trigger bad days, for years to come. And sometimes they’ll hit you out of the blue, for no apparent reason. If you need a mental health day, take it; just be sure to use it to bring your positive spirit back.
And when you have good days, embrace them without guilt. Use the wisdom you gain from your experience to enrich the lives of others and your happiness will grow.
If you’d like more information on how you can manage the tremendous ups and downs of life, and come out at the top of your game, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to help you find the peace and excellence of life you crave.