Living with loss can be an exhausting and isolating experience. Navigating through the countless emotions felt can be quite the feat to understand and those around you may not fully comprehend what you’re going through. I myself have lost those that were dear to me and to this day it is still difficult. It seems that everyone tells you that it will get better with time and to some extent this is true. The sheer upset and emotional mood swings lessen, as does the memory of what they were like in physical form. The memory of them starts to crumble and you’re left with the struggle of fitting the bits and pieces back together in hopes of getting a taste of what they were once like. This is much what grief feels like. As time goes on, you’re left with bits and pieces of the heartache you started with, but as tiny as the pieces can be, it is still a clear view into the past you had with them. These bits and pieces can present themselves as emotional floods and appear in the form of songs, scents, foods or places - this is completely normal. There is no timetable for grief, it is a roller coaster, there are ups and downs, moments of pain intermixed with relief and as the years pass you may ask, why do I still suffer? And how can one move on to once again embrace the beauty of life? Let’s focus on some strategies that will help you discover the joy that has been hiding deep within the shadows of your grief.
Identify your grief response
Firstly, lets identify your grief response. A grief response can give you a better understanding of why and how you act in certain situations that might trigger you into a downwards spiral. Knowing your reactions will help pull you out much quicker and put you back on the track you were previously on. Grief can be displayed in many ways from sadness, shock, disorientation and anger. Know that you should not feel badly for how you react, it is a normal part of grief and it is something that helps to propel you forwards into healing. Sitting with these emotions will create motion, which will help lessen the challenging emotional states you might find yourself in. I know it sounds backwards - why would I invite the feelings in, only to be drenched in the heaviness that the death has left me with? Well, the only way to move on from something is to face it head on because if you don’t, the emotion will just keep building until it’s acknowledged. Looking back on past situations, how would you say you react in triggering situations? Begin to make note of the triggers and with each one acknowledged you will start to anticipate the reaction, giving you the ability to slow down its impact. Not only that, identifying your reactions will help you decide what tools you might require to navigate the emotions felt.
Reconcile with the loss
Most look forwards to a time where the pain will have completely dissipated, however, this can actually drag you down further. Reframing what the end goal is will better help pull you along on the path of healing towards a place of closure. Instead of hoping to get over the person that was lost, instead try staying connected to them. Comfort isn’t found in trying push down the emotions or attempting to let go of your loved one, comfort is found in staying connected to that person and remembering who they were and what they meant to you. Not only does it allow closure, it will make it less likely to cause psychosomatic distress moving forwards. To me grief can feel much like a vice, it painfully squeezes the difficult emotions out, whereas, welcoming the positive memories will help to release the grasp you are so tightly entwined with. An activity that I like to help connect with lost loved ones is to write a letter to them. Not only does it connect you, but it can help to address unfinished business that might have been left behind.
Find a circle of support & seek guidance
The loss of a loved one is extremely devastating and working through those feelings on your own can be an immense task that often leads to further damage. One of the most difficult challenges faced when going through grief is not having someone by your side that can fully understand what you’re feeling. It can often leave you severed from the rest of society as you want to protect the remaining bits and pieces of your heart that you have within. Finding a circle of support where others who have had or are having painful experiences similar to your own can be magically healing and lessen the sense that you are isolated. Today it is ever more important to find a community, as society tends to lean towards the choice of internalizing and moving on, which makes it even more difficult to identify those that are grieving. Finding those on the same level can draw out the emotions and uplift you to where you once were. It can be difficult to share the vast array of emotions felt, especially when everyone else seems to be moving at a pace in life that you can’t presently keep up with, but being open will invite release and clarity. Know connection is healing, it brings strength and power that will leave you with a stronger foundation. Don’t be afraid to seek the guidance of professionals as well as they are well versed in this and can help assist you on a path of healing.
Rest and breathe
In order to lessen the grief, you must relieve the pressure by allowing yourself time to rest, realign and allow any emotions out that may be lodged inside. Give yourself time during the day to recalibrate and maybe even allow yourself to get in touch with the lost loved one. I find devoting time every day or at least once a week helps you to develop a routine that allows you to focus and get in touch with yourself.
Make uncertainty your friend
One of the most difficult parts of loss is how uncertain it can leave you feeling. You have just been thrown this unexpected twist (no matter how expected it may have been) and it can leave you feeling uncertain about the rest of your life. Funny thing is, the more you embrace uncertainty, the more control you gain over your future because no matter what, you will be able to adapt and navigate the surprises thrown at you. Embrace uncertainty as it is your best friend that powers you with unlimited strength.
Every end is a beginning
As difficult as it may seem to see, the ending you have been presented with is a gateway to a new beginning. I know, makes zero sense, there didn't need to be a change at all. But now it is up to you to choose which perspective to take - will it be one that reveals gleaming possibility or one that presents dark hopelessness? The challenging situations are often regarded as unwanted, but in actuality they are cloaked and beneath is an immense amount of positive possibilities. It’s hard to see and it takes time, as hindsight is the only way to see the path it has taken you on, but know it’s there. As I see it, an enormous challenge allows the doors of greater connection with oneself to open and it will help guide you to discover an even deeper self. Years after the death of my mother I have dug out the person I truly am and I couldn’t be more grateful to have found this person even though loss had to be my guide. I have chosen to see that my mother passed down to me the gift of wisdom, which is my most prized possession. I wouldn’t be me without the difficulties I’ve faced and I’m appreciative of each one I have experienced.
When going through grief, you’re often left to move through the motions as the present moment can be very difficult to maneuver in. When grieving your mind can become overwhelmed with thoughts and beliefs that don’t serve you, which can take the wheel and spin you backwards into the past. The past often seems much more appealing as there you can sit with your lost loved one, but in actuality it is much more positive if you can stay in the present moment. There you can help release the emotions, clear your mind, come to terms and even better connect with those around you. The present will bring the support you are yearning for.
Focus on your dreams
I don’t want to say to move on, but remember that you must allow yourself to still bloom as well. What would you be doing if they were still here? As much as you don’t want to acknowledge the space outside of your grief and as much as you’d prefer to swim in the memories of yesterday, focusing on the time ahead is what they would want you to do as well. Allowing your dreams to flourish can allow for a better vision of your future, a future that will help bring many more joyous days that will help ease the loss you’ve had.
Be kind to yourself and embrace your emotions
At times it can be very difficult to be kind to yourself. You can become impatient, infuriated, confused, miserable, discouraged, frustrated, irritable and down right depressed (these are just a small few of emotions felt) making you feel like exiting the dark box you’ve fallen into absolutely impossible. But know it takes time and giving yourself love, compassion and understanding can be one of the greatest tools to help pull you out of there. Know that it is an ongoing process and know that whatever you’re feeling is normal.