Good Grief...

Have you experienced a recent loss and feeling like you are unsure of how to “move forward’? Are people telling you to just “get over it” or that “there are more fish in the sea” but you just can’t seem to think that way? Do you find yourself feeling sad, in pain, unmotivated, isolating yourself, anxious or broken hearted? You are likely experiencing the normal reaction to a loss, called grief.

Grief is perhaps an unknown territory for you. You might feel both helpless and hopeless without a sense of a 'map' for the journey. Confusion is the hallmark of a transition. To rebuild both your inner and outer world is a major project.”
- Anne Grant

Grief is a normal reaction to a loss of any kind. This loss may include the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a separation or divorce, a pet, a job, a move or any change to a familiar pattern in our life.  As a society, we tend to hold some myths about grief. These myths include that one should grieve alone, that one shouldn’t be sad. A loss is a loss and there is no “acceptable” list of what is okay to grieve, whether a person, place or thing. Oftentimes, people need help working through the emotions surrounding the loss to move forward and to feel happiness again.

If you are struggling with the emotions related to grief, try these 8 “good grief” tips:

  1. You don’t have to grieve alone. Talk about your grief with loved ones, family members, trusted professionals including counsellors, your doctor, a spiritual leader or another person you trust.
  2. Grief is a journey, not an event. Recognize that completing the loss takes time and there is no “quick fix”. Allow yourself permission to treat it like a process, which can help to reduce any guilt you may be holding about not being able to “just get over it”. That’s normal. It’s a process.
  3. Allow yourself to feel the emotions. Often, people who are grieving tell me they hold it inside to try to reassure others that they are “okay”. It’s time to let go of the Oscar worthy performance and to acknowledge the emotions, the totally normal emotions, that come with a loss. It’s okay to not be okay. Try sitting in the emotion, journaling how you are feeling, and recognize that feelings such as guilt, sadness, relief, hopelessness, anger and longing are a totally normal response to a loss.
  4. Grief work TAKES work. Be okay with putting in the work to resolve the feelings, the sense of needing fulfillment from the lost loved one and finding forgiveness from within. The work may be painful but the way to move forward is to dive deep into the work and be realistic about your needs.
  5. Seek out other grievers. We do not need to grieve alone. Support groups such as the groups offered by Bereaved Families of Ontario can help. Support groups help to normalize our experiences and remind us that we are not alone.
  6. Write your loved one a letter. You may wish to write down what you might say to your loved one should you be able to speak to them one more time. You may want to detail what it’s been like without them, list some apologies or statements of forgiveness, or maybe just share with them how you’ve managed since the loss. Writing this letter may help you work through your grief.
  7. Grief can be confusing. There are many complicated feelings that come with grieving the loss of a loved one. These feelings can be confusing or overwhelming. They can be conflicting especially if there are factors that might have complicated the loss. A grief counsellor can help you manage these feelings.
  8. Take care of yourself. Self-care is critical during times of loss. Notice if exercising helps you to feel better. Nourish your body and your mind through healthy meals and meditation. See your doctor. Stay connected to your needs.

Grief tries to rob us of social support, please remember that you are not alone. If you are struggling in your journey of completing your grief, grief counselling can help.

For more information on grieving, check out this TEDTalk by Dr. Geoff Warburton.

I also recommend The Grief Recovery Handbook by John James and Russell Friedman for more information on the myths of grieving and strategies to overcome a loss.

by Megan Rafuse MSW RSW, social worker and psychotherapist