**Any and all links in this post are there for your help and to cite where I have gotten my information.**
This is a post that I have shared previously on my blog, but the end of August and leading into the holidays is always hard for me and grief comes back to smack me down. Sometimes it is hard to stand back up once you’ve been knocked down by grief. I just wanted to share some things I have learned through my own personal grief or through my internship and volunteer time at a hospice agency.
Before we can talk about how you cope I want to share some information on grief – what it is, types, myths/facts.. Let’s get started.
What is grief?
Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind.
Types of Grief
- Divorce or breakup.
- Loss of health.
- Losing a job.
- Loss of a friendship.
Grief comes in many forms, just a few are listed above. It doesn’t just occur when we’ve lost a loved one. This is something I had never thought about until meeting with a family of an older male, during my internship with a hospice agency, who was fighting cancer and had recently lost his independence. He could no longer walk, brush his teeth, go to the bathroom… he needed help doing almost everything. He was grieving these losses and it is something that I never would have thought about before doing my internship and learning it firsthand. Anything significant to you that you lose you can grieve.
What does grief look like?
There are both emotional and physical symptoms of grief.
- Shock and disbelief.
- Lowered immunity.
- Weight loss or gain.
- Aches and pains.
Myths & Facts
There are many myths surrounding grief and loss and I want to share them here.
- The pain will go away faster if you ignore it. No, this will only make it worse for you in the long run.
- It is important to “be strong” in the face of loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss.
- If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry for the loss. Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it is not the only one.
- Grieving should last about a year. There is no specific time frame for grieving.
- Moving on with your life means forgetting about your loss. Moving on means you have accepted your loss – but it’s not the same as forgetting.
First I want to discuss the importance of the healing process of grief.
- Understand that grief is normal.
- Allow yourself to mourn.
- Look to others for support.
- Take care of yourself.
- Don’t make major decisions while grieving.
- Remember that grief is unpredictable.
Complicated Grief & Depression
Now let’s go over complicated grief.
How you grieve WILL be different than how others grieve. You are not doing it wrong. You are your own person.
**If you have any of the following symptoms please talk to a professional about possible depression or complicated grief. **
Symptoms of Complicated Grief
- Intense longing and yearning for your deceased loved one.
- Intrusive thoughts or images of your loved one.
- Denial of the death or sense of disbelief.
- Imagining that your loved one is alive.
- Searching for your deceased loved one in familiar places.
- Avoiding things that remind you of your loved one.
- Extreme anger or bitterness of your loss.
- Feeling that life is empty or meaningless.
How to distinguish the difference between grief and depression. If you have any of the following symptoms please talk to a professional about possible depression.
- Intense, pervasive sense of guilt.
- Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying.
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
- Slow speech and body movements.
- Inability to function at home, work, and/or school.
- Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there.
How I personally cope with grief.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way here’s how I handle grief. Complicated grief is when your symptoms don’t improve over time and become debilitating – painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble recovering from the loss and resuming your own life. This is also sometimes called persistent complex bereavement disorder.
- Writing a letter – This has helped me multiple times, even for the same loss. For instance, I lost my grandpa almost 19 years ago and it has gotten better but at the same time I still have days where it feels like a fresh wound. I will write them a letter, rip it up, and throw it away.. or I will type up a blog post, set it as private, and move on with my day. This is not my go to but it definitely helps.
- Going for a drive – This is my number one go to but it’s not something I can always do since my sadness and bad days jump up out of nowhere and most of the time no one is home to watch the kids. Jumping in my car with no destination in mind always helps. There’s two ways I handle this – rolling my windows down and blaring music or leaving the car silent and just talking to my grandparents or who/whatever I am grieving.
- Empty chair technique – This helps so much. I had never heard of it until I took classes for my current major but I have since tried it and I left feeling loads better. Now you don’t have to actually sit in front of an empty chair that’s just meant for you to imagine they’re sitting there so you can talk, yell, scream at them. Get whatever you need to get out, out.
Those are ways that help me, always. However I know that these won’t work for everyone so I am going to share some ways that you can try to get you through your rough patches. But just remember, you are not alone.
Other Ways to Cope
Crisis Textline. This is a texting crisis helpline that is available to assist you 24 hours a day. You can text HOME to 741741 (US residents) or 686868 (Canada residents).
Express your emotions. Don’t hide the emotions you are going through. Let them out, let them be known. Now, obviously you don’t want to allow your anger to take over on people who don’t deserve it.. but letting your emotions out will help tremendously. Whether you vocally express them or write them down, let them out. Everyone handles grief differently and just because the stages of grief are numbered does not mean that you will go through them in that order and you may not go through them all. Your way of grieving is different from anyone else’s so don’t let that discourage you or belittle your own experiences. Also, very important THERE IS NO TIME LINE TO GRIEVING A LOSS so do not let anyone tell you “It’s been ___ years… get over it..”
Talk to someone. This can be hard and we’re all guilty of holding in our feelings and anger.. however, during times of loss it is important to have support and people to help you through this awful time. If it’s a loss of a family member confiding in another family member is often the most helpful since they are handling the same loss but sometimes you may feel bad to let yourself go to them because they’re going through it too but trust me, support is support.. so talking to them and letting them talk to you will be beneficial for you both.
Preserve memories. You can do this by planting a tree or garden in their memory that you can visit when you are having a bad day.
Join a support group. There are many different support groups in every state here in the US that you can look up and see which ones are the most convenient for you.
Talk to a therapist or grief counselor. This is often a scary way of coping. You may feel as if you have failed if you have to take this step but I promise you you have not! Dealing with grief is a very highs and lows experience so sometimes when we’re at our lowest of lows we need the extra professional help. If you need it, get it.
I hope that by reading this you find something that will help you or are given hope that you are not alone. Thank you for stopping by!
Until next time…