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Five Tips for Good Grieving

Have you ever had someone tell you that anger is a normal feeling to have after a death and it’s okay to feel it?

These are not words we often hear in our everyday conversation, because we live in a culture that runs from anger, sadness, and emotional outbursts associated with grief.  We hide grief away and gloss over all the regrets and emotions we feel.  It’s only when we experience large community tragedies that we reflect on what it means to grieve, and how to move through it in a healthy way.  The expected sort of grief that comes from losing a long time love, or the sudden grief that overwhelms with a tragic loss of someone dear to us is not an everyday conversation piece.

The Process of Grieving

The process we call grief is actually a process of moving through a variety of emotions that we tend to know little about until it hits us.  It can feel very unfamiliar, a great longing for a loved one who’s died, a hole in a place of bewilderment, anger, resentment, regret.  It can come in ebbs and flows like the ocean waves, strong like pounding surf and light like a lapping tide.  Emotional aspects of grief can surface when least expected months and even years after the death or loss occurred.  It can be powerful and affect us so that we can have trouble going about our regular routines.  Grief often stops us in our tracks, leaving us uncertain and looking around for help.

At the best of times, grief can be sadness and regret that fuels us for change, for setting new purpose and plans, for identifying what matters most to us in life.  Grief is a great motivator, making clear what we wish we had done sooner in life.  Grief also shows us clearly what our core values push us toward as we are called to set new priorities and plans.  There is nothing like a loss to show us what’s most important and where we need to cultivate hope for a flourishing future.

In the words of Helen Keller, “What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us”.

Five Tips for Good Grieving

However we experience grief, here are five tips for responding in a healthy way.

  1. Take time to feel what you feel.  Know that your life has been altered with the death of your loved one and you have some readjusting to do.  There is no rush, no matter what the world makes you think and no matter how quickly everyone expects you to get back to work and back to maintaining all that has been your usual routines.  After a death of someone significant to you, you need to settle into a new understanding of moving forward.  You will especially need time if your relationship with the one who died has been complicated in some way.  This may add to your feelings that need to be sorted and worked through.
  2. Plan to do something new to self soothe.  Protect at least 15 minutes each day to be kind to yourself, doing an activity of self care that is comforting and renewing.  This may be as simple as a soak in the bath to ease your body and give you relaxation.  Or reading a few pages of an inspiring book, taking a walk in nature in a park or trail, spending time with a pet, having coffee with a friend or enjoying a quiet tea alone.  These are only a few examples of ways to care for yourself and support your inner turmoil.
  3. Choose a time in the day or week when you will be still with your grief emotions.  After the death of a loved one there are usually many things to see to, such as funeral or memorial arrangements to organize and you can be caught up in all the busyness.  Step away from the busyness when you can, for a few minutes to focus on how you are feeling and what this death means to you.  Taking intentional time for your personal mix of emotions will support your energy over all.
  4. Share stories of your loved ones life with people you trust and who know your loved one.  Share funny and serious stories, even annoying things your loved one used to do.  Look at photos together and talk about what was happening in the photo. As you share you may feel emotion wash over you and it’s helpful to feel it while you also share a laugh in the remembering.  Your loved one had many qualities and experiences that you can hold as memories of all of who they were to you and those who knew them.
  5. Create a ritual, a special activity you can do when significant times of the year bring up the loss once again.  The dates of your loved ones death, their birthday, holiday times, and the like will be significant times that may make your grief seem fresh again.  Doing something special to remember and honor will help you feel connected in a healthy way.  Taking action and planning ahead for such significant dates builds healthy mourning practices.

If you want more of Irene’s insights, check out Thoughts

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