There is no one way, or wrong way, to grieve. Everybody grieves differently... The important part is that we grieve. This blog will go over some basic tools I found helpful in effectively grieving the loss of a loved one.
I organized the grieving process into a few steps to help with the healing process. Each step should be made personal and be completed at one’s own pace.
We are all individuals. Just because someone is grieving the same death doesn't mean they are experiencing the same feelings and/or processing the death in the same manner (even within the same family). But no matter who you are, we all need to grieve in the face of loss to effectively continue living life.
These opinions are based on my own personal experience in dealing with multiple personal losses and my observations of others going through similar feelings of grief. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO EFFECTIVELY GRIEVE?
Grieving is allowing yourself to cry, feel depressed and sad. It’s okay to feel that way since you’ve just lost a loved one!
Those excruciating feelings need to be released. Keeping them inside can cause a build up of unresolved intense feelings which can lead to panic attacks or emotional outbursts. We need to grieve and feel our feelings so that we can get them out of our system and allow ourselves to eventually heal.
Grieving is a process.
You're not going to be able to pick up the pieces after a death and just "move on". Healing will take time. Something to keep in mind when you’re allowing yourself time to grieve; Don’t allow the depression and sadness to completely take you over. You should allow yourselves time to grieve but then engage in a productive distraction when you can.
It is incredibly important to create a support system; Find a grief support group or allow family, friends and neighbors to help. For many, accepting help can be a challenge. But remember, you're dealing with an immense amount of emotional stress, so allow others to lessen that burden. Take the help, if offered. You can also reach out and ask for help within the community or from good friends/family. Asking for help takes a lot of courage, and accepting it shows strength. You don’t need to grieve alone.
If you are finding that you are not able to move forward with day to day activities after a few months, even with a good support system in place, please consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you navigate the grief process more effectively.
Although you may feel like your life has just ended, you don’t need to give up and let everything go. You’re still alive, and that’s a good thing (even if sometimes you feel like it's not).
Continue your daily routine. Having somewhere to go every day will help you deal with your loss. (ie: try to engage in one social activity per week so a social outlet is available for you when you’re ready to re-engage fully back into society). Keeping your job so you can pay your bills will eliminate the addition of financial stress (never make any big life decisions like quitting your job when you are in the middle of grieving).
You may already be feeling alone and depressed. How much more depressing would it be to stay home alone every day, not being productive?
Some people need a longer period to grieve and feel sad, and that’s okay too. You should give yourselves a time frame (so to speak) of how long you will allow yourself to feel fully down and depressed. Start off small (ie; “Okay after 3 months I want to see myself attending close friends and family events"). After 3 months if you don’t feel ready to socialize, give yourself a new timeline (or work with a mental health professional to set more realistic goals).
Setting very small, yet realistic goals, will help you successfully ease your way back into society while still grieving. Of course, we never really know how long we will need to grieve, (there is certainly no set timeline), but at some point we need to tell ourselves “this can’t be it!” “I can’t keep feeling this way!”
Remember, grief is a process... but with support and a shift in mindset, you can and will get through this.
We all need to learn to let go of what we can’t control and accept our new reality.
Death is a natural part of life. It’s normal to be in denial for a period of time, especially in the beginning, but then at some point we need to face our new reality head-on, and accept the situation.
Things are not going to be the same again.
Accepting loss takes time. When we grieve (allow ourselves to cry and get those sad feelings out) it makes the loss more real. We are then not living in denial, and at some point, our minds can then accept the loss. Acceptance will allow us to move forward with our lives.
It’s important to understand that moving forward does not mean we are forgetting.
We will never truly forget our loved ones, what they meant to us, or how our life has drastically changed since they’ve been gone. But we need to accept the reality of their death and “move forward”, adjusting as best as we can, knowing our loved one would want us to continue living and being happy.
We need to learn to put the past behind us (as best we can). If we constantly feel strong, intense, emotional feelings of grief year after year, it will be difficult, and almost impossible to accept our loss and move forward.
Getting closure is what I find to be the final stage of grieving and can only come after you accept that your loved one is gone. Only then can you learn to truly move forward in life without their physical presence.
What can you do to get closure?
Everybody finds meaning in different "acts of closure". Some feel connected to their loved one when they light a candle in their memory. Some do acts of kindness or start a fund for a cause close to their loved one's heart. Some put out pictures of them around the house. Others may want to write a letter to the deceased; Whether it be expressing sad feelings related to the loss or apologizing for something they didn’t get a chance to do when the person was alive. Remember, grief is personal, so find what works best for you.
Finding a way to accept the loss, but still stay connected to your loved one through an act of closure, will help provide you with the comfort you need, helping you move forward without "forgetting them".
Keep in mind, feelings of guilt usually follow feelings of grief.
Just remember, the deceased person would want you to continue living and find a way to be happy. Doing something kind and positive in their honor may help you relieve some guilt about “being happy” and/or “moving forward” in life without them.
AT THE END OF THE DAY...
Grief is a personal process that will take time to go through the motions and heal. Take the time you need to effectively grieve, and when you're ready, get back to living.
Life will have new meaning.
Take the time to re-evaluate what’s most important and use your experience to help you grow and appreciate life more.
And most importantly, let your loved one continue living through you and your life by keeping them alive in your hearts and homes.