Living through a global pandemic has affected all of us, it has highlighted that life can be fragile, precarious, and impermanent. We all have our individual stories of loss, be this the death of a loved one or a living loss of a relationship, circumstance or situation. Whenever something we thought to be constant changes, we can feel shocked and devasted losing someone or something can catapult us back and forth, from the past where we have our memories to the future where we struggle with the absence of that person or situation.
Grief responses are instinctive in all of us, from searching, longing, denial, anger, bargaining, and blame. These are all means of self-protection and are a way to avoid pain and sadness. To understand the grieving process, I believe it is important to be aware of our attachment style as they affect our ability to adjust, support, normalize and accept our emotional reactions to any kind of loss or change.
Often people feel self-indulgent or guilty talking about their feelings of loss, sadness, and helplessness. They do not want to burden loved ones or friends for fear of causing them further worry and pain. It is important and helpful to identify with the reality of the loss. Being able to express your feelings and talk about your experience is an important part of the grieving process, coming to terms both intellectually and emotionally with the loss. Anything that allows you to deny, avoid, distract, or suppress the feelings of sadness, pain, regret, and guilt around the loss prolongs the grieving process and leads to anxiety, depression and in some situations suicidal feelings, and other illnesses.
Anxiety, depression, and helplessness are often increased after a loss or death as we are reminded of our own vulnerability and mortality. Often this brings about a fear of not being able to support ourselves or manage alone. Reality test this, recognize your own personal resourcefulness – Are you able to get out of bed, wash, dress, get out and about and function then you’re doing okay? Or are you staying in bed, withdrawing from life, using unhealthy ways to distract yourself, and not functioning? If this is the case, it may be time for you to get some extra support.
Some useful tips:
Have compassion for yourself,
Cut yourself some slack, listen to the messages that you give yourself, “what if” “If only I had done …” “I should of, would of, could of” these are unhelpful. Realize there is nothing you can do to change the past.
Examine, and challenge objectively any comparisons and hash expectations from yourself and others, instead consider any learning from the experience. (Hindsight) Remember we do what we do with our understanding at the time.
Normalizing is helpful. Anyone experiencing a significant loss can gain comfort from talking to others in similar situations, instead of denying your feelings, listen to your needs and begin to reach out to others, be aware of support groups, online forums, books, and blogs.
Talk about your loss, what you miss what you don’t miss, reminisce, talking about various markers, events, and memories can be reassuring. Put together photo albums, and memory books, these assist you in living with your loss and grief in a respectful and meaningful way. Channel your energy into a worthwhile project remembering your loved one’s honor.
We can never replace what we have lost nor can we maintain the past intact but we can begin to make new connections without betraying our loved one’s memory. The gradual process of acceptance may mean just having more good days than bad ones. Living with a loss is about adjusting to a new normal for you and from this, being able to reengage with living again.
I always enjoy reading your comments and feedback and am interested in what you have found helpful in your own experiences around the grieving process.
Stay safe and well best wishes Pip x