Grief can present after any change in our lives and is an experience many of us have been living with during the last two years, whether we label it as such or not. As was discussed in our last blog, the stages of grieving include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages all happen as a part of grief but do not always occur in a linear fashion. Feeling these things is part of coping with grief, but what do you do when feeling these things becomes too much to bear on your own? How do you cope with grief when it feels like it will never end, never make sense, or never should have happened in the first place?
Grief is a natural and normal part of the process of our lives, but few people have been taught how to grieve – or even given permission to let their grief be exactly as it is. When we think about grief as it is depicted in media there is a sense of isolation, drab passing days, and nothingness. We want to avoid the feeling because we believe that it will only increase the heaviness we feel, we want to rush through it so we can get on with whatever life we have left, we want to numb so that nothing can hurt us the way this grief has hurt us. And yet, when it comes to coping with grief, the only way to heal from grief is to feel all that accompanies our grief.
Grief is the process that leads to healing – it is the way we decrease the feeling of heaviness, the way we get back to living life, and the way to creating meaning.
As you feel your way through grief, here are some ways to cope when the grief becomes unbearable:
- Be in the present.
Using mindfulness or grounding skills, stay rooted in the present. Realize what has (or hasn’t happened) in the present and give yourself permission to feel your feelings in the present as well.
- Control what you can control.
You cannot change the grief event or the fact that you are experiencing grief. Allow yourself to control how you grieve, to choose what you do with your grief, to decide what your next steps are – and attempt to control your own judgement about how you are processing grief.
- Practice compassion.
Think about how you would comfort a loved one or young child experiencing the grief you are feeling. What would you say to them and how would you treat them? Can you extend those same things to yourself? Treat yourself with compassion and honor that when difficult things happen, we feel – and it is okay to feel.
- Name what you are feeling.
Instead of trying to avoid or numb your feelings, honestly name what you are experiencing. Try to accurately place yourself in one of the stages of grief, and feel that without judgement. When we name what we are feeling, we give organization and meaning to the experience and are likely to feel more empowered in our options for how we cope.
- Seek professional help.
Remember that few people have been taught or prepared for how to grieve. It is okay to find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the process of grief and unsure of how to navigate the next few hours or days of your life. It is okay, if like many, you feel unable to make plans for the future after the last two years of grief. Please know that you can work with a professional who can give you additional skills for coping with grief and can help you process your grief and find meaning.
Grief is natural, and difficult, and does not have to be experienced alone. If you are interested in working with someone for support in your grief, please consider contacting our office.