Beyond the Loss: 6-Steps to Move through Grief
Grief. It is lonely. It is painful. It is messy. Grief shows up unexpected and undeniably. Grief comes in many forms: a death loss, a breakup, losing a pet, changing relationships, identity shifts, and life transitions just to name a few. While we may want to avoid or reject the pain of grief, this article is intended as a guide to move through grief.
My own experience of grief leads me to understand that no level of preparedness can truly make the grieving process easier.
It does not happen on our timeline, we can’t rush it, and often have no way to brace ourselves for the waves of grief. Like the ocean waves, when we try to hold them back, they come crashing down at our back, knocking us on our ass, leaving us tumbling and tossing ; a feeling of disarray. My grief has been much like this. Kubler-Ross speaks of the 5 stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. Furthermore, these are important to acknowledge because they give language to the feelings that arise.
Grief is so much more than just loss and sadness.
Grief comes in many forms. The metaphor of grief and the ocean provides a beautiful visualization when there are often no words.
Grieving is not a linear process, but one that happens over and over again like the ebb and flow of the ocean.
While the 5 stages are useful to understand some of the emotions that arise, there is no completion to grief. Grief is the waves rushing in (often uninvited) and subsiding. It shows up in dreams, music, memories, symbols, and as pain, hurt, anger, sadness, shame, doubt, guilt…grief shows up in all shapes, sizes, emotions, and experiences. Of importance, is the recognition that we cannot hurry through the grieving process. Instead we must honor and acknowledge that the way we need to grieve is perfect. Just as it is. Messy. Ugly. Painful. Confusing. Frustrating. Necessary. We must trust in this process and ride the waves.
No amount of avoidance will make loss disappear (trust me on this one).
Certainly the process can be lonely and one that we truly do experience through our individual internal world. No one else can “fix” it, make it go away, or speed up the process. Have you ever tried to will the ocean waves to move faster or slower? If you have accomplished this, please tell me your secrets. Although grief sometimes really sucks, we have power to trust the process and ride the waves. Below are some strategies I find personally and professionally useful in working through grief.
Move Through Grief Step One: Name your emotions.
Whatever you are feeling is right where you need to be. Know that grief shows up differently and can be more than just sadness and depression. Anger, denial, and confusion are part of the waves. Your emotions are valid, honor that for yourself.
Move Through Grief Step Two: Conscious Grieving.
Set aside time daily to “be with” your grief. Allow yourself time to feel whatever you need to feel. Journal, light a candle, take a bath, draw or paint, sit quietly in a cozy spot, or any other activity where you are intentionally allowing yourself time to grieve. When we know we have time to appropriately grieve, often it makes functioning throughout the rest of our daily lives a little more tolerable.
Move Through Grief Step 3: Keep doing things that bring you joy.
Exercise, hobbies, creativity, and social activities. Finding little moments to calm the mind and body are imperative when much might feel chaotic.
Move Through Grief Step 4: Reach out.
Ask for what you need from the people around you. Grief can feel isolating and lonely, but we do not have to be alone. Identify the people in your life who can show up for you. Let go of the ones that cannot (this can add to grief, however is a topic I will save for another time). Nurture the relationships where you can be messy. The ones that value your needs, hear you, see you, and support you.
Move Through Grief Step 5: Yoga and meditation.
I highly encourage some form of mindfulness to quiet and calm. Yoga helps calm the nervous system, which can be activated during grief. Yoga and meditation help us be in the present moment, even just for a sliver of time.
Move Through Grief Step 6: Trust the process.
As painful a journey as grief can be, we get much further honoring the process than denying our pain. While grief may never fully go away, it will begin to change over time. Mindfully allow the process to unfold. Let it be messy. It won’t always feel that way and our relationship with our grief will begin to change organically.
Grief may show up in a variety of ways: intense emotions, ruminating thoughts, and body sensations such as anxiety. Honor your grief. Hold space for it. Trust that something beautiful is on the other side. Be with it instead of trying to reject it. Ride the waves and the tides will eventually begin to shift. Seek professional help for support along the way.