Updated: Oct 2
Is anyone prepared for the wave of intense and sometimes complex emotions that arise when a loved one passes? Do you bare the powerful emotions as if holding up a heavy brick wall without ever wanting to let it go? Are you supposed to tough it out or think, “this too shall pass”? The weight of the brick wall is heavy, and being tough all the time can wear you down. Time will pass, but holding onto emotions can be more detrimental to your health than you may think. You may be waiting for someone to take those feeling off your shoulders or out of your hands in the hope that it will lighten your emotional load. How do we yield to the grieving process? Grieving is painful, but it is also good to do.
It can be a profound and overwhelming experience to lose a loved one, whether it be someone you know personally or looked up to as a lifetime leader, like the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth ll. It can be equally challenging to lose someone you loved years ago, such as an ex-spouse or close friend. We usually think of all the complex levels of emotions when losing a loved one, like sadness and sorrow, even if they have lived a long life. But it can also include waves of shock if it is a sudden loss and can include interchangeable stages of anger, guilt, shame, and depression. The lingering anger over the injustice of how the person died. The anger toward the person for leaving you too soon or not telling you of a terminal illness. You may feel overwhelming guilt when thinking, “if only you had done something different, they would still be here.” Or, shame for not letting go of a rift or argument. Maybe the estrangement was appropriate for the circumstances, but now the person is gone. There are no more chances to find some peace or resolve a long, drawn-out dispute. It can be your refusal to forgive the person for their indiscretions. Maybe, the person was suffering from severe mental health or substance abuse issues that they couldn’t remedy, or it was too late in the game to bounce back even after giving it some effort and treatment.
At times, the feelings of despair creep in the back door of your mind, or the heartache you feel is overwhelming and intense. Sometimes you may wonder how life can be so painful, so full of anguish. Among other losses, the death of a loved one is a time that can bring up memories and experiences, both good and bad. Avoiding the friction of intense emotions or living with a sense of denial to cope can temporarily buffer the need to process the pain and release it back to the universe. Thankfully, being aware that grief is a process and not something you need to rush through or get over quickly will help you to carry on. Time itself becomes the reprieve you may need as you let yourself hold space for your sadness.
Navigating Grief, Loss, and Sorrow
Grieving is a personal experience and needs to be respected. Even if you’re grieving over the same person, you will process the experience in your way, at your own pace, and find different ways to achieve peace with the loss. Giving space and support to others is essential as each person copes with the sadness and other feelings as the process keeps moving forward. Setting aside time to listen to others express their emotions can be mutually beneficial. You can gather insight and perspective that can comfort both of you.
You may want to develop your way of processing loss and create small rituals or practices that help you gain insight and perspective. Or, engage with your community leaders who can help you find the needed support. It can be a combination of your funeral home directors, spiritual and religious leaders, grievance counselors, supportive family and friends, and reading self-help books. It is significant to know you are not alone even though the emotions come from an internal process. Asking for help is the number one way to get some guidance on navigating the function of your feelings.
No one makes it out alive. The end of life is a mutual destiny shared by all, yet no one holds a crystal ball into the future. The concept of “living one day at a time” can be of value when you are grieving: being in the present moment and knowing you will have some days that will be easier than others, just like in everyday life.
How do your empathy and compassion work when you apply them to yourself?
Be gentle with yourself. You are not limited to only giving other people your compassion and empathy. It isn’t self-pity to direct those emotions toward yourself. It is more about letting yourself treat painful vibrations rather than wallowing in misery. Being compassionate toward yourself helps you maintain your self-esteem while you experience grief. Just like you would comfort a friend or family member in their times of sadness and loss, you allow yourself to feel the same comfort. It is crucial to self-soothe during what can be considered the most stressful time of change. Take time to focus on self-soothing techniques that help you find compassion within. Try these suggested techniques and put together a routine that works for you.
Focus on Self-Soothing Techniques
Hygiene, Pampering, and Self-Care- - you can lose track of time or sense of time and sidestep daily habits when grieving. So you may feel like it is an extra effort to bathe, wash your hair, brush your teeth, and moisturize your face and hands. But those daily essentials will help you to feel a sense of self.
