We all know people who have lost someone close to them, and while it’s important to learn how we can help them, inevitably each one of us will lose someone close to us. The unfortunate part of life is that we will all die. It is important for us to understand that at some point we will lose someone, and that will, in turn, help us prepare for it. Here are my first three tips for working through your own grief; so you don’t get stuck in your pain.
My first thought is to be gentle with yourself. Too often we put such high expectations on ourselves when we wouldn’t expect the same from anyone else. We all need some time to work through our pain and loss. We would give other people so much time and grace. Yet, when it comes to what we are able or willing to do, we expect too much of ourselves. We expect that we will be able to come through it easier or faster. I tell people all the time that they need to allow themselves to feel what they are feeling and don’t stuff it down. A few weeks ago, I hit the three-year mark of my Keith’s death. I had such a busy week and I felt like I didn’t have time to get too emotional or allow the grief to affect me. Even though I believe that each of us must grieve, I didn’t have time to feel what I was feeling. I was too busy and I couldn’t allow myself to go down that road. It wasn’t until I looked at my schedule, to see what was easy to reschedule, that I was able to give myself the room to grieve. Most days I am really ok, but the anniversaries and birthdays are still difficult for me. It is extremely important that you give yourself the same space and grace that you give to others.
My next tip to help you work through your grief is to allow a specific amount of time to “sit in the mud.” During this time you might allow yourself to sleep in or not attend certain events. Then when you reach the end of that time, make yourself do one thing a day. Change your clothes (even if that means just get into new pajamas), take a shower, or do one dish in the sink. Don’t have too many high expectations of yourself in the beginning. This might cause more pain and heartache by not living up to your own expectations. I know it is difficult to allow yourself to “not” do things, but putting those standards on yourself sets you up for failure. Giving your mind space to heal and process what you’ve just been through is very important. A medical study found that the brain changes during times of extreme stress. After reading the below-referenced article, I believe that while we are healing there are some alterations in our brain and we struggle to do what other people consider normal activities.” (Bremner, J Douglas. “Traumatic stress: effects on the brain.” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience vol. 8,4 (2006): 445-61. doi:10.31887/DCNS.2006.8.4/jbremner). Keep this in mind and give yourself some grace.
My last tip is to allow yourself to be happy. See and find beautiful things in the world. So many times, we feel like we are betraying our lost loved ones by smiling, laughing, and being happy. Yet in reality, I don’t think that anyone’s loved one truly wants us to sit around being miserable. Being able to look around and see the beauty in the world can bring happiness. Life is hard even when we have loved ones by our side. It is even more difficult when we lose someone who was on our side. If we allow ourselves to feel like we cannot live without that person, we will continue to struggle through our grief and not completely heal. Changing our outlook on life to allow for enjoyment and carry the memories with us produces a full and meaningful life. I believe that Keith wants me to be happy, to enjoy life, and to teach our girls that life is exciting, new, lovely, and beautiful.
In the very beginning of our loss, it is so hard to see how we will be able to work through and be able to live life again. I think that it is very important that we try to keep moving forward while giving ourselves the space and grace that we need. Try to remember to be gentle with yourself, give yourself a specific amount of time to wallow, and to allow yourself to be happy.