So, I was asked to submit my first blog post for Two Roads recently. I thought, “How cool. I can write on a hot topic and make it fun and interesting.”
Well, no, of course not. Where does my mind go?
It goes dark—to grief and loss.
I have worked in the counseling field for 20 years (children to geriatric), and grief is the most widespread and unavoidable topic. Not all of us will experience depression, anxiety or trauma, but we all experience grief.
Let’s not sugarcoat this topic; grief is hard. It can be heartbreaking and life-changing.
So let’s give it the attention it deserves.
The term “grief” is used to describe feelings and reactions a person might have regarding the loss of someone or something that is important to them. This can include a loved one dying, an end to a relationship, losing a job, a change in health status, and so many other things.
We endure countless losses throughout our lives.
We as a society are so focused on being strong and getting on with life that we forget to sit in our pain for a bit and grieve. So many of my clients are reluctant and sometimes apologetic when bringing up losses, as if this makes them weak. It doesn’t.
It makes you brave. And eventually stronger.
Profound grief is a level of hurt or despair we cannot put into words.
We don’t expect the emptiness and isolation we feel. We wonder if we will ever feel like ourselves again.
Common responses to grief:
Shock, numbness, disbelief
Confusion, difficulty concentrating
Physical reactions—headaches, sleep and eating disturbances
Take it easy – Now is the time to lighten your load. Your mind and body need extra rest during this time. Grief can make you feel exhausted. Eat healthy meals, and avoid alcohol or drugs to reduce your grief. This only numbs the feelings that need to be addressed. Connect with yourself—through your faith, meditation, music, reading, writing, and other hobbies. If you are able, talk about the loss and/or create a journal to express your emotions and memories.
Ask for help – Your friends and family may not know what to say or do. This is the time to speak up and let them know what you need. You might need practical help or a shoulder to cry on. Create a grieving team. You need to be around people who are supportive, understanding, and willing to help. It is OK to say you are not ready to talk about your loss and that you will let them know when you are.
Allow yourself to heal – Healing does not mean letting go or forgetting about your loved one. Do not feel guilty about moving forward. It does not mean the loss did not matter. It can be therapeutic to reminisce and share memories of your loved ones; don’t be afraid to talk, smile and laugh about them. Set aside time for yourself and with family and friends, tell your story, and talk about your grief.
Be assured that you will come through this – You might not be the same person, but things will get better in time. Let yourself be exactly who you are. Take one moment or one day at a time. Expect really hard days and setbacks because they will happen, but try to be patient with yourself and others. When able, find ways to honor your loved one. It gives you an opportunity to honor their importance in your life. Make a scrapbook, get involved with an organization or cause which they were passionate, and get together for special occasions to honor their memory.
When to consider professional help? – Sometimes people are unable to come to terms with their loss and become stuck in their grief. They might be constantly sad or anxious and feeling a sense of detachment from others. They also may be having suicidal thoughts or engaging in a range of activities to avoid feeling pain. If there is a concern that you or someone you know may be having problems with grief, please contact your doctor or a mental health professional. Help is a phone call away.
When working with my clients, I try to meet them exactly where they are.
I provide empathy, support, and education, but mostly provide a kind and safe environment to help them through their pain. Many of my clients think they are going crazy. I explain that grief will make them feel that way, but they are not alone in what they are feeling and experiencing; and they are perfectly normal.
While grief is beyond hard, it is a natural response to loss.
I reassure them that they can work through their grief and lead a happy, healthy, and productive life again. You can, too.
“Those we love can never be more than a thought away, for as long as there’s a memory, they live in our hearts to stay.” – Author unknown.
Contact Shannon today at email@example.com