The Articles ofSelf Care

Coping with Grief

My life is turned upside down. I feel like I’m in a choking fog and I can’t get out.

When we lose someone, our lives are turned upside down. We want our ‘normal’ back, our family and friends want the “old” you back. We don’t want to feel this pain anymore and we are in shock. It’s difficult getting our heads wrapped around what has happened to us. We literally feel the physical pain of grief which is paralleled only to the shattering of our lives as we knew them.

Will I ever have a normal day again?

The answer is no. You will never have your usual “normal” day again. Not the old familiar normal you have always known. But, you will find a new normal. Losing a loved one leaves you feeling as if you’ve suffered an emotional stroke. Going through grief is very much like having a major physical stroke. You have to learn how to think, process information and often times even how to communicate with people again. You have to learn how to live all over again.

You absolutely can find your new normal but you have to work at it. You have to decide to “Do Something. Don’t Do Nothing.” That does not mean that you should keep busy and not think about what happened, hoping the pain will go away. That won’t work and it does not work. The end of your ‘busy’ day comes and you’re still left with your feelings of loss and heartache. You have to work on healing. You can do that. It’s not easy, but you can do it.

  • Understand that grief is normal.
    Grief is the normal, expected response to death — the intense pain, sadness, disbelief, anger or guilt. It’s the tears, numbness and physical exhaustion — the rush of memories and the yearning for the person you lost. It’s also normal to be surprised by the intensity of your grief.
  • Allow yourself to mourn.
    Mourning is the outward or public expression of grief, a means of sharing grief with people who also are grieving or who want to support you. Religious rituals, cultural traditions and personal beliefs often shape how we mourn. Whatever form it takes, mourning is a critical process that can help you lessen the intensity of grief and help you adapt to your loss.
  • Look to others for support.
    It’s not uncommon to feel alone in your grief or want to avoid others. However, the support of family members, friends or a spiritual leader is often essential in moving on from the severe, immediate grief after a death. Let people know when you need someone to listen and be open to their offers of company.
  • Take care of yourself.
    Grief commonly results in disrupted sleep, a loss of appetite and a lack of interest in everyday tasks — all factors that can affect your health and well-being. Be mindful of your health and daily habits. Try to get adequate sleep, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. You might find that including a friend in meal or exercise routines can keep you motivated. Consider a medical checkup to ensure your health has not declined, especially if you have any existing health conditions.
  • Don’t make major decisions while grieving.
    Grief might cloud your ability to make sound decisions. If possible, postpone big decisions, such as moving, taking a new job or making major financial changes. If you must make decisions right away, seek input from a trusted family member or friend.
  • Remember that grief is unpredictable.
    Grief doesn’t move along a predictable path or at a fixed pace. The overwhelming grief following your loss will become more of a cycle of grief. And over time your grief will likely become more subdued, or it may feel less constant as if it’s moved into the background of your emotions. But long after a death, you may also find yourself caught off guard by a moment of profound grief, for example, on the anniversary of the death, during holidays or on your loved one’s birthday.
  • Grieving is a process.
    It will be unique to you, depending on your own personality, your relationship to the person you lost and even the circumstances of the death. The acceptance of your loss, the memories of your loved one, and your sorrow will gradually become an integrated part of how you see yourself as a whole person.