We will all experience grief in our lifetime whether it's the loss of someone we know, the death of a pet, the ending of a relationship or the completion of an era in our life and these strategies can be applied to all of those scenarios to help you to manage grief effectively.
I don't feel that we talk about or prepare ourselves for death enough. It is inevitable and will ultimately happen to us all. If we were more honest about it, we could be more open when we experience it's pain and others would be more prepared to comfort us.
Grief is essentially the pain we feel at something ending and it can be overwhelming.
It's generally recognised that we go through these stages when we grieve:
Let's explore them.
This is a safety valve provided by our brain so that we are not exposed to the full shock all at once. We have this kind of numbness and just can't believe it.
We often think it's unfair or it shouldn't happen this way or it's too soon. This anger is often used to express the pain that we are feeling but if mismanaged can lead to bitterness and resentment which will have a damaging impact on our mental health, general wellbeing and our life.
This is the stage when we try to make deals with ourselves or God if that's your belief in an attempt to feel better. We tell ourselves that if we behave in a certain way that we won't hurt so much.
This is the hardest part where we can feel that nothing has any purpose any more and things were better before. This can be a very dangerous stage as for lots of people, this is when they can become overwhelmed with all the other things going on in their life and go into a deep depression that can last the rest of their life.
This is when we have found a way to manage the pain (these may not always be positive coping strategies) and begin to feel that we can go back to our "normal" life again. For some, they will never get over the loss but will bury their emotions and find a way to go through life carrying that burden.
Having experienced grief on more occasions than I would expect, I found this to be very helpful once the initial numbness (denial stage) had worn off
1. Move straight to acceptance.
When we deny reality, that which is right in front of us, we actually cause ourselves more pain because no matter what we want or how we think thinks should be, we will eventually have to deal with the situation that is in front of us and try as we might, we will never beat reality.
2. Allow myself to hurt.
Our natural instinct is to protect ourselves from any unpleasantness or pain but by tucking it away and trying to ignore it, we're actually giving it more power to hurt us because as Carl Jung said what we resist, persists. Mindfulness based stress reduction therapy is a fantastic tool but if you don't have a qualified therapist that you can work with (I'm one by the way) then you can try the following.
Find yourself a quiet space where you can be comfortable and left alone.
You may want a journal or some paper to write on.
Only ever allowing as much as you can bear,( if you have existing mental health problems, don't try this without speaking with your practitioner) bring the situation to mind and allow yourself to feel. Notice where the pain arises in the body, let the tears flow, question why it hurts. This may sound a little silly because at that time it may hurt everywhere and your mind is screaming that it hurts because it's over. But allow that to subside and then become mindful and work through it. Once you bring an emotion into the present, it can't hurt you as much anymore and you begin the process of letting it go. Repeat as many times as necessary until you can revisit the situation without overwhelming pain.
Moving forward from here is when we acknowledge the past. Generally speaking, we become depressed when we live in the past. That is to wish things were like they were before or to have regrets about things said or unsaid or actions done or left undone. This will only cause us pain because the past cannot be changed no matter how much we want it to be.
We can try to make amends by writing a letter to apologise or tell them how we feel and then with some form of ceremony, destroy the paper and let the emotion go.
Energy does not end, it only changes and so a person or pet will still have an energetic presence in our world even if they no longer have a physical representation.
If it's the end of a relationship or situation, then you can apologise or seek an apology but can make them give you one or accept yours but you could use this strategy to say all the things that you wished you had but didn't.
If we don't let go of our pain, it will build inside us and fester and this might manifest as illness, mental health issues or bitterness. It will not change what has happened and by naming it, challenging it and making peace with it, you will be able to start to let it go which will free up space for new emotions, people, situations and experiences to come in.
This may sound random but we have no way of knowing the bigger plan and it ending is exactly the right thing. We know this because it has happened and to argue with it will put us back in the denial stage again. Instead, I found it really helpful to be happy that they had done what they came to do or that the situation had run it's course and I could be grateful for the opportunity I had to know and love them or to have been a part of something. I can then see all the benefits that I have gained. Things like their love, their wisdom, their guidance and advice, their joy and the lessons that I have learned from them. I can then acknowledge how very blessed I was to have experienced this. (This strategy can also be applied to situations too)
Each time we acknowledge our pain and the gift that we have experienced, our suffering lessens and we can move from grief and missing them/ it to joy for the experience and ultimately peace of mind and freedom from the pain.
I won't pretend that this is an easy process, moving through grief never is and I have practised mindfulness for a long time. I would never attempt to minimise your loss either but what I am offering is a way to move through your grief.
We are conditioned to feel guilty out of loyalty and that we shouldn't be happy because if the loss that we have suffered but, I felt that holding onto pain out of a sense of loyalty made no sense. That it would not be what those that I had lost would want for me and would negatively impact on the rest of my life and those I came into contact with.
It would also not bring them back.
I choose to honour them with gratitude and joy for the experience we shared and the love that I had for them won't ever go in the same way that their energy won't either but is now available to enable me to love those still here more.
I hope this has helped you in some way.
If you feel that coaching could support with to manage your grief, please get in touch.