Although painful, grief is necessary part of healing after the loss of a loved one. In this time we process our emotions, come to new understandings and reformulate our lives.
How do we best move through this process and let it change and refine us for the better?
Here are some of the things that have helped us to put the pieces of our lives back together.
- Actively grieve and mourn. Grief encompasses sadness, emptiness and the inner sense of loss that we feel from the absence of our loved one. Mourning is the physical way that we express those feelings. Whenever trauma is felt, the mind wants to make sense of the resulting emotions, to cope and to assimilate them into what it knows as reality. Allowing the feelings to be displayed helps that process. Learn how to control your periods of mourning so that is does not control you.
- Acknowledge your pain. Although the pain from grief is very really and often excruciatingly intense, if it is buried, it will never go away. It will resurface to be dealt with over and over again. Accepting that pain is part of the process of grief and that feeling it will aid in healing helps us to move towards acceptance.
- Seek support from friends, family, and others. When we are grieving we need private time to process feelings, but isolation isn’t healthy. A close confidant can help the journey of healing. Allowing others to share in your grief will help them better understand you and will help provide some of the support you may have lost when your loved one died. It also gives you a chance to share experiences that may help them better face trials.
- Don’t make major decisions in the first year. Grief affects memory and mental capacity as a way of protecting itself from the trauma it fully hasn’t processed. If at all possible, postpone big decisions — such as moving, finding a new job or making major financial changes. If this isn’t possible, counsel with a trusted family member or get professional guidance to help you make those decisions soundly and with perspective.
- Don’t neglect your physical health. The emotional energy consumed by grief and the stress that ensues is enough to affect your physical body. Your desire to keep living and functioning can slip away quickly. Getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet and participating in physical activities will help your body and your mind function better. Make sure you continue to have regular medical checkup to catch and treat health issue brought on or exacerbated by grief. Even if you are apathetic towards your health at this point, realize that you do not need additional heath trials, so please take care of yourself.
- Realize that time will help lessen grief, but that it will not cure it. Fortunately time has a way of softening intense emotions by letting some of the painful memories fade. Those feelings of loss and emptiness will fade and move to the background of your life, but they might never completely go away. Accepting this new “normal” can help you reconcile your losses.
*If you are having difficulty coping with your grief and you find you are unable to function in daily life, you may be experiencing Complicated Grief. Please seek professional help and guidance.
As you begin to come out of the intense feelings of grief, we encourage you to visit the healing section of our website and participate in our Grief Program. Our program follows the same general principles in a self-help format that two clinically tested therapies used in treated Complicated Grief employ. Both programs work by first exploring thoughts and feelings and then setting goals, making plans, and changing behaviors to find healing.
For your information, below are some details on those two treatments as described by the NCI’s PDQ cancer information summary about Grief, Bereavement, and Coping with Loss:
Complicated grief treatment (CGT) has three phases:
- The first phase includes talking about the loss and setting goals toward recovery. The bereaved are taught to work on these two things.
- The second phase includes coping with the loss by retelling the story of the death. This helps bereaved people who try not to think about their loss.
- The last phase looks at progress that has been made toward recovery and helps the bereaved make future plans. The bereaved’s feelings about ending the sessions are also discussed.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- CBT works with the way a person’s thoughts and behaviors are connected.
- CBT helps the patient learn skills that change attitudes and behaviors by replacing negative thoughts and changing the rewards of certain behaviors.
National Cancer Institute: PDQ® Grief, Bereavement, and Coping With Loss. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified <03/06/2013>. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/bereavement/Patient. Accessed <03/25/2015>.