Draw your feelings- - if finding words to express your emotions is difficult, it can be easier to release them through drawing, whether it be through tactile mediums like paint, crayons, pencils, and pens or the use of digital art forms. It is about being able to connect with the complex and even sometimes troublesome emotions one can have after a loved one dies. #arttherapy #arttherapyforkids
Please write it down- - it can be very therapeutic to write about your thoughts and feelings. Using words or phrases without worrying about grammar or sentence structure is another way to connect, process, and release those emotions that need expression. #journal #journaling
Music- - is a great way to connect feelings with an environment of self-acceptance. Music can move the soul and maybe get you moving through a time of mourning.
Soothing/Calming Apps- - if you haven’t tried relaxing calming apps, now would be a good time to try. Apps like: Calm and Headspace help to decompress the brain so you can process emotions as they arise.
Fresh air- - getting some fresh air outside or opening windows to let the fresh air in can relieve your body of tension and help soothe and calm the body. #calmthebody
Walk- - if you can get out and walk, even for a short time, it helps release those positive endorphins; if you have room in your house, walk inside or climb a few stairs. #walk
Stretch- - simple stretches or your favorite yoga poses also ease the tension and stress that can build up in your body from grief and sadness. #stretch
Lie down- - the intense emotions of grief can make you feel a little light-headed or dizzy, so lie down and rest for a while with your favorite pillow or blanket. #liedown
Cuddle with your pet or pets- -animals are sensitive to our emotions and are often one of the most self-soothing comforts. #cuddle
Dim the lights- - intense emotions can cause you to be more light sensitive, so dim the lights or draw the shades a little to soften the mood in the room. #dimthelights
Light a votive or scented candle- - I find lighting a candle and saying a prayer for the loved one is one of the most self-soothing comforts. #candles
Eat light and healthy- - it may be hard to eat food during the onset of grief, so do the best you can to get nutrition and stay hydrated. #eathealthy
Children, teenagers, and young adults need these things too. #gentle
When you view grief with a closed mindset like, “deal with the pain” or “suck it up,” it may work against your overall feeling of wellness. Yes, there are moments when you do and will bear the pain or suck it up, but that does not need to be a content or continuous mindset. If you allow yourself the space to feel what you are feeling in that moment, which is painful, no doubt, you are in the activity of releasing or letting go of the many complex emotions a person can feel after a loved one dies. Being open to your feelings and the mindfulness to allow them to process through may help you find peace and have a sense that your loved one is watching over you now. #love #mindfulness #openmindset
Engage with others
Feelings shared with a trusted friend or family member.
Seek professional counseling through grief counselors, therapists, and spiritual guidance.
A check-up with your physician
Go to a park or public space #engagewithothers
Grief can take many forms over the years; missing someone special can be long-lasting. The little things like the smell of a particular flower, watching a movie, listening to a specific song, and visiting a certain place, may bring back good and even bad memories. Those bad memories will fade if you are willing to let go or forgive past transgressions--no need to hold onto the negative emotions of someone who is no longer here. Instead, hold onto the good memories that may bring a smile to your face, make you laugh, or bring about pleasant feelings of an adventure you had with that person. Good memories are beneficial to your overall health and well-being. You can even share those good times with future generations giving them a sense of connection. #goodmemories #goodtimesremebered #goodtimes
Resolution, Resolve, Healing
Processing grief takes time, even slowly, during a lifetime. But when you gently embrace your mourning and allow yourself to feel the pain, though moments of intensity may exist, you’re allowing yourself to heal and mend a broken, not a shattered, Heart. Take time to be compassionate and empathetic toward yourself using techniques that may meet your needs. There is resolve and resolution when you forgive transgressions. Remembering the good times is so vital to overall health and well-being.
Loved ones may be gone, but they’re not forgotten.
Disclosure: The information provided in this blog comes from my personal experiences of grief, loss, anger, guilt, shame, and depression, with the hope that you may learn something new about yourself. By no means is this meant to wipe away events of historic proportions. This blog post intends to ease personal suffering and help cope with losing a loved one.
Please seek professional counseling if you are experiencing any suicidal ideation or self-neglect and self-abuse. https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988