In the process of grieving, there is no time frame assigned or one-size fits all approach to assure a healthy grieving process. There are elements to healthy grieving that one can be intentionally incorporate into their grieving experience, and that is what I want to share here.
I want to share some objectives to aim for as you move forward in your grief and I want to share some coping strategies to utilize in order to process the grief in a healthy and healing manner.
1) One should come to an acknowledgement of the reality of the death. You’ll go through stages of grief where it feels like it isn’t real and you’ll have moments that you’ll forget they are gone, but generally speaking you know the reality is they have died.
2) You will feel the pain of the loss for a long time. You’ll experience degrees of intensity of pain and sorrow, but your objective is to learn to live with it, to incorporate it into your life, and to realize you are experiencing a new normal.
3) You want to continue to remember the person who died. Don’t think you have to forget or act like they are no longer part of your life, because that’s not the best way to manage your tears. With time, you will learn to remember and manage your hurt. Your relationship with them has moved to a new form, primarily a relationship with their memory.
4) Develop a new identity without the deceased by your side. They can always be with you in memory but not in person and time will help you work this new normal out in your day to day life. If you are a spiritually minded person you will find that faith, belief in the afterlife, and a relationship with God will provide you with support in this new phase of life.
1) You want to grieve both instrumentally and intuitively. That means both cognitively and emotionally. You want the tears to flow when you feel sad about their absence or when something suddenly reminds you about them. Tear-up, cry, but over time you’ll gain more control over your emotions. The point of this strategy is to not avoid the emotions and not avoid thinking about your deceased loved-one.
2) You want to allow yourself to vent your feelings. Don’t keep things bottled up. Find someone that you think is safe and able to listen to let it all out. Vent to God if you want or feel the need to. Go out for coffee with a friend on some regular basis, like once a week, and if you want to vent you can.
3) Have a time and place where you give yourself permission to grieve about the loss. Maybe before you turn on a favorite TV show, just think, reflect, and allow yourself to cry about your loss if you need to. When you find yourself having an unwanted emotional outbreak when you are out in public you can tell yourself to save it for your designated grief time later that day.
4) Educate yourself on grief and bereavement by reading or joining a workshop. Google the topic of grief and read an online article on the subject or buy a book on the subject from Amazon. Attend a grief recovery meeting if one is offered near you. Sometimes funeral homes or churches offer these types of programs.
5) Join a grief support group. Sometimes they are advertised as widow or widower groups. It helps to hear others tell their story of loss and to work through the sorrow with those who do know what you are going through. Check with hospitals, hospice organizations, and even churches for advertised grief support groups.
6) Stay involved in physical activity. Go out walking or go to the gym or work in the yard or attend the senior center or eat lunch inside a restaurant instead of taking it back home. Remaining active is important to long-term well-being. Don’t fear having an emotional breakdown in public because the more you get out the easier you’ll find it is to control that.
7) Get involved in something bigger than you. Look at where your interests are or what bigger things you are passionate about and get involved in that, like an advocacy cause or a community association or even a church. When we give our efforts to a bigger endeavor it helps us get out of ourselves and focus on being part of some greater contribution for humanity.
8) Develop the practice of prayer according to your spiritual affiliation. This is a good exercise that will strengthen your spiritual self and help you cope better with your on-going grief. Obviously I am an advocate for faith and if we happen to have similar beliefs, I would also suggest giving 20-30 minutes of your day to prayerful Bible meditation and devotional reading.
9) Have keepsakes or items visible and present that mean something to you because of your deceased loved-one. These things will help continue the bond that you have with your memory relationship with your loved-one. This strategy is not setting up a shrine or a memorial, but simply placing things on a shelf or a picture on the wall that has meaning to you because it reminds you of them. Their story didn’t die with them and doing this will help it remain part of yours.
10) Nurture your support system. This means you must identify the people whose presence supports your well-being, like a close friend, a neighbor, an adult child, or a family member. It’s easy to withdraw from others when on a grief journey, but be intentional about keeping close to them so they will keep close to you. Communication doesn’t always need to be about your loss, reach out to them about the weather, the family, and whatever comes to mind, too.
Well there it is, four objectives and ten coping strategies for healthy and healing grieving. Probably not exhaustive, but I do hope something in these lists will help you and encourage you along your grieving process.
Again, grief is as individual as individuals are. So these objectives and coping strategies are meant to merely guide you through your unique grief journey.
Until my next post, let’s not forget the Lord is not unaware of those that grieve because He has promised in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.”