We humans mourn the loss of many things: relationships, homes, jobs, pets, and of course, our loved ones. I have experienced every one of these losses and yes, I know what grief is. We each experience this intense emotional pain in our own way, feeling a sense of shock, anger, disbelief, guilt, and overwhelming sadness. We may move from one feeling to another and back again because grief is unpredictable. We need to find ways to help us cope.
Support from within your circle
Whatever you do, resist the urge to withdraw. It doesn’t matter how “strong” you are, you will find comfort in being with others. Reach out to those who care about you and accept their love, support, and help. Don’t push them away; instead, tell them what you need. It might be help with practical matters, or a welcoming shoulder to lean on. Remember that the people who care about you want to be there for you. While they may not always “have the right words to say,” trust their good intentions.
Support from outside of your circle
Because grief is a personal, yet universal, human experience, being with others who are grieving can be very comforting. They understand; they are trying to cope just as you are. Even if you are “not a joiner,” or if “groups aren’t your thing,” consider a bereavement support group. You can start by simply googling “grief support groups near Winston-Salem NC.” You might also reach out to a local hospice, your own primary care physician, your place of worship, or a funeral home for suggestions.
While taking care of your physical and emotional needs right now may be difficult, doing so will help you to cope with your grief:
- Acknowledge your pain. If you try to avoid your feelings you are likely to prolong your grieving process. If you tell yourself how you “should” feel, you will deny your honest experience. If you allow others to tell you what you “should” feel, or when and how you “should” heal, you will become angry. In other words, accept the entire array of your emotional experience without judgment or embarrassment.
- Express your feelings “creatively.” After losing her husband, my friend joined an evening art class where she channeled her pain by drawing images of autumn leaves. After losing my beloved papillon, I created a scrapbook of her life. Perhaps you sew, strum guitar, sing, or write poetry. The how is less important than the fact that you are pursuing a constructive outlet for your feelings.
- Keep to a routine. After the initial days of grieving, it is important to reestablish some normalcy to your days. So, go back to the gym, attend your book club’s chat, or play a round of golf. You will find comfort in the familiar.
- Don’t let yourself go. Neglect won’t help you. Do the best you can to eat right, sleep, exercise, and minimize the use of drugs or alcohol to numb your pain.
Manage intense grief in the moment
A relative refers to it as a “grief meltdown.” When it strikes, it can feel as if you’ve been punched in the stomach. It’s that bad. Experts suggest these simple actions to help you get through it:
- Take a few deep breaths to immediately decrease stress and anxiety.
- Take a shower to relieve depression while increasing your energy level.
- Stretch to help you to release tension.
- Drink a glass of water to help deliver oxygen throughout your body and to maintain blood pressure.