Grief is a natural emotional response to any loss. Losses can range from the death of a loved one , loss of a job, a miscarriage, or even losing a friendship. Contrary to popular belief there is no one way way to grieve. Research has shown that grief does not actually occur in stages and that time alone is not sufficient to heal the wounds of grief.
Each individual has their own coping strategies for dealing with grief. While some coping strategies, such as drinking or using substances, are unhealthy coping mechanisms, many other strategies can be helpful in aiding each individual through the morning process.
Here are some ideas for common and healthy coping techniques when mourning a loss:
1. Reach out to others. When experiencing grief, support from family, friends, your church or temple, or a support group can help ease the burden of grief. A social support network can take care of the daily tasks and chores as well as other arrangements so that you can focus on working through the emotions that accompany a loss. Additionally, being socially isolated can further add to the risk of depression after experiencing a loss. Having people around you can help buffer that risk.
2. Create a ritual. Research has shown that creating a ritual during the grieving process significantly improves the grief experience. Engaging in any kind of ritual, including celebrating the loved one’s birthday, visiting the grave or a favorite spot, or honoring an anniversary, can help protect against developing depression due to grief.
3. Get fresh air. Grief can be a very overwhelming experience and the thought of doing any kind of activity may feel too burdensome for some people. Stepping outside even if for two minutes to breathe in fresh air can help your mind and body re-energize while you are grieving a loss. Breathing fresh air on your patio or front step can help relax the body and mind during this stressful time.
4. Eat, exercise and sleep. The stress from a major loss, such as a divorce or the loss of health, negatively impacts your immune system, making you more at risk for illnesses. It is imperative to take care of your physical and emotional health during this time to prevent yourself from getting sick. Eat healthy foods, exercise as often as you can. Grief can make you feel fatigued and uninterested in activities. However, eating well and exercising can help combat the negative effects of grief-related stress. Make sure to get plenty of rest so your mind and body have time to recover from the stressors of the day.
5. Be patient with yourself. There is no timeframe, time limit, or a list of emotions that you should feel while you are grieving. There is no moment or after which you have “gotten over” grief. Do not believe anyone who says there is a timeline on grief. Grief is a lifelong process that becomes easier to cope with over time. Grief is also nonlinear so symptoms may hit you at different times of the day and in different ways over the course of several months. This is all normal so do not feel pressured to move through the grief faster or in a different way than you are able.
6. Know your grief triggers. Certain milestones, anniversaries and or situations may remind you of your loss and trigger a grief episode. Know what these are and be prepared by planning ahead to make sure you have appropriate coping strategies and outlets available. For example, if you have suffered a miscarriage, going to the grocery store during the day may trigger your grief when you see mothers with their young children. Plan on going to the grocery store at a different time of the day. Similarly, an upcoming dinner party where the topic of conversation maybe jobs may trigger your grief after losing your job recently. Come prepared with other topics of conversation or an excuse to leave the party early if the grief becomes too unbearable. Give yourself enough time during the day and in the subsequent days to manage your grief after a trigger.
7. Do something creative. Research has identified that using the creative part of your brain can help soothe the emotion centers of the brain that are highly aroused during the mourning process. Writing, drawing or dancing are some examples of creative outlets for grief. They can also serve as a memorial of the loss that you experienced.
8. Attend grief counseling or a support group. While counseling is not necessary for everyone who is grieving, if you find yourself ruminating over the loss, you may benefit from speaking to a grief counselor to help you navigate the complex emotions that make up the grief experience. Similarly, a peer support group with people who have gone through similar situations as you have may be an excellent source of support while you recover from your loss.
Grief is a complex, lengthy and normal experience after any significant loss. There is no cure for grief, nor is there a magic answer that will help you move through it faster or more efficiently. It is an experience that must be addressed head-on, as it comes in a constructive and healthy manner. Healthy coping techniques prevent complications from occurring such as depression anxiety or substance abuse or prolonged health problems.
How do you cope with grief. Please leave your comments below.