The loss of someone or something important to you is among life’s greatest challenges. The pain is often crushing. You may deal with all kinds of complex and unanticipated emotions, from shock to anger to deep, lingering sadness. The experience can also affect your physical health, making it a struggle to eat, sleep or even think correctly.
These reactions are, of course, normal. But while there are no right or wrong ways to cope with grief, there is an approach that can help ease you into the entire process.
Grieving gives you all the more reason to take care of yourself. The stress of this experience can easily exhaust your physical and emotional strength. That’s why looking after your physical and emotional needs is important as you go through this challenging time.
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You can try to hold back your grief, but you do that forever. Acknowledging your pain is important to healing. If you shun feelings of loss and sadness, you only make yourself grieve longer. Unresolved grief can also give rise to complications, from depression to substance abuse to physical illness.
Tangible or Creative Expression
Processing your grief becomes easier when you express it in some tangible or creative way. Write about it in a journal, for example. If you lost a loved one, write a letter saying all that you wanted to say but never got to; create a scrapbook or photo album of the person’s life; or join a cause or organization that your loved one was part of.
Remember that your mind is connected to your body. Processing your emotions will become easier if you are physically healthy. Fight stress and fatigue by sleeping, eating and exercising enough. Alcohol or drugs can only numb your pain temporarily and set the stage for long-term ruin.
Hobbies and Interests
There’s comfort in doing all the things you used to do, especially activities that always gave you joy. Connecting with other people always works to lessen the pain. However, don’t let them force you into feeling this or that, and don’t force yourself either. Your grief is an independent process, and no one can dictate when the right time is for moving on or letting go. Don’t be scared of being embarrassed or judged by own feelings. Let yourself cry or not cry, be mad, or even laugh or smile at those small moments of joy.
When trying to resolve your pain and grief, be ready for “triggers,” such as holidays, anniversaries, and other events that can refresh memories and feelings. Most importantly, remember that this is completely normal. Again, recognize the pain and manage it, but not without expressing it, whether through words or action (such as praying).