When we grieve, we suffer. The pain, shock, anger, guilt, and sadness can be so crushing that we truly believe we won’t recover…yet we do. Somehow, incredibly…we heal.
The death of a loved one, a devastating fire, facing terminal illness, or having our dreams dashed are all examples of deep, profound loss. We also grieve over other life events such as losing a job, a best friend, having an empty nest, a serious health problem…the list goes on. Because it’s so personal, there is no ‘how-to’ manual to cope with intense grief & loss. However, there are things we can try to do or avoid that help the process run its course, on our terms. No one can divert it or erase it, as much as we wish they could. These suggestions may help you better understand the grieving process and how to bounce back as best we can:
- Give yourself adequate time and attention
Time does heal all things, but it can feel like centuries when we are waist-deep in sorrow. There may be occasions when we don’t sleep or eat, or we try to find solace at the bottom of a bottle or an ice cream tub. It’s OK to tell the world we need more time to process, cry, think, and heal. Making healthy choices, getting fresh air and practising self-care will help restore the mind and body, but only when we’re ready for it or with a little gentle nudging from a friend.
- Own your grief
It’s all yours! Take it – feel it. There is no right or wrong way to mourn. If you haven’t cried (yet), you feel manic, want to watch reruns of Friends for a week…it’s perfect if it works for you. Others will try to tell us how to behave, what ‘stage’ of grief we should be in by now, when to get back on our feet, how to keep our chin up and so on, but what we need to do is be our genuine selves and let it play out.
- Focus on emotional stability
Healing is slow work, and the sole determining factor is the individual experiencing it. There are no gold stars for people who act like everything is great within weeks or months of a significant loss. In fact, it can make things worse, in the long run, to ignore our sorrow or put it on a shelf too soon; the pain will manifest itself in other, potentially unhealthy behaviours or emotions down the road. Having emotional intelligence can be beneficial during times of grief & loss, as it allows us to recognize and label our emotions, instead of feeling like we’re on an unmanned roller coaster of emotional chaos.
- Happiness will find its way back
Happiness will make an appearance in bits and pieces, and then one day you’ll notice it was a good day. You’ll start to reflect on how bad things got, and how much easier it is now…feeling almost proud of the hurdles crossed, the wisdom gained, and the depth of your own strength. Being happy doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten or that we aren’t honouring our loved one, but that we’ve begun to accept this loss and move past the dread while cherishing our good memories.
- Learn from loss
Experiencing grief is a transformation – we change and grow because of our losses. We’ve learned new things, pulled ourselves up when it seemed unbearable, and we showed courage on days we didn’t know we could. Our lives won’t be the same, and that’s fine because we adjust to change all the time; it’s what makes us who we are.
- Be supportive for others going through loss
No one wants to be told how much worse their suffering is compared to another’s. It’s not a competition. Loss is loss, and what matters is to show compassion for anyone experiencing grief. This is mutually beneficial for them and yourself as it allows for sharing, reflection, and personal growth.
As we wind down this series on Bouncing Back, one theme is prevalent: We are survivors through and through! Life just keeps on hurdling crises at us small and large, yet we have the courage and grit to keep going, dig deep, call in that extra support, use our resources and seek interventions. It may be slow going and get sloppy on occasion, but we have each other and we’ve got what it takes to bounce back.
What are some of your key takeaways from this series? Share in the comments below.
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison