Grief is a journey, entirely different for each and every one of us. However, there are strategies that will help you find your way through. In this blog, we explore practical ways to navigate grief and loss, so you’ll feel more empowered and hopeful about facing the future.
First, and foremost, have hope. You can and will survive this loss. As much as it hurts, and as confusing as it feels, humans are hardwired to cope with loss. The vast majority of people manage to cope with grief and loss without needing medical or professional intervention. Only around 15% of people are diagnosed with prolonged grief disorder and require further professional support.
Why do we cry? What’s the point of tears?
In many ways, we struggle with grief as we’ve grown unaccustomed to feeling uncomfortable – we avoid negative emotions as much as we can. We worry that, if we start crying, we may never stop. But every emotion has its beginning, middle and an end. Emotions are just data – providing us and others with insights regarding how we feel. You feel sadness because you’ve lost something/someone dear to you; those tears you cry are there to signal to others that you are still grieving, and that you may need their love and support right now. Our bodies still have the software of how to grieve on board.
What’s the best way to handle tears?
That depends on you. In our grief courses we share several different ways to handle the intensity and frequency of what we refer to as ‘grief ambushes’. Some people find it easier to succumb to the emotion, retreat to a quiet space, or hide in the car if that’s an option, and let the waves of grief wash over them. If it’s not convenient to cry, some people find distraction, wiggling their toes, getting up and changing rooms, walking outside, or putting on music to shift their mood. Any of these can come to your rescue in the heat of the moment.
Some tell us they hide behind their sunglasses until it’s over. Others use box breathing to climb down the anxiety ladder. As much as our clients are surprised to hear this, bouts of crying typically pass very quickly, most often only lasting for 30 seconds to a minute.
Work out what works for you
Because every relationship is different, we all grieve and react to grief differently. Don’t expect everyone to react the same way as you. The most important tip I can give you on how to work through grief, is to work out what works for you. Grief changes us, and it changes the world around us, our relationships, our priorities, the way we see the world. Everything looks different now. Find what works for you by noticing what makes you feel better, and what makes things worse.
Don’t get isolated
Lots of our clients tell us how isolated they feel, how lonely coping with grief and loss can be. We hear you… we’ve been there too. Even when we are going through these toughest of times, and find ourselves feeling alone, misunderstood and judged by others, it is critical that we identify a few people we can continue to connect with. Don’t worry if your friendship group feels like it’s shrinking – things are different right now. It’s okay to press pause on challenging relationships – the people you feel have let you down, and not been there for you. Just don’t isolate yourself. Now more than at any other time in life you need the support of others. So work out who you are comfortable being with, and don’t expect one person to be your all and everything. Who can offer you the practical support you need, who’s there for you emotionally, and who’s good at keeping your person’s memory alive?
When our clients first come to us, they frequently tell us how lost, overwhelmed and hopeless their grief makes them feel. At the heart of all of our grief and loss training lies our ability to give you hope – the knowledge that you can and will get through this time, there will be better days ahead. Coping with grief and loss requires us to be brave, as we navigate an unknown landscape. It changes us, we learn more about ourselves and those around us. But we cannot do it alone.
Try to think of three people you can stand to be around. Reach out to them and make sure you see them this week or as soon as you/they can. One of the stand-out findings of resilience research is that nobody goes it alone. We need other people across the lifespan, but never as much as when we grieve.
You will learn practical tools and techniques to ensure you are as empowered and prepared as possible to get your life back on track, and work towards a greater sense of control and calm.