Coping Strategies for Dealing with Grief and Loss
One of the most deeply personal realities we all have to face at some point is losing someone we love. As long as we love people, and as long as their presence holds meaning to us, losing them is a possibility that will cause us to experience grief.
Grief is the suffering that we feel emotionally after a loss. It is a natural response. When something or someone is important to us, their existence or presence has an emotional attachment, and when death or loss disrupts that connection, we experience emotional disharmony that can be overwhelming and even painful.
Regardless of how universal this emotion is, we’ll never be prepared enough to avoid grief when it comes to us. We all grieve in different ways and there is no one standard or ‘right’ way to do it. Moving beyond our grief can take a long time, or it may only last a few weeks or months. This is because healing is a gradual process and grief can evoke so many intense and difficult emotions within us.
Both the intensity and duration of the grief experience will differ from one person to another. It’s important for our emotional and mental wellbeing to cope with grief in a healthy way. Although it may not seem so in the midst of deepest grief, it is possible to return to happiness and acceptance.
Here are some coping strategies to help in dealing with intense emotions brought by grief in a healthy way.
Acknowledge the Pain
With loss comes pain. The depth of emotional pain can and often does express itself in feelings of physical pain too. It can be a throbbing physical pain felt in your chest or excruciating emotional pain that you feel inside. Pain means discomfort, and you’ll naturally want it gone as much as possible. But you have to recognize and accept your emotion to begin the healing process.
Burying the pain deep inside by denying your feelings and putting up a strong front to mask your emotions don’t do much to help you heal. Similarly, avoid using drugs or alcohol to numb the emotional pain. This will not help you work through the necessary acceptance phase. When the numbing effects wear off, the same pain will be there. You will have only prolonged the painful period and probably now also have to deal with the effects of over-consumption.
Expect a Rollercoaster of Emotions
Emotions don’t always have to make sense. But they need to be acknowledged, expressed, experienced, and released. There are several ways you can release your emotions without causing further damage. But here is one thing that is certain – grief won’t last forever, although it may feel as though it will. You may lose interest in your usual activities for the moment, but you will recover in time. If you allow yourself to just be, you will tend to experience many emotions – a rollercoaster of it possibly – but you will heal. Trust in the future.
There is No Right Way to Grieve
Grieving any loss takes time, and you don’t always have to heal as quickly as you wish you could. We all grieve in different ways; it may have to do with our unique attachment to the person we lost, our experiences and connection to that person, and our personality. Given how different we each all are, grieving also won’t look the same. We all have our own time when it comes to healing wounds over losing someone that we love and care about, so allow yourself that time and be patient.
Grief is Not Depression
No matter how it feels like it, the loss of appetite, inability to sleep, the pain and sadness felt, and the loss of interest in your usual activities, grief over loss is not the same as depression. Depression is not an emotion, but rather it is a mental illness that needs treatment. Grief ought to be a passing phase, and most people will recover and rediscover new things and greater possibilities from this challenging experience. However, falling into depression can also be a possibility for some people who are highly vulnerable.
Take Care of Yourself
Try to support yourself through this difficult period by taking care of your basic needs. Eating healthy, getting enough rest and sleep, and regular physical activity will go a long way in supporting yourself emotionally, to help you become stronger and more resilient, regardless of what you’re going through.
Seek Support from Other People
Losing someone we love may lead us to experience grief, but we don’t have to deal with the pain all by ourselves. If we lose someone we love, other people who love them are experiencing a similar struggle, too. Seek the support of people who can understand what you feel and what you’re going through. The tendency to seek solitude is a possibility, but allow other people in and for them to support you emotionally when you’re finally ready.
Experiencing loss due to another’s passing is one of the many things in our lives that are beyond our control. Ultimately, it is a reminder that we’re not in control of many things in our lives and that life can be so shorter than hoped or planned.
Dwelling on the unfairness and fantasizing about moments that can never be is a normal response. However, balancing these moments with acceptance of the inevitability of both life and death will help your emotional healing. Emotion trumps logic at these times, but maintaining an attachment to life’s reality will allow you to work through your grief in a healthier way.