Everyone is different. Every loss is different. Be gentle with yourself
Learning how to deal with grief isn’t easy, especially when you have a broken heart but, trying out some healthy coping mechanisms can be very helpful, especially when mourning a death.
Working through the loss, grief and death of a loved one can be one of the most difficult and challenging times in our human experience.
When we lose someone we feel like a piece of our identity is missing
The grief we feel when we lose someone we’re close to is deep and it’s different, depending upon the nature of our relationship.
Through my own experience and that of my family, friends and clients, I’ve learned that every one of the losses in our life takes a different toll.
The loss of a parent is different from the loss of a sibling or the loss of an extended family member. The loss of a spouse is different from all of those… and when we lose our pet, it is another special kind of loss. Then there are the losses that many people think we should be able to get over more quickly because we’ve lost a ‘thing’ rather than a person.
Yet, we suffer nonetheless when we grieve the loss of a career or a business, or a precious passion that is taken away because we’re too young to protect it.
Loss creates a certain kind of situation. When we lose someone or something precious in our lives, we feel as though a piece of our identity is missing.
“Who am I now that I’m no longer a daughter? Or a wife? Or a career woman? Or a caregiver?”
The truth is, those identities are with us always but, they are forever changed.
I like to think our losses add layers to our being and those layers accumulate. Some are smooth and shiny, while others are rough and ragged.
There are pieces of the old you still there, as you build new pieces, and the new layers add texture and wisdom to your life… if you allow them to form.
Mourning is not easy and moving through the loss and grief stages is an often slow process.
To make some headway, here are 10 coping mechanisms to deal with grief, loss and death when you are broken-hearted and in mourning:
1. Take it one moment at a time
Don’t try to tackle the stages of grief all at once. Take one step at the moment. Allow yourself to cry like a baby.
You may need to attend to a task that requires your attention. Or, you may need some space, so you decide to take a walk.
Take one thing at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed by all that lies ahead.
Grief makes its own rules. And, those rules are unique to each of us in terms of how long grief sticks around
2. Know that grieving is normal
There is nothing wrong with you. You’re not going crazy. You hurt deep inside where you can’t reach.
The grieving process does not operate in a linear fashion. Know that you will be okay once you give yourself time to feel the emotions, let them ebb and flow like the ocean tide, and learn to process what you feel in a way that feels right for you.
You may need some help with this, so don’t be ashamed to reach out to someone you trust.
3. Talk about your loss
The power of talking cannot be underestimated. Having conversations about your loved one – with friends and family, a coach, or a counsellor – helps to get the thoughts out of your head.
Talk about the facets of your relationship, the good and the bad, and the emotions you feel. If you leave them bottled up inside, it’s harder to shift your attitude about them.
This shift will help you express yourself more freely and allow the feelings to be released. There is relief in that release.
4. Delay some decisions
Sometimes, with major loss and the grief that follows, you are not thinking clearly. You may feel confused.
In this state of moving through loss and grief, you are likely to make decisions that are not sound, or that you wish you had more time to think about.
Give yourself that time. Consult with others you trust if decisions must be made immediately, so you benefit from the clarity and objectivity they can bring.
5. Be kind to yourself
You hear a lot about self-care, I know. I talk about it all the time with my clients, and I write about it.
And self-care isn’t easy when you’re working through loss and grief. Yet, it is essential if you are going to get through this time in one piece, without losing yourself.
Self-care takes different forms for everyone. Figure out what form it takes for you and do more of that.
As your cup is drained by the energy spent grieving, you must refill it.
Truly, only you can decide how best to take care of you.
With grief of every kind, we must allow the emotions to come and flow so we can ultimately let them go
6. Accept that you won’t have all the answers
When the loss seems senseless, you may be asking “Why me?” or, “Why them?” These are questions without answers. Chasing those answers will leave you drained with nothing left. Not being in control can be frustrating.
Change is always difficult – even more so when there is loss with grief attached to it. Making peace with the fact that some things are out of your control to change is a good way to position yourself for moving through it.
Have faith and hope. These will help you to find the courage to work through the loss and grief.
7. Know that there will be dark days
As more time goes by and you put distance between you and the initial shock of the loss, you will experience some moments of joy and happiness, like before.
Don’t feel guilty about them. Allow them to soak into your heart and lift you. Because those moments of good feelings will come and go fleetingly at first.
You’ll welcome more of them as time passes and then, from out of the blue, there will be days when a wave of emotion takes you down. All normal.
Grief makes its own rules. And, those rules are unique to each of us in terms of how long grief sticks around. You’re not alone.
8. Create a ritual
Everyone has their own coping mechanisms when it comes to grief. Each time someone I love passes it gives me an opportunity to dedicate something to them.
For each parent, I planted a tree. I can sit under those trees and have a chat, which brings me comfort.
For one brother, I bought something to wear to keep him near to my heart.
For another brother, I took one of the wooden boxes he made for me and I put it on my bureau, where I store my jewellery each night so I can touch something he touched.
For my pets, I put ornaments in my garden.
I feel closer to each of them every day because of these rituals.
What can you do to keep your connection to your loved ones close to your heart?
9. Find the gratitude
Rather than feeling “lost”, choose to feel found. Choose to “have” rather than to lose. It’s a simple (yet not easy) mindset shift.
Make a choice to find the blessings in knowing your loved one, warts, wrinkles and all. This, above all else, will help you work through the loss and grief in your life. Make a list of all the good, the bad and the ugly of your loved one. Add one thing about each item on your list that you are grateful for, despite the wart. It may be as simple as a lesson you learned, or a precious moment you shared. If other members of your family or friends are struggling too, engage them in this exercise with you.
Finding gratitude as a community is very powerful. Replacing the sense of loss with a feeling of gratefulness begins to fill the hole left in your heart.
Allow time to feel the loss, to experience how it changes your life and to heal, so you can find your way forward – in your own time, in your own way
10. Make sense of moving through loss and grief
With grief of every kind, we must allow the emotions to come and flow through us so we can ultimately let them go.
This takes time. The time it takes cannot be dictated by anyone else but you.
The ebb and flow of those emotions can feel gentle or turbulent. It can send you into a tailspin or draw you inward to reflect.
It may leave you feeling relieved and ready to move on or it can hold you in its grip for months or years at a time.
Everyone is different. Every loss is different. Be gentle with yourself.
Allow time to feel the loss, to experience how it changes your life and to heal, so you can find your way forward – in your own time, in your own way.
During this time, you may feel despondent or depressed. You may seclude yourself and prefer to be alone.
When something major happens in my life, I tend to spend some time with the covers pulled over my head. I don’t talk much because I’m processing things in my head and reconciling the hurt in my heart.
There’s nothing wrong with that unless the thoughts in your head take you down a rabbit hole that you can’t crawl out of.
I’ve learned to reach out and talk about it with people I trust, who will not judge me.
And sometimes, I write – just write and write and write – about how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking.
When I voice my thoughts and feelings, whether out loud so someone can hear me, or silently as I write, they don’t feel so scary.
If this happens to you, think about who in your world can listen, allow you to cry and pour out your feelings, while they pour back into you some love and comfort.
María Tomás-Keegan is a certified Life Coach for Women, and founder of ‘Transition & Thrive with María’. Her work often focuses on helping people cope with grief, loss and emotional pain.
This article was originally published at TransitionAndThriveWithMaria.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.