As the days turn sunnier, the topic of grief may be far from our thoughts. Yet, grief touches all our lives at some point.
Grief is a normal and natural reaction to a loss.
This loss can take many forms. The death of someone in the family, a friend, or a beloved community member can be particularly devastating. Grief can also stem from loss of health, struggles with work or studies, or coping with new stages of life or changes in life circumstances.
A grieving person may find it hard to focus on tasks, may withdraw from family, friends, and social occasions, may have decreased appetite, and may sleep less or more. They may feel sadness, anger, guilt, fear, and a range of emotions in between.
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Processing grief is often intensely personal. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no defined start or end to this journey. But is also doesn’t mean it has to be debilitating to our lives in the long run – there are ways to cope that will help one adjust to the new reality.
Be open to your feelings. Feeling angry, hurt, confused, sad, guilty, or scared is very uncomfortable. It is understandable that many of us prefer to avoid feeling that way. Bottling up intense feelings can make them worse over time. While it can be painful in the short term, it is healthier to be open to our feelings during a time of mourning. Understanding and acknowledging that a range of feelings are associated with grief is helpful to processing.
Feelings of grief come in waves. Grief takes time. Be gentle and patient with yourself. Know that is okay and healthy to laugh.
Look for ways to find meaning – individually and together. Taking time to recognize and mark the event can be helpful to the healing process. This can be in the form of a spiritual, religious or community ceremony to celebrate the life of an individual or the impact they had. Doing an activity or having a physical reminder can also be restorative, such as planting a tree or garden, creating artwork, or developing a memento.
Take care of basic needs. Nutritious food, adequate sleep, and fresh air can all go a long way in helping you cope well with overwhelming emotions. Remember that making space for self-care is not selfish.
Lean on family, friends, or community support groups. When you are ready, opening up to a select few trusted loved ones can help you feel supported during a difficult time. Support groups, both in person and online, can help you feel less alone and can give you access to helpful mental health resources. This can be particularly helpful during birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other occasions which can trigger painful emotions.
Over time, the once intense feelings will diminish in severity. If you think you may need a little more support, reach out to your family doctor or a mental health professional for guidance.
Remember, you are not alone.