Tips for Dealing with Grief
Our lives are defined by developing deep emotional connection to other people, places and animals. When we lose those things, we lose a part of ourselves. Overcoming grief often feels a lot more like learning to accept the absence, rather than actually moving past the feelings of loss. While it is a normal human experience, grief can overtake us, causing depression and exacerbating other forms of physical and emotional distress.
Moving past grief is more about easing the pain, and preventing a dip in quality of life. Getting outside for physical exercise, meditation and mindfulness exercises, and prayer are all great ways of helping to repair and restore a grieving heart.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and no universal timetable for the grieving period. Its length, what it feels like, and how it manifests varies from person to person. Some may find they are more expressive and emotional during the grieving process, while others may find they are more reclusive and less social.
The Difference between Grief and Depression
While grief is normal, if it lasts too long or begins to affect your ability to live a normal life, individuals may want to seek professional help. Depression and grief are not the same. In grief, negative feelings are interspersed with positive feelings. Perhaps one feels especially negative, yet may still be able to conjure up positive memories or feelings of the deceased. In depression, mood is almost always negative. During grief, one’s self-esteem is not typically affected. In contrast, depressive episodes have a negative impact on one’s self-esteem and can evoke feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Seek professional help from a therapist or grief counselor if these depressive symptoms arise during your mourning.
Mental health professionals may specialize in working with individuals in the grieving process. Some of these professionals write blogs on their experience and offer helpful words. The following sites may also provide support for any involved in the process of grieving:
The tips below will help make sense of what mind and body are going through during the grieving process and help to heal a grieving heart.
Find social support
Although it may feel like hiding away and not talking to anybody is the best medicine while experiencing grief, talking with friends or family can actually be a very therapeutic activity. Anger, sadness, guilt, and many more emotions may arise. Venting to friends or family can help one feel understood by others and less alone.
Take your time
Everybody grieves differently. There is no specific timetable to follow while grieving. Some people may be able to get back into their normal routine in a much quicker way than others. Ensure the grieving process is not rushed. Grieving may be a continuous, on-going experience. Do not try to “complete” the grieving process by a particular deadline. Let nature run its course.
Keep a journal or diary
Expressing your feelings on paper can be just as therapeutic as venting to friends and family. A diary or journal can be an outlet for bottled up feelings. This is a way to be honest and open with yourself and your feelings. In a journal, consider writing a letter or note to the loved one. This can help work through feelings and better process them. Try jotting down the positive memories held about the loved one.
Express your feelings
Be honest! According to Dr. Ann Becker-Schutte, it is important to be compassionate with ourselves and with others. Grief deserves time, space, and self-care. Grief will bring up so many more emotions than possibly imagined. Be authentic with what is being felt. When moments of joy or happiness arise, allow them to be soaked in. Do not feel embarrassed or guilty of positive feelings during the time of grief. A range of emotions during this difficult time is normal. It is important to feel these emotions and embrace them. Try not to hold back feelings or push them down. Crying is nothing to be ashamed of and may even help propel the grieving process forward in a healthy way.
Know when to seek professional help
Following periods of grief, the thought of contacting a mental health professional may surface. There is nothing wrong with seeking the help of a therapist or counselor in a time of need. These individuals can help work through grief in a healthy way. Therapy is an effective way to learn to cope with the stressors associated with the loss and to manage symptoms with techniques such as relaxation or meditation. Friends and family are great resources, but sometimes talking with an unbiased, professional voice can help the grieving process progress in the right direction. I commonly work with individuals impacted by loss. Contact me at 818.925.0501 or Hadley.Tarantino@gmail.com to schedule your first appointment.