Top 5 Strategies to Help Manage Grief

The Holidays are often a time that many look forward to each year but for others serves as a reminder that life is not the same. While there are no ways to change that loved ones are not here with us, there are ways that we can process the grief that at times feels overwhelming. Grief is something that all of us are guaranteed to experience in this life. And though it will be experienced by everyone, each person is going to process it differently. The key is to find ways and outlets to express that grief. Here are five strategies to help manage and cope with grief.

Find Ways For Their Legacy to Live On

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of the unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” Jamie Anderson

You can find ways to express the love that you would want to give but cannot. While they may not physically be here to hug or participate, you can find ways that their legacy can live on. Many sponsor events such as golf tournaments or running events and donate the money to a cause that their loved one supported. Some purchase benches or seats in the honor of their loved one. However, it can also be as simple as doing and act of service or something that they would have done in their honor. For instance, you can go and collect all the carts in a busy shopping center, make their favorite cookie or meal and bring it to someone else, pay for a drink or a meal of the person behind you, donate a newborn outfit to the hospital in their honor. Finding a way to have their honor or legacy live on is a very cathartic way to process grief.

Rituals

Rituals also have a great role in being able to express grief. Hiking on their favorite trail, leaving a pebble on their headstone when you visit, releasing their favorite color balloon, watching old videos or looking through photo albums on their birthday. Rituals and activities such as these allow you to send a postcard that “I remember you” or a way to say “Thinking of you” when those moments come.

Physical Momentos

Physical reminders also serve as a way to process grief. From pillows or blankets made from old shirts, necklaces made from their handwriting, birthstone or handprint, a token from items they collected that can be displayed, being able to physically hold something when you cannot hold your love one is an avenue that has shown to make a big difference in expressing grief. Just this past week, a friend whose brother had recently passed away from cancer wore his shirt to the movie theater to watch Star Wars. Physical momentos are a powerful way to express and process grief.

Find An Expression

There is a lyric from a song released this year by Craig Morgan. He wrote it as an expression of grief in tribute to his son who passed away in a drowning accident. “My boy’s not here, but he ain’t gone.”

It is important to be able to find an expression for your grief whether from art, writing poems, lyrics or a song, or even just journaling. Grief is not something that can be controlled and is often just under the surface but when you have an avenue to express the grief you are feeling, it becomes manageable. The pain is still there but that pain becomes a reminder of the love and then the love has an outlet to be expressed.

Reach Out

If there is one thing that you could do to help someone who is grieving, it is simply this–allow them to have an expression. Sometimes we fear causing them pain by bringing up old memories and feeling like we are opening up old wounds, but the most pain they feel is when the rest of the world isn’t grieving and recognizing their grief. So what can you do? Remember them. Allow them an avenue to talk about their loved one. Unexpressed or suppressed grief is painful. When the grief surfaces, allow them the space and avenues to express it. Those who have researched grief have found that the number one difference made in dealing with grief was the support the person felt while they were experiencing it. You can be that difference for someone.

No matter how old you are, no matter what your gender, your education level, how much money you have, where you live…we will all experience grief. While we will all experience it differently, finding ways to express and process this grief will allow us all to manage the role that grief plays in our lives.

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For more information and to understand the grief that you might be experiencing or the grief a loved one is going through, here is a quick article:

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/04/10/truth-or-myth-grief-is-something-that-you-should-get-over-myth-5-truths-to-help-understand-and-cope-with-grief/

Truth or Myth: Grief is Something That You Should Get Over. {Myth! 5 Truths To Help Understand and Cope With Grief}

Believe it or not, the first class I ever took regarding grief was in High School with Father Tom. I attended a catholic high school in California and it was in that class on “Death and Dying” that I was first introduced to the 5 steps of bereavement by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Although I do find value in her work and stages of grief: {denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance}, I also feel that it has assisted in portraying a false notion that grief is something that we are to get over. Truthfully, those who follow her theory will be the first to tell you that you do not go through these stages chronologically and each situation is unique. However, it can still perpetuate the idea that grief is something that you are supposed to get through or that there is an end.

In fact, the question I was often asked by clients was “When am I going to get over this?” or “When am I going to move on?” There are five truths about grief that will help with understanding the role and purpose of grief.

One: Grief is not something that you can fix or control. In fact grief expert, Julia Samuel, who recently wrote a book entitled, “Grief Works”, describes grief as chaotic, unpredictable and messy and is a process that you are not in charge of but works beneath the surface. Grief is personal and there is not one way to grieve. The key according to Samuel is to find ways to express your grief so that it doesn’t get stuck inside you–to reach out for comfort and support from loved ones, find a word or a way to express those feelings or to journal about your feelings so that they do not remain so overwhelming.

Two: It is essential to acknowledge painful feelings. What you are feeling is normal and if you attempt to shutdown pain or numb painful feelings, you also shutdown or numb happy or joyful feelings. Do not avoid the pain. In fact many often turn to alcohol or to work as a way to avoid pain and to try to numb the painful feelings. Grief and pain come and go in cycles and they have a role. Finding connection to loved ones that can support your grief and pain allows the pain to diminish and for you to heal.

Three: There is meaning in pain and it isn’t something that you should or need to avoid. Pain connects you to the person who is no longer there. When a loved one who has made an imprint in your life is no longer there, you can expect that there will be a void. This void is a reminder of the love that you shared which is not meant to be replaced.

It is important to note that there can be a tendency to equivocate pain with a way to connect to the person who is gone and you can feel like you are abandoning them if you stop feeling the pain. Many have felt guilty if they laugh, find enjoyment in life, forget an anniversary or special date. It is important to know that you can allow both and to give yourself permission to seek comfort in your life.

Four: Grief will always be painful and you will always miss them. One of my favorite analogies that has been pretty useful at explaining grief was told by the psychologist of Lauren Herschel and is known as the ball and the box. Grief is compared to a large ball that is placed in a box with a pain button. The ball is so large that at first you can’t move the box without hitting the button. It moves around in the box and consequently hits the pain button over and over. You can’t control it- it just keeps hurting and seems relentless. Overtime, the ball shrinks, and you can start moving the box without hitting the button. The ball still hits the button sometimes, but less than it used to. However, when the ball does hit the pain button, it hurts just as much. Although you can function better day to day, the ball will hit that pain button randomly when you least expect it. For most people the ball never goes away fully but the ball keeps getting smaller.

Five: Research shows that it is not the circumstances of the grief that predicts the positive or negative outcome but it is the support that the person receives at the time. So, if you are in the midst of grief and pain, reach out and connect where you can. Professor Brene Brown’s mother gave some of the best advice when it came to pain: “My mom taught us to never look away from people’s pain. Don’t look away. Don’t look down. Don’t pretend not to see hurt. Look people in the eye. Even when pain is overwhelming. And, when you’re in pain, find the people who can look you in the eye. We need to know that we are not alone–especially when we are hurting.”