Grief is a painful emotional process that is not easy to deal with. You may have lost a friend, family member, spouse, or pet. Whatever you lost, it was important to you; otherwise, you would not feel this pain.

Be honest with yourself. The only way to heal is to process and come to terms with your emotions.

Grief infographic

Be Kind to Yourself and Others

Grief is a normal response to loss and pain. Whatever or whoever you may have lost, do not blame yourself for what happened or for feeling bad. Your response is natural, and you need time to heal.

Give yourself a great deal of emotional leeway immediately after a tragedy. Let yourself cry when you need to. Eat foods you enjoy, sleep a little extra, and surround yourself with the people you love. Healing may take longer than you expect; be patient with yourself.

Let yourself cry when you need to

Some people prefer to work through their grief, while others need time off to properly process. Take the course of action that feels most natural to you, but understand that your pain may have altered your perceptions.

Try to avoid making major decisions while you are grieving. Eat a healthy diet, work standard hours, and get enough sleep. If you watch your physical health, your heart will recover sooner.

“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.”  – Leo Tolstoy

Listen to your loved ones; they are worried about you and want to help you heal. Understand that, in the face of their own grief, they may not speak as sensitively or responsibly as you would like.

Resist the urge to hide from those you love. Reach out, even if it feels painful, and you will eventually start to feel better.

2 people comforting one another

Do not feel as though you must be strong for the world around you. Strength in the face of grief can be a great comfort to others, but emotional honesty can also help your family heal. False stoicism might simply be a mask for your pain. Be honest about how you feel, even if you only tell one trusted person.

Identify Your Emotions

When you are grieving, you may be unwilling to look directly at your emotions. Take your time, make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, and treat yourself with compassion.

The Five Stages of Grief

Woman crying

The classic five stages of grief were first published in 1969. These stages are a model for the way your mind tries to rationalize and finally accept what has happened.

Do not treat these steps as fact, but rather as a way to express and understand your grieving process. You may go through these steps out of order, skip steps, or process your grief in an entirely different way.

Denial

Denial is a state of numbness and shock. This stage is a coping mechanism. You may wonder why you aren’t sad enough or find yourself unable to believe that the tragedy has happened.

This stage will eventually pass and must pass if you are going to heal. Be very kind to yourself; your mind enters denial when you do not think you can bear your true emotions.

Anger

Woman showing anger

Anger is the first bridge between denial and acceptance. Let yourself react. Do not be afraid of the damage you might cause; if you are anxious about what you might do or say, avoid professional or stressful situations until this stage has passed.

Feel your anger and accept it, but do not hang onto it for too long. As you let yourself feel anger, you will notice it fade away. This is a sign that you are starting to heal.

Bargaining

Anger is the first bridge between denial and acceptance. You may feel this stage before or after anger and denial.

The most descriptive phrases of bargaining are “what if” and “if only.” As with anger, feel these emotions and let them pass. You cannot change the past, and what happened was not your fault.

Depression

Depressed woman sitting alone

Depression is a feeling rooted in the present. You may feel unable to cope with the tasks of day to day life. You may wonder how you can be expected to go on without that which you have lost.

Understand that these feelings are natural and will eventually pass. Rely on the people around you. Make sure you eat, sleep, shower, and spend time outside. Self-care is essential if you are to heal.

Acceptance

Acceptance does not mean that you are happy or even OK. It simply means that you are no longer depressed and can cope with the truth of your new reality.

Acceptance does not mean that you are happy or even OK

Grief is complicated; you may think you have accepted things only to start crying a year later. Do not rush yourself into acceptance, and do not blame yourself for feeling sad. You have lost, and it will feel painful. The world is here for you.

Emotional and Physical Symptoms

Grief may come with many emotional and physical symptoms. Experiencing these symptoms does not mean you are sick or mentally ill; it just means you are in a great deal of emotional pain.

Emotional symptoms include shock, guilt, sadness, fear, and anger. These feelings are why you should wait to make any significant decisions. Before you react too strongly to a situation, step back and question if the feelings are caused by your grief.

Man grieving alone

Remember that the people who love you will be forgiving if you say something insensitive; they know what you are going through.

Physical symptoms include exhaustion, insomnia, random pains, nausea, and changes in weight. Some of these symptoms are caused directly by grief, while others occur when you forget to take care of yourself. Stay healthy; it will help more than you realize.

If any physical symptoms persist, see a medical professional. Grief lowers your immune system, and there is a chance you could contract an actual illness.

Understand the Different Causes of Grief

Grief can occur for many reasons. You probably know why you are grieving, but it can help to look at the situation directly.

Anticipatory grief happens before the incident. Your loved one may be ill and close to death. You may be told that you are about to lose a job that you love.

