6 Healthy Ways to Deal with Loss and Grief
While it’s healthy and normal to move through each of these stages, it’s common for people to get stuck in one or resist them altogether, taking on unhealthy habits and coping mechanisms that ultimately only delay pain.
If you are struggling with loss, learning how to healthily move forward and process your grief can protect your mental health and emotional wellbeing. Your loss will be painful, and you will remember it for a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean healing isn’t possible.
1. Express Pain in Small Intervals
Hiding your pain and keeping everything under the surface will ultimately only lead to more hurt. Many people believe that if they ignore a problem or hurt feelings long enough, they’ll disappear. The old adage, “Time heals all wounds,” has its limitations. While the loss of a loved one does become easier to cope with as time goes on, it’s important to acknowledge your pain when it emerges.
In his worldwide bestseller “The Fault in Our Stars,” author John Green famously wrote, “Pain demands to be felt.” You may be surprised at the unexpected moments that trigger your feelings; even something as simple as seeing a box of crackers in the grocery store that your loved one enjoyed can push you over the edge. There is no shame or reason to hide from these feelings.
If it’s easier for you to process things gradually, allow yourself to express pain in smaller intervals. Journal, set aside time to look at old pictures or just cry. Schedule time to allow yourself to feel everything you have to.
2. Don’t Be Ashamed of Tears
Crying is a natural response, and there is no weakness in emotion. You may feel like you have to be strong for others during this time, but crying can be incredibly helpful to others, too. If they see that you’re comfortable with expressing your feelings, they’ll be more likely to do the same.
If you really can’t bring yourself to cry in front of others, allow yourself to freely do so when you’re comfortably alone. Crying releases tension and can make you feel instantly lighter. Remind yourself that it’s okay to let your pain out, and if it makes you feel less alone, put on some music that helps you work through your sadness.
3. Find Ways to Honor Your Memories
Do not avoid memories or reminders of the person you’ve lost. Instead, honor them by putting together a memory box of special items and trinkets that remind you of them. Make a photo album, and when you’re ready, visit places that held special significance for the both of you. This doesn’t mean you’re moving on and forgetting them; it’s how you will include them in your life now that they’re no longer physically here.
Memories are powerful emotional triggers, and reminding yourself of the happiness and love you have for your loved one can make the pain more bearable.
4. Talk to Others
You don’t have to make it seem like everything is okay and you’re doing perfectly fine. Maybe you feel like your entire life has fallen apart, and you don’t even know where you’re going to go from this point. This is a common feeling, but you need to anchor yourself to those who care about you. They will remind you that you are still here and have a life to live, too.
Talking about your feelings or simply allowing yourself to express them in the company of a trusted person can be extremely therapeutic. If anything, it will remind you that you are not alone, and that your loss is not all you’re destined to experience the rest of your life.
5. Draw Comfort From Faith or Hobbies
If you have a religion, use this time of grief to draw closer to your faith and nourish your spirit with comfort. Praying or meditation can help you gain clarity and balance in the midst of your pain. If you are not a spiritual person, then embrace things that are meaningful to you.
Creative exercises can be helpful in overcoming loss; they can give you a healthy outlet for all your feelings without feeling too direct. Sometimes, we need to transform our pain into something else before we can truly move on from it. It’s easy for this process to be harmful, which is why conscious direction in a positive, healthy manner is so important.
If all else fails, grab a pen and a piece of paper and start writing whatever comes to mind.
6. Know When to Get Professional Help
Sadness and mourning are normal human emotions, but they can cross the line into enduring depression. The difference between grief and depression can be hard to distinguish at first, but Help Guide provides this helpful distinction:
“Even when you’re in the middle of the grieving process, you will still have moments of pleasure or happiness. With depression, on the other hand, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant.”
Other symptoms of clinical depression are:
- Heavy, persistent feelings of guilt.
- Feeling useless and worthless.
- A sense that everything is meaningless.
- Lack of enjoyment from things you once loved.
- Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep at all.
- Changes in appetite.
- Feeling slow all over, from your speech to physical movement.
- Frequent thoughts about death or dying or suicidal ideation.
If you are unable to move forward after the loss of a loved one, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Talking to a professional counselor can help you recover and learn to process things in a healthier way. If you’re feeling suicidal and need to talk to someone right away, you can call the National Suicide Preventiom Lifeline anytime at 1-800-273-8255.