person on a bench at sunset, sunset

BY: KELLY POOLE, Director of Community Engagement, Waite & Sons Funeral Home

“Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind: the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” 

– The Grief Recovery Method

We have collectively come through a very difficult year, one filled with loss, sadness, disappointment, and most profoundly, grief.  Grief comes in many forms. Any loss can touch off a series of emotional responses in you. 

Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross developed and wrote about the five stages of grief in her book On Death & Dying. Those five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance-became the blueprint for grief, although they have been misused. The truth is that there is no blueprint for grief, no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. Every person’s grief journey is as distinctive and unique as their fingerprint. 

So, if there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and each person’s journey is different, one may be left to wonder – will I ever “recover” from my grief? The short answer is no. Grief is not an ailment from which you recover. But there are resources and tools to help you heal following a loss. An aspect of grief that is common to all who grieve is the need for self-care.

Pay attention to physical needs

It can be very easy to neglect your physical needs while grieving. However, this is a time when taking good care of yourself is crucial. As difficult as it may seem, making every effort to get adequate sleep, eat nutritionally balanced meals and fit in exercise and intentional relaxation can do wonders. 

Restorative movement or meditation

Restorative movement, including yoga, helps us loosen the emotional and physical tightness in our bodies caused by grief. It is also a way to find peace and stability during a time when this is missing in our lives. Meditation can be used to be present with difficult emotions instead of avoiding them. 

Journal, art journal, or use other creative expressions

People will often say you need to go to therapy to talk about difficult emotions, but talking isn’t for everyone. Many people find writing or other creative expressions as a better fit and this can absolutely be a way to face feelings, writing about them or expressing them through other forms of art or creativity.

Connection with others

It can be very helpful and supportive to meet with others who have also experienced a loss or are experiencing grief on some level. Group settings provide an opportunity to share stories, simply listen, to encourage others and to have your feelings supported by others. Sharing your story out loud is one key to healing.

Connection with your loved one

When grieving a loved one, it can be helpful to intentionally connect with that person. When a loved one dies, we slowly adjust and adapt our relationship with them. Everyone does this in their own way, but continuing our relationship is seen as a healthy and normal part of the grief process. Some practical examples include talking to a loved one while visiting their final resting place, keeping small keepsakes or things to remember your loved one, maintaining rituals you once shared, or the desire to carry on their legacy through charitable or memorial acts.

Whether you follow the stages of grief as laid out by Kübler-Ross, or you follow your own path, grief is an intensely personal process. Be open to wherever your grief takes you, in the time that it takes you – you can move forward, yet still grieve. Most importantly, be gentle with yourself along the journey. 

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