When we grieve, our minds and bodies are physically, emotionally and mentally feeling the stress of what has happened to us.
Grief is not reserved for death, although the all-encompassing feeling that grief is when it swarms us feels like it could be the death of us.
I’ve grieved a lot of things in my lifetime. I have grieved relationships, family ties, friendships, and jobs. In every situation, they were part of my personality, psyche, and my love of the world. They represented a piece of me that would never be the same again. It was forever altered. In the beginning of grief, it feels that you must deny or reject this feeling- it can’t be real, it can’t be happening to you.
Grief doesn’t have a timeline. It doesn’t have an expiration date. It can seep out of you for days and weeks and years to come. Grief often comes back as a reaction, and not the “grief” feeling that you’ve already recognized and come to terms with.
Grief comes back with a vengeance in the form of yelling at your kids or your spouse, crying in the bathroom stall at work, or overthinking everything that happens to you. Telling yourself that you’re not worthy of forgiveness, or another chance, or happiness.
The toll that grief takes on our minds is so powerful that it can lead to physical ailments and sickness that wreak havoc on the body. It can lead to debilitating depression, sky-high anxiety or fluctuating moods.
So how do we deal with grief- and protect our mental and physical well-being? You can research the 5 stages of grief, which is extremely helpful, but if you’re not ready for that, if you’re just taking baby steps, then let’s start here.
Invite the grief in. Feel it with every ounce of your body. Allow yourself to weep and sob and spend time in the void that this grief has left in your life. Welcoming it gives you the very important power to get familiar with every piece of it, so when it’s time to let go, you have nothing left to hang onto.
Set your timeline. This is, of course, not a hard and fast rule about your grief’s expiration date. You will likely feel reverberations for months and years to come. But set a date- and it can be a date that changes over time – but that’s your time to mourn and move forward.
Plan & take action. Think of your grief as opening a new door for you. Your life will never be the same, so why not improve it with this new, unexpected obstacle in front of you? Start visualizing what you want your life to be like in a month, a year, or five years. Make daily choices to get yourself there; whether that’s as easy as making your bed or dusting off your resume, or building a new support system with friends and family.
Get out of the damn bed. During my worst of the worst times, I spent a lot of hours in bed. I slept until late morning, I took naps, and I went to bed early. I was always still exhausted. Why? Because I was letting the grief overtake me, ignoring the three previous pieces of advice I just gave you. I went straight to my bed. And every day I wasted more and more time, not getting any closer to fixing my life, fixing my mind, or changing my trajectory.
It is because I stayed in the grief period too long that I didn’t know I needed help. I just kept thinking that I would wake up one morning and it would be over, I would magically be feeling better and it would be easy to get back to my pre-depressed self.
But the longer I let myself grieve with no expiration date, plan or action, the deeper my depression grew – and doubled the time it took to get out of it.
Which brings me to #5. Seek help for your grief.
I tried a lot of things for my grief, from different types of therapy and medication to aromatherapy and essential oils and tapping and meditation and massages. What worked for me won’t necessarily work for you, but the trick is: ask for help when you first start to feel yourself grieving.
Ask for help, ask for advice, ask for someone to just listen. Because you don’t have to, shouldn’t have to, go through the grieving process alone.
Grief is a normal part of life, but it doesn’t have to BE your life. There’s life after grief, and you can make it through. Grab someone’s hand and don’t let go until your head is above water again.