Grief is a natural response to loss. Many of us who have lost loved ones can relate to that gut-wrenching, overwhelming feeling of pain that seems to have no end in sight. For all who experience this, Grief is a deeply personal journey with no defined timeframe. It can also disrupt our health by impacting our sleep, diet, or cognitive functioning, making it hard to navigate daily life.
Many clients seeking counseling for Grief are desperate to connect to their loss and honour their loved ones while finding ways to move forward. Unfortunately, misconceptions about Grief are common, and many social and cultural stigmas around expressing Grief.
Authentically expressing our pain is a path toward peace, and this post will explore some facts and myths, as well as some therapeutic techniques for managing Grief.
Facts about Grief (Smith, Robinson, & Segal, 2023):
Grief is the normal and natural reaction to the loss of any kind
It is a normal process despite how terrifying and uncontrollable Grief can feel. Grief has been defined by The Grief Recovery Method (2013) as: “Grief is the feeling of reaching out for someone who has always been there, only to discover when I need them one more time, they are no longer there.” Conversely, it can also be defined as “Grief is the feeling of reaching out for someone who has never been there for me, only to discover when I need them one more time, they still are not there for me.” Regardless of how your Grief manifests, it is natural, valid, and normal.
Everyone grieves in their way and at their own pace
Despite what some folks believe, Grief can be messy, unpredictable, and without a clear timeframe. There is no set time limit for grieving, and while the emotions may become more manageable over time, they will not necessarily disappear completely. Some individuals resonate deeply with this image of Grief; we do not shrink it but expand around it, leaving room for joy and hope to co-exist.
Myths about Grief (Cabell Huntington Hospital, n.d.):
Avoiding the pain will help prevent it
Like most things in life, avoidance does not solve the problem. Grief that we ignore, diminish, or numb can grow and become more intolerable over time. As with physical illness, we must go through or address it to reach recovery. Emotional pain tells us that there is something within us we need to pay attention to.
Talking about our loss will worsen our pain
When we choose not to talk about our loss, we stifle our emotional processing and trap our pain. In contrast, discussing our Grief intentionally with someone compassionate allows us to move through the process and develop new insights. Further, talking to someone who has been through a loss can offer hope for the future.
Techniques for Dealing with Grief (Burry, 2023; Sas & Coman, 2018):
- Plant a grieving garden or tree, or memorialize your loved one through donations to charities or volunteering
- Create a grieving altar (much like a Day of the Dead altar) to remember and honour your loved one, or engage in other grieving rituals
- Engage in religious practices (attending church, private prayer, meditation) within your faith/spirituality
- Consider grief counseling: Working with a professional can help to explore our pain in a safe, nonjudgmental environment and develop coping strategies
- Join a support group: By making deep connections with others who have had similar experiences, we learn we are not alone in our Grief and develop hope for the future
- Talk to loved ones/support group: Simply talking to our loved ones and remembering those we have lost can be amazingly therapeutic in processing grief
- Journal about your Grief: Consider the prompt “Grief as my companion.” What would you say to Grief? What would Grief have to say to you? How can you and Grief be together and meet each other’s needs?
- Writing a letter to your loved one
- Pursuing other creative approaches such as art, crafting, music, or dance can be beautiful expressions of Grief
- Integrate exercise into your daily life (walks, fitness classes, yoga, dance – whatever feels good!)
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule; sleep hygiene strongly impacts our mental health, and getting adequate rest is necessary while grieving
- Eating a balanced diet and looking after ourselves through self-care and hobbies
- Any of these approaches can be incredibly therapeutic for individuals navigating the ebb and flow of Grief. As folks move through this process, individuals need to monitor themselves for signs of worsening depression, which may warrant more supportive care from healthcare professionals. Above all, be gentle with yourself – there is no shame in your pain, and we all deserve compassion in our moments of loss.
Burry, M. (2023, January 10). Dealing with Grief: Coping skills and strategies. Health. https://www.health.com/mind-body/dealing-with-grief
Cabell Huntington Hospital. (n.d.). Twelve Myths about Grief. https://cabellhuntington.org/services/counseling-services/twelve-myths-about-grief/
Sas, C., & Coman, A. (2016). Designing personal grief rituals: An analysis of symbolic objects and actions. Death Studies, 40(9), 558–569. https://doi.org/10.1080/07481187.2016.1188868
Smith, M., Robinson, L., & Segal, J. (2023, February 24). Coping with Grief and loss. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm
The Grief Recovery Method. (2013, June 4). The best grief definition you will find. https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/blog/2013/06/best-grief-definition-you-will-find