30 Jun DIFFERENT WAYS TO HANDLE GRIEF
We have all experienced the heavy emotion of grief. The loss of something important is a haunting ache that seeps from the heart, covering our whole body in sadness. It is one of the hardest emotions to process and transform because of its intense weight. Grief can appear for many reasons, such as when we experience the loss of a romantic relationship, the loss of a friendship, the loss of an opportunity, and worst of all, the loss of a loved one by death. So what do we do with this agonizing emotion when it seizes us with depression, sadness and sorrow? Below I take a look at four types of grief and the ways to process it and let it go.
Loss of a romantic relationship – This is perhaps one of the hardest forms of grief that one can endure. Many times a break up consists in a cycle: two people separate then come back together, then separate and then come back together. This up and down wave continues until it finally slows down and becomes a smaller and smaller ripple across the pond. When a romantic relationship has been a truly important one, it is hard to unravel strong feelings, thoughts and attitudes that told you this relationship was forever. Unfortunately, when these relationships end, the participants are faced with grief. The five stages of grief in a relationship can manifest in the following ways:
- Denial – Denial begins when there is a decision to separate, but neither of you believe it is truly over (and in most cases it probably isn’t). There is a “parting of ways” but yet you still text, call and try to “accidentally” bump into each other. There is a hope that things can still work out.
- Anger – When a relationship gets moved into the “separation” zone, anger can more easily manifest as feelings of rejection abound, communication becomes strained and the uncertainty of where you stand with one another causes trust to break down. Paranoia and accusations can fly and anger can explode.
- Bargaining – This phase is where you realize that the relationship is truly in danger of dying forever and make promises to try harder, get counseling, let go of the past and work things out. This is where renewed vows and pledges are made and connection is re-asserted.
- Depression – If things do not resolve with a new approach then depression sets in. The intent to save the relationship actually does not work and you realize the past is too heavy and the future does not hold the promise that it once did. This is the realization that the relationship has indeed ended. The old issues are still there and yet neither partner has the energy to fight or fix it anymore which leads to the final stage:
- Acceptance – In this stage, you realize that it is time to move on. This is where the divorce attorneys are called, the child custody is determined, the assets are divided, and the loose ends are tied up and completed. When this occurs, the best thing you can do for yourself is to create time and space.
Space: If you begin the process of letting go, then you need the physical space away from the other person, even if it is just temporarily. This may mean you need to stay with your friends or extended family members so you have a safe space to work things out for yourself.
Time: You also need time in order to process your heavy feelings of grief – crying, screaming, raging, starring off into space, moping, etc. There is not much you can do to avoid these feelings, so let them each have their say and treat each part with as much love and compassion as you can. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t think or analyze too much, just let it come out. This process will simply take as long as it needs to take.
Plan for the future: Determine what you need to do now and what your future looks like moving forward. Devise your exit strategy and then take one step at a time to make that plan a reality. Where will you live? How will this affect your kids? What money do you need and how will you get it? Do you need to get a job or switch jobs? Stay focused on forward movement and figure out the logistics of your new life.
Reconnect and Grow: As you continue to mourn your loss it is important to balance out your life with the love and beauty that still exists for you. Whether it be spending time with your kids, your friends, your work, and/or whatever else gives you joy. Put your time and attention on those positive things in your life to restore your emotional equilibrium. Do something new that is outside of your comfort zone. Try a new hobby, plan that trip you always wanted to take, go skydiving, take classes, etc. Do something that causes you growth in a new direction so that you can build up the positive side of your emotional bank account.
Move on: The physical act of final separation is the last step. Establish a new home or have your partner move out permanently. Put your new plan (that you established in step 3) into action. Fill your down time with the positive things and people you determined in step 4. You may still experience the ups and downs of the break up wave, but as time and space allow, you will be able to move forward and rebuild your life.
Loss of a friendship – Friendships end for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes there is a fight or a personality dispute that causes the friendship to no longer work. Sometimes one friend just moves on with his/her life and leaves the other friend behind. Whatever the reason, it’s important to process the loss. Here are a few things to try when letting a friend go:
- Express Yourself: Write a letter to said friend expressing your feelings about them and the way the relationship ended. You do not need to send this letter, but you do need to express how you feel so that you can find your own closure. Getting it out of your body and onto the page can help expel some of these heavy emotions. Talking about it with a trusted friend, counselor or family member is also a good idea. This will help you to process your feelings and get to the heart of why you are hurt. Crying and mourning is also helpful during this process.
- Meditate: Another wonderful way of letting this person go is through meditation. In meditation imagine that you and your friend are standing in front of each other with a cord of white light connecting you both. Focus on the positive things that this friend has brought to your life and why they were important to you. Thank them for these gifts. Then cut the cord and send your friend off with love, light and any forgiveness you can offer them. Then fill yourself with love, light and forgiveness. This is an energetic way of letting them go and healing you at the same time.
