The word “grief” brings to mind the way we feel in the face of the death of a loved one. In reality, grief is a more common state and might result from life events ranging from the catastrophic – divorce, a sick child, an injury, a global pandemic – to the routine and largely positive, like a haircut, a new job or birth of
Yes, positive life events can inspire grief. Who hasn’t momentarily longed for the days we knew exactly where the remote control was because we were the only ones in the house to move it? According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Grief is the experience of coping with loss. Grief can accompany any event that disrupts or challenges our sense of normalcy or ourselves.”
What does grief feel like? It’s different for everyone. It might manifest as anxiety or depression. A pit in our stomach, feeling detached from our friends and family, inability to concentrate, loss of interest in things we used to love. Feeling numb. Headache, gastrointestinal distress, high or low blood pressure, inability to sleep, racing heart, rage, inability to tolerate things that used to roll off our backs, feeling isolated, feeling useless and even thoughts of suicide. If you are feeling at a loss, or even just a twinge frustrated in navigating your own grief, I cannot stress strongly enough finding a trusted professional to talk to.
When feelings of grief strike it can be challenging to know what to do with them. Not only are the feelings themselves difficult, but we often beat ourselves up over feeling them. Or we are just plain exhausted by them. Ignoring grief will not make it go away. Wallowing in it forever won’t either. Learning to allow it, giving it space and still moving through it doesn’t always come easily. I am very grateful to the Grief Counseling Team at National Jewish Hospital and cling to this list of strategies my therapist helped me develop for when I am feeling overwhelmed or ashamed of my grief.
- BE JOYFUL
In the midst of grief, it is natural and 100% valid to be focused on what you have lost. While I am not one who espouses the “gratitude at all costs” mantra, it can be helpful to practice turning your attention to the things you still have, or the parts of your life you enjoy. Set a timer for one minute and list anything you can think of that brings you even the smallest amount of joy. Your loved ones, your favorite TV show, your favorite candle, the sound of the rain, hot showers, tea, my weighted blanket, popsicles, walking, potatoes, my strong feet, dogs, my THUMBS. Phew, okay, thanks for indulging me as I used that space for my own list. It helps!
- BE KIND
It’s no secret that practicing kindness has the side effect of making you feel good. Devoting even a small amount of time to helping others can not only make a huge difference in someone else’s life, but it can provide the giver with a sense of purpose. It serves as a reminder of all the good that exists in the world. Volunteer at your favorite charity or make time to visit a lonely neighbor. If the life circumstances that are causing your grief, illness, injury or isolation keep you from practicing kindness the way you might have before, remember that this too is something you have lost. Honor that, but don’t let it stop you. Choose something accessible. Write a letter to a friend, crochet a blanket for the local hospital birthing unit, ask a senior-living facility if they have residents who might benefit from a weekly phone call.
- BE PATIENT
Ugh, I hate this one. There is no expiration date attached to grief. Allow yourself to visit grief when you need to. Visit! Give the emotions that come with grief the voice and time they need. Remember to use coping strategies to keep you from becoming stuck there. Eat, drink water, move, rest and connect. Look for love. That includes love for yourself even if your “self” isn’t what you expected. Grief can be a lifelong journey. It will likely change over time. Learning to live with grief doesn’t mean learning how to make it go away; it means learning how to move through your day-today
life with hope and purpose, even in the presence of grief. It is a rare human who lives past 5 or 6 years old and does not experience some loss. A tooth, a grandparent, a pet, a favorite toy. It
is a part of our humanness, born out of our ability to feel comfort, that we mourn things we cherished when they are gone. Our youth, our athletic prowess, our energy, our innocence. Wherever you are with your own experience of grief, take a moment to recognize that the feelings and experiences you have had around loss are valid. Remind yourself that you are not alone in facing challenges and changes life can bring. You are valuable. With joy, kindness, patience and HELP, we can move through anything life throws at us. Eventually.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness, the original online wellness mentoring system. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant, and that it is only possible to do our best work in the world if we make a daily commitment to our health. Visit facebook.com/erika.taylor.303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.