Have you experienced the loss of someone close that turned your world upside down?
A deeply painful loss might feel as physical as an injury from an accident, except instead of broken bones and bleeding organs your injury is mostly invisible and doesn’t have a set healing time.
So, how do you cope with the pain of grief and loss?
Acknowledge your feelings
Grief tears you apart, it squeezes your heart in a giant fist and bleeds the joy out of your life.
It steals your appetite and makes food taste like nothing. It ruins your sleep and haunts your dreams and when you wake up, you experience it all over again. It can make you feel nauseous, as if you’ve been kicked in your stomach, over and over again.
It may feel like an elephant sitting on your chest, leaving you without room to breathe. It forms a bubble of pain with you in the centre, blocking you from the outside world.
Maybe it takes the colours of life away. Maybe your legs hurt, and you find it difficult to walk properly. For some, it might feel like your skin no longer fits you properly.
Grief can make the tears burn behind your eyes and rise in your chest, an endless fountain of tears that never runs dry. Sometimes you might not be able to cry at all, your grief like a ball of agony held tightly inside your chest by the lump in your throat.
No matter how or what you feel, acknowledge these feelings. Grief and loss are the most common human experiences, yet each person’s feelings are as unique as a fingerprint.
There is no right way to grieve
Your grief might shock other people. They knew who you were before your loss, but don’t recognise you now.
Your grief might shock you. You knew who you were before your loss, but you might be struggling to recognise yourself.
Sometimes you don’t want the pain to stop. Your pain is your tribute to the loved one. It might feel like if you let it go, you’re letting your person go. Like they didn’t matter. Because if you’re hurting, they’re still part of your reality.
Whether you’re open and vulnerable in your pain, shy away from your feelings or try to move on by being productive and practical, there is no right way to interpret the pain to make meaning of your loss. There is only your way, your experience.
Grief has no end date
When you’re dealing with grief and loss, you might see the world differently. Everything can look and feel surreal, past relationships and connections may feel distant and far away, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t engage with the here-and-now, because your here-and-now is your grief, it’s the reality of your loss, it’s the story of your pain.
Yet loved ones and friends may suggest that it’s time to move on, to let go and embrace life, intentionally or unintentionally implying that your grief is out of proportion, too long, or too hard to witness. But grief is a process, a journey without prescribed dimensions or timelines. In time, you may find that you grieve less often and with less intensity. But that loss will always be there. So, allow yourself to grieve in your own way and at your own pace.
Find ways to connect
If feelings of grief and loss overwhelm you to a point that you cannot cope, you need to talk to someone who can witness your grief and the magnitude of your loss without judgement.
Being with other people who are also in pain can help. Sometimes though, the people closest to us understand the least, despite their best intentions. Those of us who are early in the grieving process or experiencing acute loss may not be in the position to find something positive in the situation – rather you might want the darkness of your grief to be recognised and validated. For others, hope that things will get better is like oxygen.
Online groups can be a way to connect with others who understand and recognise how much you are suffering, or have similar ways of dealing with their grief and loss.
If these options don’t feel right for you, talk to a licensed mental health professional who can walk with you on the journey through the darkness of loss. Grief may always be with you, but it shouldn’t destroy you.
If you’re dealing with grief and loss and need someone to talk to, I’m here to help. Please contact me to schedule an appointment.