Grieve Your Losses

Practice Pointer
Grieve Your Losses

Category: OCCASIONAL -- "as needed."

This, too, shall pass, as the Persian adage says. Life means ongong change. Change – even if it’s the most positive possible change you could ever hope for – includes also some loss. And, of course, we all will face changes that we wouldn’t call positive – that we very much hoped wouldn’t happen.

We feel grief, and we need to grieve. By understanding it and affirmatively accepting the needs of grief, we can come to a stronger healing.

Grieving is a form of learning. It’s the process of learning how to be in the world without whatever-it-is that is no longer there: a spouse, friend, parent or child – or a job, a marriage, or an ability – a home or a familiar place. New habits and routines, new patterns have to form. We have to work out who we are in this new world that is bereft of some one or something that had once been a part of ourselves. People will say, “I feel like I’ve lost part of myself” – because they have. Adapting takes time and involves changes in the brain – as learning does.

To distinguish grief from grieving. Grief is a feeling. Grieving is an action in response to the felt loss.
“Grief is that emotional state that just knocks you off your feet and comes over you like a wave. Grieving necessarily has a time component to it. Grieving is what happens as we adapt to the fact that our loved one is gone, that we're carrying the absence of them with us.” (Mary-Frances O’Connor, Clinical Psychologist)
We’ll feel the grief forever – it’s the remembrance of a thing past. But the act of "grieving," will, over time, change our relationship to that grief. When the grief feeling swells over you the first time, the first 100 times, it can be distressing, disorienting, unfamiliar, awful and confusing. In time, we can come to recognize it for the grief feeling that it is. It comes in unpredictable waves, but with features that can grow familiar. We learn that each wave will recede, just as the past ones did.

Grief is likely to come accompanied by various other emotions: There’s often anger in there. Maybe panic, anxiety, sadness, yearning. There can be difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite.

As we pay attention to the ways grief manifests, we learn about how it operates on us, and being conscious of this helps us learn how to be in the new world in which we find ourselves.


Amy Greene, director of the Center for Spiritual Care at Cleveland Clinic, offers this guidance for grieving.
  1. Accept some loneliness. Loneliness is completely normal, but it is important not to get too isolated. Reach out to people and support groups who are comfortable with grief — who can let you move through the process at your own pace.
  2. Choose good company. Look for friends, old and new, who know how grief feels and who can let you be “alone but not alone” when you just need company and who won’t place any further burdens or expectations on you.
  3. Be gentle with yourself. Try not to judge yourself for not “doing better” or “keeping it together.” It will get easier over time to feel like your normal self.
  4. Get extra rest. Physical and emotional exhaustion is common. You will need more rest than usual.
  5. Embrace all emotions. Realize that feelings come whether we like it or not. All we can do is let them move through, like waves in the ocean or clouds in the sky. It is neither weak nor abnormal to feel these waves. There are many approaches under the category of “mindfulness” that can help with emotional self-regulation. It’s also important to know when to seek professional help.
  6. Set a regular sleep schedule. Make it a goal to go to bed and awaken at the same time each day. Give yourself a good amount of time to rest, but be on guard for sleeping too much as a way to avoid the hard work of grieving.
  7. Move your body. Get up and walk or move around, preferably outside, at least a little each day.
  8. Talk to your doctor. Tell your primary care doctor you are bereaved so they can help you keep an on eye on healthy habits.
  9. Keep structure in your day. This means groom and dress, even if you are not leaving the house. Also, eat small, regular meals, even if you are not hungry.
  10. Set goals. Set small, reachable, short-term goals so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
  11. Make a list of daily activities. This can help while you are grieving because forgetfulness is common.
  12. Be cautious. Do not make any major decisions or changes in home or work right after you are bereaved.
  13. Take care of your inner needs. Find time, whether through a spiritual practice or a creative outlet, to connect to things that give you inspiration and help you maintain your sense of meaning and purpose. You could keep a journal, write a song, poem or letter to your loved one.

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