Suffering a loss, no matter how traumatic it may be, can leave you facing an uphill struggle to climb. However, even with the deepest pain, there is hope. Grief is the body’s natural response to losing someone or something important to you. You may experience a variety of emotions, such as intense sadness, anger, and loneliness, and for different reasons. You can encounter grief for numerous reasons, such as the loss of a job, a relationship ending, moving to a new home, developing a chronic illness, or the loss of a pet or loved one. Everyone deals with grief differently, but by understanding your emotions, taking care of yourself, and seeking support when necessary, you will be able to heal and move on with your life.
Learn more about the stages of grief and how to manage it in a healthy way.
The Stages Of Grief: Stages One & Two
According to doctors, there are five distinct stages of grief the majority of individuals will experience. These stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Denial is the first stage of grief and can be described as the stage that occurs right after the loss when you think ‘this cannot be happening,’ and where emotions such as shock or numbness set in. It is the temporary way of dealing with overwhelming emotions, such as hopelessness, rushing over you. Essentially, it is the mind and body’s first line of defense against something as invasive as a loss. The second stage is anger, and as reality settles in, you’re faced with the very real pain of that loss in your life. You may experience multiple emotions such as frustration, helplessness, which can later turn into blind rage. You may direct these feelings towards a deity, other people, life itself, or even towards the person or thing you lost, which is natural too.
The Stages Of Grief: Stages Three To Five
Bargaining, the third stage, is where you will begin to dwell on what you could’ve done to prevent the loss, and think of the ‘what ifs,’ resulting in you even trying to bargain with a higher power to give you back what you lost or to take away the pain. Depression – the most challenging stage to endure – occurs when sadness sets in and you begin to understand the loss and how it affects your life. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues, decreased appetite, and feelings such as regret, guilt, and loneliness. Just because you exhibit these signs while grieving does not mean you have depression, however, if you deal with these signs and more for a more extended period, you might have developed depression and should seek a professional diagnosis. To learn more about depression, check out 8 Things People With Hidden Depression Do. The final stage of grief is acceptance, when you finally accept the reality of your loss and that it cannot be changed. Although it will be difficult, this stage signals you are now able to start moving forward with your life.
It’s Okay To Feel What You Feel
First and foremost, allow yourself to feel what you feel. It’s okay to cry, it’s alright to be angry, and it’s even acceptable to celebrate what you once had in your life and show gratitude for that opportunity, thing, or being. Embrace every emotion you feel because it’s going to be a wild ride that will take you through immensely complex feelings you didn’t even know you were or could experience. It’s your body, your heart, and your mind, and each one has unique feelings that contribute to how you will handle your grief and work through it.
Allow the pain to move through you and go through each phase of grief. Embrace the pain and surround it with love. It sounds like a cliche, but by having a more open response to your feelings, it will help you heal faster with a clearer understanding of your loss, which may help you in the future when you cope with similar situations in the future. Also, remember to be kind to yourself and allow this natural process to take over. Rushing through different stages will only hinder your healing and leave you feeling overwhelmed, and often not truly dealing with the loss and moving on with your life.
How Long Will I Feel This Way?
There is no ‘normal’ or prescribed amount of time to grieve, and your grieving process depends on multiple aspects, such as your age, beliefs, personality type, and support network. The type of loss you experience is also a significant factor. For instance, dealing with the loss of a job, the ending of a relationship, or losing a loved one are three very distinct types of losses that require different amounts of time to process. The loss of a loved one will take a significantly long time and be more difficult to process and cope with versus the loss of a job. But, it is true what they say: time does heal all. The sadness eases with time, and you’ll be able to experience joy and hope along with grief and be able to return to your regular daily life.
The Healthy Ways To Cope With Grief
There are a few significant ways to deal with grief in a healthy and positive manner. First, give yourself time, and accept the feelings you’re experiencing and know that grieving is an inevitable process you need and can get through. Have a strong support network and reach out and talk to others about your feelings, whether it be friends and family or a therapist. Just do not isolate yourself, as this makes it more difficult to heal. Practice self-care and try to exercise regularly, eat well, and get enough rest to stay healthy and focused. Get back into your daily grind by returning to your hobbies and passions, as doing the activities that bring you joy may restore what hope you have lost. Also, join a support group to speak with others who are also grieving and working through the process as well.
More Positive Ways To Deal With Grief
Another wonderful idea is to reconnect with nature, by going for a walk to rejuvenate yourself or to feel connected to the natural world. Remember to take your time when removing belongings or reminders of your loss within your space, or if it is of someone deceased, take your time to remove their items from their home. Other helpful hints include not putting a time limit on your grief, resting your mind, body, and soul by getting enough sleep and participating in relaxing activities such as yoga, and doing what you want to ease the pain (as long as you are not hurting yourself or others, of course!). Lastly, as difficult as it may be, try to celebrate what you had, whether it is celebrating the life of a loved one who is gone, or celebrating the lessons you learned from a past relationship or job. This includes being grateful for the time and effort spent with that person, pet, or thing, and knowing that they had a purpose in your life. This sunny disposition may help you heal faster and better, and keep the loss in perspective to your life.
When To Know When You Need Professional Help
In specific cases, the grief experienced doesn’t get better. You may not be able to handle and fully accept the loss you’ve endured. As a result, you may need to seek professional help to allow you to cope in a healthy manner. Doctors call this ‘complicated grief,’ and you should speak to a doctor if you experience trouble sticking to your daily routine, such as going to work or doing chores around the house, constant feelings of depression, the inability to stop blaming yourself for the loss, and thoughts of suicide or self-harming.
A therapist can help you explore your emotions and find solutions to help you cope with your loss. A doctor can also prescribe antidepressants or other medications if you are dealing with depression. It can be incredibly tempting to also drown your pain in alcohol, drugs, food, work, or other unhealthy habits, but don’t. These temporary escapes will not allow you to heal or feel better faster and can lead to other problems, such as addiction, anxiety, a deeper depression, and an emotional breakdown.