Helpful Suggestions for Coping with Grief

1)  Be Patient with Yourself:

Why do we grieve? The grief process gives us time to heal. Coming to terms with your loss and adjusting to a new life does not happen overnight. Grief always takes longer than people who haven’t been through it seem to think. The poet John Donne wrote: “He who has no time to mourn has no time to mend”.

People say, “Time heals” but I am not sure the statement is accurate. Certainly it takes time to heal, like it does after surgery. But we cannot think of grief simply in a timeline. Grief comes and goes. So upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, special days and holidays all might be times when grief will invite us to feel the pain of our loss, and peel off one more layer of our hurt.

Every experience of grief is unique.  Do not compare yourself to anyone else or allow anyone to compare your response to another situation. Some experience certain emotions, while other people experience different ones. Some people take longer than others to work through their emotions.

So take whatever time you need to work this through. Be patient with yourself.  Do not rush yourself, for right now your body, mind and heart require all your energy just to mend.

2)  Be Good to Yourself 

You need to look after yourself physically, mentally, socially and spiritually, especially at significant times along your grief journey.

a) Physically: Try to get adequate rest. Even if you cannot sleep, at least try to relax and rest.  Good nutrition is important.  Sometimes it can be a discipline to make balanced, nutritious meals, especially if the loss has left us on our own or isolated. Resist the temptation to skip meals or eat junk food.  Forcing your body to work hard on a relatively few nutrients denies it needed resources.

b) Mentally: Do not beat yourself up emotionally. Don’t torture yourself with regrets and “if only’s”.  Keeping a journal or a diary is a good way to express what you are feeling and thinking. A year from now, when you read your journal again, you will be pleasantly surprised to see how far you have come in your recovery.

HAVE SOME FUN. Laughter is good for your health. Research has shown that upbeat emotions produce positive chemical changes in the body and humor is an important tool in handling your grief. Do what you want to do, without worrying what other people may or may not be thinking or expecting you to do.  Feel free to be spontaneous, to laugh and have fun.

That’s not to say we should only focus on good things and ignore the pain and sorrow we feel. It merely suggests we find a balance between the two.

c) Socially: It is important not to shut yourself away, even while following social distancing self-isolation guidelines. Social relationships are healthy, and especially so in difficult times. Who can you phone, or contact by social media? This will help you, but it will also help them.

d) Spiritually: Regardless of what faith we subscribe to, we may feel that our belief system has been shaken. Why would God allow this to happen? We may feel angry that God does not seem to answer our prayers, or even seem to care. We may wonder what the purpose is in all this.

Life is not always fair. Remember, there are no easy answers. Faith enables us to accept what we may not understand.

3)  Hold On To Hope     

Your experience is not abnormal, nor are you suffering from some kind of “disorder”. We must think of ourselves as good people who have been temporarily overwhelmed by a tough situation and who, with help and support, will make it through this difficult time.

It is never too early to sow seeds of hope. Hope is what helps us heal. Hope that we will make it through this time. Hope that someday this pain will subside and life will have meaning again. We must believe that there is a purpose to life, even though we may not see it right now.

As you find the grace and strength to carry on, the feelings of grief will become less painful and occur less frequently. You will begin to pick up the threads of your life. You will look toward the future with hope and even pleasure.

You have begun a grief journey. Sometimes it may seem that the road is too difficult and too long. You may be wondering if you will make it. The answer is: “You can if you want to.”

Grief can certainly be a challenge, but not more powerful than your ability to work your way through your many reactions and emotions. Although the possibility of your recovery may seem distant right now, this healing process can happen for you, as it has for many of us through the years.

In this series of articles, we have tried to understand what we may have lost as a result of the pandemic and our reactions in terms of grief

In this next set of 5 messages, Dr. Bill talks about Coping with the Many Emotions of Grief in challenging times of loss and understanding “the reason behind the reaction”.