Sometimes, the chance to prepare for a loss helps us cope, but it can also make the situation even more painful. Anticipatory grief is an extremely valid emotional state and should be taken seriously.

Traumatic grief occurs when the loss is sudden. This kind of grief can immediately throw you into shock and denial.

Understand that trauma and grief are two separate but related emotions. After you heal from the trauma, the symptoms of your grief may still linger. Seek counselling if you feel helpless in the face of what has happened.

Complicated or unaddressed grief can set in when your grief is delayed. You might still grieve a loss a decade after it happened. The solution is to address your feelings and process your pain when you are safe and surrounded by those you love.

Find an Appropriate Way to Mourn

The way you mourn is unique to you. You may wish to fall back on traditional methods of mourning like wearing all black for a time. You may also find comfort in small actions that let you express your feelings.

Participate in Ceremonies

If there is a memorial or service for the one you lost, attend it. These services may seem too painful, especially if you are in a stage of denial or depression, but they will do a great deal to help ease your pain.

Memorials will do a great deal to help ease your pain

These ceremonies are a way for your community to mourn together. The presence of others will comfort you, just as your presence will comfort them.

A memorial honours the dead and provides closure to the living. It’s an integral part of the grieving process and should not be skipped.

Remember to let yourself cry and express emotion at these events. You will not be judged.

If you cannot attend the formal memorial, hold a small ceremony of your own. Ask a friend to officiate so that you can process your emotions.

Take inspiration from the ceremonies of your home culture. Even floating a flower down a river can be enough to give you a sense of closure.

Take Time from Work and School

Most companies offer some sort of bereavement leave or other benefits. Speak to your employer about taking time to recover from your loss emotionally.

Loss does not often happen at a convenient time. Bereavement must be delayed in some cases, but make sure you still take time off within the next few months.

Many teachers will work with you if you experience a significant loss. Discuss the option of submitting assignments late or even completing the class after the semester is over.

Review your school’s policies and ask your academic advisor for help. It is better to withdraw from a class and retake it than to risk a failing grade.

Create a Tribute or Memorial

Memorial to mourn

Memories that once seemed painful may bring you joy as the year’s pass. A tribute or memorial in your home can help you feel connected to the one you have lost.

Unless you feel up to it, don’t make your memorial right away. Process the initial stages of grief and spend time with your family. When you feel ready, create something beautiful to honour the one who has passed.

Photo collages, memorial jewellery, and small statues make excellent memorial keepsakes. You may also consider having a bench installed in their favourite park or donating to their favourite charity. Consider tributes that would make the deceased smile if they saw them.

A memorial website is an excellent way to help a large community mourn. These websites are especially important for artists, teachers, or creators who have passed; you may be surprised at how many people’s lives were influenced by your loved one. Leave a place for visitors to comment, but moderate comments before they are posted.

You should also consider holding a memorial service sometime after the funeral. These services can be both joyful and bittersweet; the emotions aren’t as raw, but the pain is definitely still there.

Help Others Grieve

When one member of a family dies, everyone is impacted. Be kind and aware of the feelings of those around you. Take steps to help them cope with your mutual loss.

A kind and listening ear is helpful to someone dealing with loss. Don’t try to cheer the person up; pain is natural, and it is healthier to accept this fact.

Make sure everyone is eating and taking care of themselves. Check up on reclusive family members. They may be afraid to reach out or be in too much pain to realize that they are acting strangely.

Call relatives who live out of state. Even if they don’t want to talk about the loss, they will appreciate hearing your voice. You may also take comfort in the additional family connection.

Helping Children Grieve

Children often have a hard time expressing their emotions. They may be too young to understand what they feel or why. Children may grieve differently or attempt to copy the grief behaviours of the adults around them.

Be direct about the loss, but do not expect any sort of reaction. It may take a long time for the child to realize the breadth of the situation. Answer their questions honestly and be kind in your responses.

Be direct about the loss, but do not expect any sort of reaction

Mom helping her child grief

Some children may be too young to attend a funeral. Don’t force the situation on them, but let them attend if they want to.

As they get older, children may come to understand their loss and want to process it. Consider holding a small memorial service to bring them closure.

Routine will help children return to life as normal. If you are a parent, you may find it hard to manage your responsibilities while you grieve. Ask friends and family members to assist you with childcare during this period.

Conclusion

Grief of any form should always be handled with patience, love, and compassion. There is no time limit on a period of mourning; the loss of a parent or spouse may never properly fade away.

“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.”  – Sarah Dessen

When you are ready, reconnect with your community. Enrol in a class or take up a new hobby. Return to the things you love most. The ones you have lost would want you to keep enjoying everything life has to offer.

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