It’s hard to write about experts’ opinions and views on how to work through grief because how we feel and deal with grief is a very individual experience. That is why I have chosen to tell my story about how I dealt with tragic loss and unbearable grief in my life.
I do believe, however, that the more you understand grief, the more informed you are and prepared when it hits you.
There are suggested strategies that psychologists, therapists, and grief counselors can recommend you to follow when grieving, and I have included those that offer practical advice and perspective on the grief and healing process.
How I processed my grief may not be the right one for you, but my story of surviving the pain of grief to living a full life might give you hope to keep moving forward one day at a time.
How I Worked Through Grief
On March 27th, 2005, I was in a hospital room with my family. I was in so much pain I could hardly breathe. My mum had just died, just three days after my father had died on March 24th.
I remember in the early days of my grief I would ask myself, “How can I make this pain go away? Why can’t I stop crying? Why doesn’t anyone understand me? Why can’t I be like everyone else?”
I couldn’t focus at work, had no energy, and just wanted to hide away! I wanted life to go back to normal but didn’t want to lose the memory of my parents.
When I look back now at those few months after my parents died, I know that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had no idea how to deal with the trauma of grief.
If I had understood what PSTD was, I might have not been so hard on myself while dealing with my grief. I just wanted it to go away!
7 Coping Lessons I Learned From My Grief
Despite this painful time of my life, I did get through it, and over time, the rawness of grief did subside. I learned how to live a full and happy life with my sadness and feel okay with it!
I would like to share these seven lessons with you to encourage you to live your life to the fullest, chase your dreams, focus on building your resilience, seize the moment, and treasure the gifts of life, love, and laughter.
1. Healing Is a Process, Don’t Rush It
There will be days when you will want to hide away from the world, crawl into bed, and pull the covers over your head. You should do it.
But be warned. Don’t use this time out as an excuse to hide away from the world forever. If you give in and stay hidden, it can make it difficult for you to pull yourself out of the dark cave you are in.
There is no right or wrong way to feel when grieving. It is a fluid process and different for everyone, so go with it.
Don’t fight it. Be kind to yourself and believe in yourself, your strength, and your courage—the “essential ingredients” to healing you.
2. Live Your Life to the Fullest as It Can Change
I had always wanted to be a writer and a coach, but I kept putting it off. With the loss of my parents, my life priorities changed and as my healing process began, I started to feel hopeful about my life.
Slowly and one step at a time, I started to write, and then I set up a coaching practice that set me on a journey to where I am today—a director of a coaching and recruitment business.
3. Family and Friends—Your Precious Gifts in Life
My family and my friends were my lifelines when I was feeling so much pain after the loss of my parents. I learned such a valuable lesson about the importance of family and friends because, without them, I would not have survived or healed.
4. Use Your Power of Choice—Choose to Be Hopeful
We cannot control the bad things that happen in our life. However, we can control our reactions to these challenging events through our power of choice. Essentially, how we live our life is determined by how we choose to live life.
When we step into using our power of choice, we are actively seeking solutions to deal with the challenges we have to face. Using our power of choice empowers us to recognize how we can move forward.
To move forward, we maintain our hope for a better future, and with hope comes optimism and a positive attitude to life.
5. Find Your Purpose in Life
Finding your purpose in life gives your life meaning. Knowing your purpose in life gives you clarity, focus, and hope for your future.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the journey to find your purpose. It is a big journey. Make a plan and take action and don’t give up. Set realistic and achievable goals, and take one step at a time.
Celebrate your successes each time you achieve your goal no matter how small or how big. Celebrate it and share your successes with those you love.
6. Don’t Let Your Past Rule Your Life
Your past is your opportunity to learn the lessons you need to deal with your present life. Let go of your regrets in life, make peace with your past, accept it, and move on.
Don’t waste your energy on what is not important. Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have.
Look for opportunities for self-discovery and learn how to trust and believe in yourself. You are not what happened in your past. You are who you choose to be now and in your future.
Become the strong empowered resilient person you desire to be. The person who looks forward to the future and is living a happy fulfilled life.
7. Stay Strong and Embrace Its Unpredictability
Life is a strange and amazing journey, full of painful experiences and beauty. Running away from the challenges life presents to us is not the answer to dealing with life.
When you run away, the only place you can go is nowhere!
4 Important Facts to Know About Grief
The pain of grief is intolerable, and we only know the pain of grief when we experience it. However, when we start to understand what to expect from grief, then we can also make sure we know what helps us to navigate the experience.
These four facts about grief helped me understand what grief is and the processes involved in the healing journey.
1. Secret Grief
Grief is not always associated with the loss of a loved one. Secret grief is also known as Disenfranchised Grief.
In recent times, we have all had to deal with a global pandemic. Many of us have not only experienced the tragic loss of loved ones and not being with them but also faced uncertainty about our future, job loss, and financial loss.
The pain of these losses and all the uncertainty in our lives right now fill us with huge sadness and grief. We need to acknowledge and process this grief because if it remains hidden, it will negatively impact our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
2. Grief Is Normal, You Cannot Avoid It
Grief is a human experience, and it is part of life. It is a process that we have to go through because we have loved and lost someone or something in our lives that had meaning.
According to Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Silver Therapy Group founder, Basha Silver, Psy.D., “Grief is a universal human experience and is the most natural emotional and physical response to any significant loss.”
3. Your Body Also Grieves—It Needs to Be Taken Care Of
Everything we think and feel happens within our bodies, and when we experience grief, it is no different.
In her book, Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?, clinical psychologist Dr. Julie Smith describes that “the loss of a loved one is a huge psychological and physical threat. The pain can feel emotional and physical. The stress responses are repeatedly triggered.”
Our bodies are on high alert and the potential for PSTD is highly likely. It is important to seek ways to give your body time to rest and process the pain.
Exercise, deep breathing, and lots of walking were the strategies I used to help me deal with the physical aspect of my grief.
4. Denying Your Grief Will Not Help You Heal
I know from my own experience that denying my grief and trying to ignore it was really bad for me. I found myself in the first few months trying to isolate myself from my family and friends.
I just wanted to be alone, so I didn’t have to talk about how I was feeling. I also started to drink more than I usually did which was not healthy!
Unresolved grief can bubble away below the surface until it starts to manifest in a way that is physically and mentally harmful to us.
Dealing With Grief
Dr. Julie Smith also tackles the challenges in life pragmatically in her book.
In the section about grief, she shared an inspiring insight about seeking help to manage your grief:
“Let’s be clear on what help means. Things that help do not make the pain disappear or make us forget or force us to let go. Help might be as simple as finding out that the rollercoaster of emotions you are feeling is normal. It might be finding new ways to sit with and process the pain in a safe and healthy way.”
That is what I did, and over time, the intensity of the grief was not with me 24/7 anymore. I also eventually learned to manage my sadness and live my life full of hope.
The pain, the discomfort, and the challenges of life will follow you wherever you go. It is okay to fall apart for a little while but only for a little while. Grief is painful, but you will learn a lot from it and it will help you become a better person.
Spend time on yourself. Develop your strength and your resilience so you are prepared to face and process the pain and challenges that life brings you.
Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com