How to Grieve
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
There are as many ways to grieve as there are people on earth. In fact there are more because each loss is grieved differently. There are, however, some ways in which we can support ourselves in accommodating to the loss and easing our pain.
It is helpful to think of balance between three things when grieving. Ideally, there should be some time spent feeling the emotions of grief, some time spent distracting from the emotions and resting, and some time spent increasing emotional strength. These things can look different for each person. Time doesn’t need to be equal, but it should feel as though enough time is being spent to get the benefit of each.
Feeling the emotions of grief means allowing whatever feelings arise. This may be expected emotions, such as sadness or fear, and it may also be unexpected emotions, such as anger or relief. Trying to keep feelings away will keep them stuck. Some people like to experience feelings alone and others like to share their feelings and get empathy from others. In either care, allowing emotions in an atmosphere of self-compassion helps them move through and pass. Self-compassion means welcoming every feeling, knowing that it makes sense and is necessary in the grieving process. It also means recognizing how hard this is for you.
It is also important to give ourselves a break by distracting ourselves from our feelings at times. Although it’s important to feel the emotions of grief, you do not have to feel every moment in order to honor the person who died. Our bodies need rest from the hormones of grief and our brains need rest from the work of grieving. Our brains will be able to think better, and remember our loved one more clearly, if we give them breaks from feeling.
Distracting is doing whatever helps you not think about your loss for a little while. This might be doing a hobby or exercising. It might be filling your mind with something else, such as watching TV, listening to music or reading a book. It could be talking to friends. Some people think it seems odd to go on with life as usual when their loved one is gone. It is necessary to help with the integration of the loss to not be overwhelmed with intense emotion every minute of every day.
The final piece of the balance puzzle is doing whatever helps fills your emotional gas tank. This is any activity that makes you feel more resilient, replenishes you, and gives you more emotional strength to get through the hard times. For some people, this is exercise or meditation. For others, it might be prayer or taking a bath or getting a massage. It’s important to experiment because what may have been deeply relaxing before the loss may not be the same as what is deeply relaxing while you are grieving.
So, the three pieces of the balance puzzle are 1) feeling the feelings of grief, 2) distracting from the feelings of grief for rest, and 3) increasing emotional strength. Most people can tell where they would like to spend a little more time and where they could spend a little less time. If you do all three of these, you’ll find that although your grief will still be with you, it will shift and change and eventually become more manageable.
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