For many people in these hard times feelings of sadness, fear, and depression have been coming up, but often the source of these emotions is something that we don’t often acknowledge: it’s grief.
Grief happens when we lose something that is important to us.
Many people primarily associate grief with the death of a loved one but grief can also be felt whenever there is a loss of something important to us. It might be our job, our loss of freedom, or when our kids move out for the first time.
During this time many of us have felt loss, either through having to sacrifice some of our freedoms and our plans to protect ourselves and others, or through situations out of our control such as a job loss or loss of customers. Doing what we love and being able to plan for the future are an integral part of our wellbeing. When these two parts of life are impacted there can be a natural sense of loss and grief.
Grief is an emotion that can’t be predicted. Anyone who has lost a loved one will know that at any time you can feel happy one moment and incredibly sad the next.
You might feel happy one moment and then sad the next remembering that you’ve lost the chance at doing something important to you such as moving home, starting university, travelling, seeing friends and family, having hugs, having sex, having a secure income and job security, having a clear sense of where you’re going with your life.
These are just a few things that could be causing you grief right now.
How can I process grief?
Grief can and will be healed with time and effort. Everyone grieves slightly differently so what you need in order to process your grief might be different to what another person needs. There is no one magic cure for grief, but in general the following strategies will work for most people and help you to process your grief over time.
Allow yourself to feel your emotions without judging them.
Your emotions are telling you something important. Grief is natural. It’s your body’s way of telling you that something important to your wellbeing has been impacted or taken away. The first thing you can do to help process your grief is to not judge yourself for feeling it.
When grief comes up instead of trying to push the sadness or anger you feel away, try to offer yourself compassion.
Talk to yourself like a supportive person such as a good friend would talk to you.
For example: “This is a really hard time right now but you’re doing the best you can.” “I loved my job and I’m hurting that it’s gone, I will get through this and find another job that I love just as much.”
Offering yourself compassion doesn’t mean that you deny the difficulty, it means you acknowledge the difficulty you’re experiencing and offer yourself reassurance, comfort, and kindness.
It’s going to take time
Depending on the source of grief it’s usually going to take time to heal. Grief isn’t something that you can heal overnight.
Managing grief involves accepting that it won’t just disappear and it’s going to be something that needs active management.
Healing from grief is a gradual process. Keeping this in mind will help you to be more gentle with yourself.
Focus on what you can control.
Grief usually involves a loss of control. By definition grief is about loss, it means we’ve lost something either permanently or temporarily, this is something that is often beyond our control.
What we can’t control is what we have lost, what we can control is how we think of the loss, and the actions that we take to move our life forward.
You can choose to reframe your thoughts and offer yourself compassion when the sadness and/or anger of grief strikes.
You can also choose to take action towards moving forward with your life. You can apply for new jobs, you can make long term plans for a vacation or an anniversary 2 years in the future, you can call that old friend you haven’t spoken to in a long time who you miss.
Whatever it is that helps you to move forward, plan it, and do it.
Having purpose in the world, having activities in your life that are meaningful to you to do each day, is an incredibly rewarding and healing thing. It might be your job, or volunteering, or your family life. Whatever it is that gives you purpose is valuable especially when healing from difficult times.
Having purpose and meaning in your life helps to keep you distracted as well as giving you something that feels worthwhile that gives you a sense of accomplishment. Working on something that gives you a sense of purpose feels good; it’s a reward in itself.
Activities that give you a sense of purpose and meaning also always tend to involve relationship to others, either co-workers, other volunteers, family, or the people you are helping. These are the relationships that will help to bring you comfort during your grief.
Express your emotions and receive comfort
When you express your grief to others it gives them a chance to comfort you. Keeping your emotions inside isn’t a helpful strategy. We are social animals and evolved to give and receive support to one another.
It really is true that no (wo)man is an island. Nobody can heal on their own. Many people might find it hard to express their pain especially men; as men have been socialised by our society to not express emotions. But not sharing pain only prolongs it.
If you find it hard to express your grief try to choose one or two supportive people to talk to who you know will respond in a kind comforting way.
Talking to a licensed mental health professional is also another good option for helping you to express your emotions and process pain. Mental health professionals are trained to listen, validate your emotions, and offer compassion. They can also help you to learn new tools and coping strategies to help you throughout your life.
Get your needs met
A key part of helping heal grief is to make sure your needs are being met. Taking good care of your physical, mental, and relationship needs will help you to stay healthy. Staying healthy makes dealing with the emotions of grief less of a challenge.
Each day ask yourself what your needs are and if they are being met.
Do you need to make sure you’re eating healthy? Do you need more sleep? Do you need physical comfort from hugging? Do you need sex? Do you need time alone? Do you need to have time joking with friends? Do you need time off work or do you need to have more time to work uninterrupted? Whatever it is that you need, pay attention, and help to get your needs met.
Our needs all change day to day so one day you might need more of something and the next day less of it. That’s why it’s important to ask yourself each day “what do I need right now?” That simple question makes sure you are prioritising your health and what you need to stay healthy.
Everyone heals from grief in different ways and with different speeds. By doing your best to take care of yourself and your grief you will feel better in time. Grief is a painful but natural part of life, it can teach us to appreciate all we have and to live life to the fullest. I wish you all of the healing in the world during this difficult time.