- Reconnect: Another way to heal from a broken friendship is to spend time with your other friends. Reconnect and feed those relationships. This will help heal your wounds, knowing there are others still around you who love and care about you.
Loss of an opportunity – Life brings us exciting opportunities like big promotions, dream jobs, your own business, the perfect house! The idea of attaining these dreams fills us with promise and hope for a better life. It’s natural to get excited when something comes your way that you truly want. However, these opportunities don’t always pan out. When this happens, all of your hopes and dreams are dropped and you can be left in a state of sadness and grief. It is important to process a missed opportunity so you can open yourself up for the next one. Here are a few things to try:
- Breath and feel: First thing to do is to take some deep breaths and let the feelings come in. Once again the best way to deal with grief is not to hold it back but to let it come. Vent your frustrations to a friend, cry, scream and shout, write an angry letter (not meant to be mailed). Do whatever works for you in expressing and processing your feelings so you can get them out of your body.
- Resolve: When you get to a more peaceful place in your process, then review the opportunity. What did this possibility bring to you that was so important? What need did it fulfill? What purpose or goal did it achieve? As you get an idea of why the loss is so great, recognize the void that is left in its wake. How can you fill this for yourself? Can you give yourself the pride or self-respect you need without actually accomplishing said goal? Focus on giving yourself the emotional satisfaction anyway and taking your power back from the situation. If it is not something you can fulfill for yourself then see #3.
- Seek: The missed opportunity has come and gone, now its time to move on to the next one. Once you have determined exactly what you wanted from the last possibility, make a list of what you want in the next one and then go hunting. This is fun because you can make it better, bigger and stronger then the first. Put out to the universe exactly what you are looking for. Keep your eyes open and your ear to the ground and seek out the next chance at finding your happiness. Create a vision board, repeat affirmations, visualize what you want and feel how you will feel once you have it. Maintain this seeking and the new opportunity will show up even better then the one before it.
Loss of someone by death – Finally the hardest one of all is the loss of someone by death. There is really no great playbook for dealing with grief from death. This form of grief is very personal and may be experienced differently by each unique individual. The five stages of grief discussed in part one (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) may enter in here, or they may not, depending on the person. When suffering a loss that is so final, there are some essential things to do that can help.
- Grieve: You must feel your feelings. When experiencing something as heavy as grief, you must allow yourself to express them and let them go. If kept bottled up they can lead to emotional, physical and mental breakdowns, so it is important to deal with grief straight on. This means if needed, you must cry, allow yourself anger, guilt, depression, fear, etc. Grief can bring in all sorts of emotions so you must be willing to allow all of them a voice in order to release them. The time it takes to finish grieving is different for everyone, so just know that this process will take as long as it takes.
- Seek counseling or support group: The best way to get support is from people who can truly understand your loss because they are going through their own. Grief support groups are a great way to meet others who can understand your pain. These groups can be a safe space to talk about your loss, express your overwhelming emotions and get help. If you want a more private approach, another way to do this would be to seek a grief counselor or a trusted friend or relative to talk to. Find a safe person that you trust can help you work through your loss and process your feelings.
- Stay active: Another component to dealing with grief is to stay active. It may seem like a struggle at first but it is essential. This means getting out of bed, dressing, going for a walk, eating, taking a shower, going to work, etc. – overall just taking care of yourself. You must self-care so that your body can move and release endorphins that can help combat the grief that is holding you down.
- Creative expression: Once you are able to put one foot in front of the other again then find a creative outlet for your feelings. You can journal about the loss or write a letter to the deceased person. You can join an organization that you have always had an interest in or that the person who has passed would have loved. You can make music, art, write a book, etc. some form of creative expression that can help you take all of these emotions and transform them into growth and healing. You may even record the life story of the person and what they meant to you and to others. Create a scrapbook and include photos from the key moments in the person’s life so that you may look at it whenever you feel you are missing them.
- Postpone major decisions: Finally in the early stages of grief it is best not to make any major life altering decisions. When you are in such a difficult state it is challenging to make decisions that are clear-minded and are not being colored by your grief state. It is best to give yourself time to process and recover before deciding what you want to do next.
Grief is a challenging emotion and one of the hardest to endure, but at one point or another in our lives we all end up faced with loss and heartache. It is in the loss, that we discover the beauty of what we had and are faced with the sadness of letting it go. Whatever form of therapy you choose, it is important you face it and process it for your own health.
If you would like to process or work on any grief you may be dealing with, please feel free to reach out. My door is always open.
Much Love, 💜