Grief is often described as being similar to a tidal wave. It painfully washes over you when you least expect it and can literally take your breath away.
“Grief is often exhausting, overwhelming and takes an incredible amount of energy,” says Kelly Engleson, LCSW, a bereavement counselor with Sharp HospiceCare. “Grief is the process of adjusting to a life that has changed without your loved one physically here. It is a natural, normal and important part of the healing process.”
She says that the grieving process takes time. We cannot — and should not — try to adjust to the loss of a loved one in an instant. Grief is an emotional wound that needs an abundance of time, attention and care to heal.
Engleson and her colleagues offer the following 10 tips to help the healing process:
- Allow yourself to cry.
Allow the tears to express your sense of loss and release the related pain. Crying does not indicate weakness; rather it is a sign of healing.
- Practice self-care.
Grief can cause appetite loss, overeating, sleeplessness, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating. Strive to eat a well-balanced diet, rest, exercise and talk with your doctor about how to care for yourself during this challenging time.
- Explore your spirituality.
The loss of a loved one can lead you to question your faith. However, your spirituality can also provide great comfort during a time of loss.
- Welcome the support of others.
Surround yourself with people who love and care for you, and allow them to help with everything from practical and legal matters to everyday tasks and emotional support. Join a support group to share your sorrows with others who have also experienced great loss.
- Express your feelings.
Find ways to not only talk about your feelings of loss and the multitude of emotions that accompany them, but also to write about them or express them through art, poetry or music.
- Recognize and share the feelings you may not expect.
A loved one’s death can bring about feelings you may not expect, such as regret, anger and guilt. It’s important to recognize and share these very natural feelings to help you release any negative memories and feelings.
- Honor your loved one.
Find ways, such as lighting a special candle, planting a memorial tree or creating a memory book to create a physical connection to your loved one.
- Postpone major decisions.
Move slowly with the tasks and decisions that may follow the death of a loved one. Disposing of a loved one’s belongings, moving from your shared home and other life-altering choices should be postponed for up to one year.
- Plan holidays and other special occasions with care.
Holidays, anniversaries and birthdays can be especially challenging when grieving a loved one. Make sure you have the time, energy and support you’ll need to mark these events and try to use them to honor your loved one while also moving forward in your own healing.
- Be kind to yourself.
In time, pain will lessen and a renewed sense of joy along with meaning and purpose will return to your life. Be kind to yourself — grief has no schedule or deadline, and it is not a race. You will heal at your own pace.
“Grief integrates into your life and, over time, you will learn to live with your loss,” says Engleson. “Some say time heals all, but I think it’s more than time. It is what you do with that time that really matters — how you invest in your well-being and how you invest in your life after loss.”
Talk with your doctor if you are concerned about your health during the grieving process or if you feel you may need help coping with your grief. Learn more about Sharp HospiceCare bereavement support groups and services.
For the news media: To talk with Kelly Engleson about grief for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.