10 TOOLS TO HELP YOU DEAL WITH THE PAIN OF GRIEF
What is Grief?
Ok, maybe you are reading this because you have suddenly lost someone and the internet provides an instant way in which to search for answers – right? After all what doesn’t Google know? Or, on the other hand, you may be interested to know what grief actually is? Of course there are many other reasons why you may be here but let’s crack on and delve into the subject of grief. Grief is something we will all have to deal with at some stage of our lives, and it is important to be able to realise the effects, the likely stages and how, in time, you will overcome it. I have been through grief myself, done the research, made mistakes, used a journal to map out my thoughts, and to some degree, found a way through it. See a video produced by the National Health Service in England about grief and sudden loss HERE.
After the amount of time I have concentrated on my loss, trying to make sense of the world and establishing a new purpose in life, one thing I have realised is that grief is as individual to you, as the loss you are dealing with. Whilst certainly true there are stages of grief that can be identified, this doesn’t always help the person suffering with it. The medical profession has attempted to map out these stages, but to categorise grief into some sort of logical sequence doesn’t really help the person dealing with grief. What you must realise is that these stages may, and are likely to, happen in any order, effect you differently on different days, be longer or shorter in duration, and quite frankly are rather baffling.
I have been through these stages myself, but I also realise what you are going through may well be completely different. Of course there are lots of factors that will compound the grief; age of the deceased, relationship to you, circumstances of the death, your personality, your family and social networks and the list goes on. But it is important to realise that you are not alone, indeed there are people in the world going through the same process right now. It may not feel like it when you are raw and feeling intense pain but death is as a part of life as living itself. A harsh truth but an honest assessment.
So let us look at the 5 stages of grief and how we can make sense of them.
1. Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
2. Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
3. Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
4. Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
5. Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”
The problem with these stages, as stated before, is for those dealing with grief it doesn’t tell us why we are feeling these emotions, and more importantly these stages very often interchange randomly, follow no logic at all and in some cases come all at once. If you are recently bereaved, or have been in the past, I am sure you will know exactly what I mean. For example, a big part of grief can be the sudden realisation that after the funeral, that outpouring of support can often quickly disappear and people, quite rightly, get on with their lives. To the person suffering grief though, this is a real kick in the teeth as the life you once knew cannot carry on the same as before. It almost feels like people around you are disrespecting your loved one by carrying on. Of course this is totally normal and it certainly doesn’t mean people have forgot about your loved one - but to you that’s how it feels - right? I can almost see you reading this section and nodding your head in agreement because it is true for a lot of people and I can remember the feeling vividly. Looking at the grief stages I would put this emotion under anger. I too have felt this emotion and rather strongly. You have to realise life does go on, yes your world has crashed around you, but you will bounce back as impossible as that may seem right now.
One statement I have heard banded about a lot is this - ‘grief is like a rollercoaster’. I would strongly agree with this analogy it perfectly sums up the highs, real lows and the fact grief is simply not a linear process, it certainly will have ups, downs, and it is all rather confusing. Think of it as a roadmap of a major world city with all the roads, intersections and streets sprawling out all over the page. You have to navigate this and have faith – you will. Another point to recognise, and a trap I certainly fell into, is do not allow yourself to put a timespan on grief and its illogical stages. It is essential you realise that you do have a future and positive aspects of your life will form part of this future, but please do not allow yourself to:
1. Estimate a time frame for recovery
2. Rush grief – this will only put you under more pressure
3. Make snap decisions – remember to take your time you are the number one priority
I have purposely left out some other advice that helped me as I firmly believe what you are feeling now is unique to you. What works for me may not for you and vice versa, but what you can take comfort from, and please do so, is the reassurance that there is a way to get over this. Click some of the links in this article and study what you feel works for you. If any of my suggestions resonate with you and you feel it may help your grief, then please give them a go. It will also be hugely satisfying for me, to know somewhere out there, I have helped someone make progress to overcome grief.
10 tools that helped me
1. I found writing a journal helped me express myself in a way that I couldn’t verbally. The real deep and dark side of grief I wrote down. It was an immensely therapeutic process.
2. Life WILL BE upside down for you. However, as much as possible, try to carry on your routine, its vitally important to keep some parts of your life as close to normal as possible.
3. Find time to both face your thoughts and fears and balance this with a time to relax a little and escape those fears. This gives you an element of control over something that you feel powerless against.
4. I found walking to be a great tool in being able to organise my thoughts and the fresh air helped me to relax. It may be your faith, your family or a hobby you can gain strength from – whatever it is use it, there are no rights or wrongs. This may not be right for you, but my point is find time for yourself – whatever it is you like doing.
5. A social life away from your grief can help breathe positivity into your life. Realise that eventually you will find a new path, it will take time and that time is to be respected.
6. Listen to your body. You may well have sleepless nights, bizarre thoughts and strange physical symptoms deriving from your grief. But remember try and remain healthy - eat as healthy as you can and respect your body.
7. I found it useful, earlier on in my grief, to immerse myself in some of my shared memories with my lost loved one, but remember this may not be right for you. Find a way that gives you some comfort. If it helps you ignore what others think and go with your instinct.
8. Plan a little for important anniversaries whether that be birthdays, anniversary of the death, Christmas and so forth. I have a set routine for example on the anniversary of the death of my loved one by visiting a place that is very important to me. I would rather be doing something on the day than nothing at all. Structure is important
9. When you get that little ray of sunshine, that positive experience or feeling, hold onto it and remind yourself that these feelings will return, in time, to you once again.
10. Realise that grief does in some ways change you, but remember that eventually you will get to a point where you are ready to move on. Most importantly remember that wherever you are, whatever you are doing and whatever happens in your life your loved one will always be a part of you, will always hold a special place in your heart and not even the depths of grief can take that away.
Useful links for further help: