Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

Dealing with Grief

Death poses challenges to the survivors. Let's take a look at some of those and ways of handling them. A friend asked me about this recently, so I gathered some resources ...

Mourners may feel cast adrift, but uncertain whether they're ready (or able) to settle back down yet. Some cultures belief it's an effect of the tie with someone who is no longer embodied, and thus, they have rituals to protect and ground the ones left behind. Consider that while grounding can be very difficult at these times, it is often necessary for recharging so you don't get spacey or burned out. If you are unconvinced of this, consider how much easier it is to sort, put away, and keep things tidy at the bottom of a gravity well than in zero G.
Once you have touched down and taken care of yourself, you can always go back up and address that other stuff. Grounding does not have to mean you are done yet. It just gives you a more stable foundation so you feel less adrift.



Some things that may help ground you:

* Walk around your home and touch things to remind yourself of where/when you are.

* Eat some comfort food. Avoid foods that are too heavy because they can overburden the digestive system, and the body often diverts energy from digestion for more urgent needs, which is why mourners may lose appetite. Nourishing your body with healthy things such as lean meat and fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables will help your energy level. If you're not too wiped to leave the house, consider a farmer's market or truckstand -- the fresh live produce has lots of extra energy.



* Get plenty of rest. Lying flat on your back on the floor or a firm bed can help settle your body's energy flow. Savasana has good instructions.



* Weighted blankets or anything else soft and heavy such as pillows or cats may produce a soothing pressure. Weights can also be used to symbolize grief, especially if you are doing time-limited exercises for mourning: put the weight on, concentrate on feeling sad for a while, then set the weight aside and do something else. You can buy a weighted blanket, make your own, or just pile the heaviest stuff you already have.




Understand that grief is a process as well as an emotion. First and most important: you will be done grieving when you are done. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you "should be over it." The modern trend of telling people they're "mentally ill" if they're not over it in two weeks or two months is sadistic horseshit. A close loss averages about a year to heal, which is why many traditional societies set formal mourning periods in this vicinity, although it can run shorter or longer. Losing a spouse can take 7-8 years to recover; people who have survived losing a child often say you don't heal from that, you just learn to live around the pain. Typically mourners feel horrible for several days or weeks, then begin to improve, often in fits and starts; even after feeling mostly better, a special anniversary can bring it all crashing down again.

http://www.hospicenet.org/html/grief2.html (process)

https://familydoctor.org/grieving-facing-illness-death-and-other-losses/ (length)

Only worry if 1) your pain hasn't gotten better at all after at least a few weeks or is actively getting worse, and/or 2) it severely interferes with daily life for more than a few weeks and makes you unbearably miserable. Being sad as hell while you fumble through everyday activities is normal. Being sad for a long time is not rare after a major loss. But for most people it will start to break up after a while. Trying to make it "all better" too soon, or telling people that being sad means they are sick, does not help but only disenfranchises and pathologizes grief. It doesn't make people less sad; it just makes them hide it. That is the opposite of help.





Problems with current diagnostics include refusal to acknowledge the breadth of healthy grieving, failing to check for progress, and misunderstanding negative emotions as bad. Grief is a natural and necessary emotion which indicates healthy relationships at the parting point. It usually heals on its own or with ordinary coping skills and social support. So long as you are satisfied with your progress, take your time in healing. Getting "stuck" in grief is called complicated grief and there are ways to deal with that. It's different from depression that arises from within, because complicated grief is a mental injury rather than a mental illness, and it needs different care. You can't simply drug it away or ignore it; you have to kickstart the mourning process somehow, although some medications may help with this. Misdiagnosing it as depression tends to do the opposite. There are constructive ways to overcome complicated grief.

http://www.recover-from-grief.com/dealing-with-sorrow.html (coping skills)

http://www.caringinfo.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3375 (support)




Some general ideas on grief work:

* Know how to write and deliver a eulogy. If you can't speak clearly, you can ask a less-affected person to read it for you. Funeral home staff or clergy should be willing to assist.


* Frame the death as part of your life story. We walk together with our loved ones, part company, and then meet again on the other side. This is easier to bear if you can think about it as a natural part of life rather than something to freak out over. Being sad for yourself is a natural result of someone being gone. Sometimes it helps to make a timeline of your time together or your life as a whole. Later in the grieving process, you might also note things that you'll want to tell your loved one at a meeting holiday or after you pass over yourself.



* Many people find that sharing memories of their loved one helps maintain the connection. If you have a blog and you trust your audience -- or want to set up a special filter for this project -- posting family stories there is one option. A journal or scrapbook is another. Not everyone wants to share, though, and that's okay too; if this feels like you, consider a workbook instead, which is more introspective.






* Loss may also help you to think about your own mortality. Everyone dies, and it is better to be prepared than not. American culture is largely *stupid* about death, but you don't have to be. Many other cultures have healthier relationships with death and can offer valuable insights. Mexicans picnic in cemeteries to feel close to their ancestors, for instance. This helps reduce the fear of death.


http://www.beyondawakeningseries.com/2016/01/jenkinson-1-16/ (stupid)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-stoddard/day-of-the-dead_b_8474538.html (picnic)


* Sit with your feelings. This is really important for any negative emotion, but especially grief. It usually won't go away until you acknowledge it. Put on some sad music or movies and bawl into a pillow for a while. Name your feelings, think about the things you have loved and lost with this relationship. Some people find that an online or facetime grief support group is helpful. Others prefer to cry on a friend, or alone. While many people feel that talking helps, others just want someone to be sad with quietly. It's all fine. Here are some ideas on sitting with grief.




* Identify and express your feelings in a manner meaningful to you. If you're an artistic person, draw or paint or sculpt them. If you're a musical person, play or listen to music. If you're a physical person, dance and move. Whatever your hobbies are should give you ideas. When you let out your feelings, they will go away sooner and you are less prone to wallow in them until it becomes unhealthy. Some people find counseling very helpful for this, and there are now many expressive therapies that don't aim to "fix" your feelings, just to let them out -- although that often makes people feel better unto itself. But you can also do the same exercises at home.







* Practice self-compassion. Be as gentle with yourself as you would with a grieving friend. Here are some exercises in self-compassion.




* As a later step, think about what practical role this person played in your life and what things you did together. You cannot replace the person, and should not try, but you CAN meet those needs with other people. Consider who else you did each thing with. If you don't have anyone in a given category, try to imagine where you might find new friends who could fill that gap. Think of this like stitching a ragged wound: you have to examine it carefully, match up the edges, tack it closed, and then take care of it for a while. Minor injuries heal fine on their own, but some major ones simply won't close without extra care. This process hurts, but it helps the healing. Much of the pain and life disruption of grief is actually the loss of load-bearing social support. Replace that, and the loss hurts a little less. NOT filling this gap is a common cause of substance abuse and other addictive behaviors -- in essence, trying to plug the hole with alcohol, shopping, etc. That doesn't work very well.




* Making new happy memories is another later step. Don't let people push you into this too soon. First you need to finish being sad, then work on neutral, and finally aim toward happiness. Trying to be happy too soon not only feels like trying to move a mountain, it can also seem like betrayal of your grief. Don't worry if it takes a while for you to feel happy doing things that used to make you happy. Only worry if you feel miserable a long time, nothing helps, and it's not getting better. Most people lose their happiness for a while after a death. Then it comes back slowly, so watch for those glimmers as you do nice things for yourself. But if you feel happy early on, that's okay. Most people aren't sad ALL the time after the first few days or weeks.



* Work to maintain family ties, or build new ones, even if you are physically distant from those you love. The core of it is simply being a part of each other's lives. Use phone, email, letters, etc. to share news regularly. Photos are good too. Coordinated activities are great, like planning for everyone to see the same movie over the weekend and then discussing it together. Plan holidays together or other meetings when you can. Communication helps too. Say "I love you" and "You matter to me" a lot.





Here are some brochures about types of loss, mourning skills, and other issues:











These websites have lots of resources for grieving:




Here are some of my previous posts on coping skills:

"Connecting with Your Environment"

"Managing Energy Flows"

"Coping with Stressful Situations"

"Coping with Emotional Drop"

"Self-Care Links"

"Helping an Online Friend in Difficult Times"

EDIT 8/1/20 -- I commented on writing about grief.

I also made a Grief Questionnaire.
Tags: how to, safety, spirituality
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.