|The emotional toll a loss can have on an individual can impact on many different areas of a persons well-being, relationships or life in general. Thankfully, humans are quite resilient in that we have an innate ability to move through the steps of grief in order to continue living and, eventually, thriving, even after a devastating loss.
To the person experiencing a loss, it can seem impossible for 'things to ever be the same again', and perhaps there is truth in this statement. Experiencing a loss demands that a person accept a new reality for themselves. The road to this acceptance can be bumpy and may have many setbacks, but most people are able come out the other side unscathed.
However, if you are reading this post and you are not feeling as if you can cope on your own or having thoughts of harm or suicide, please reach out for more support.
This post will explore strategies that can ease a persons experience of loss, as well as professional supports available. In case you missed the previous articles in this series, here are the links to bookmark for later:
Strategies to Process a Loss
Following the initial reactions of a loss, an individual usually enters the phase of grief called mourning, which is a natural process of accepting or being at peace with the loss. There is no set time frame or hurdles to pass over in order to pass through the mourning stage. For some (perhaps most) individuals, the pain of the loss never fully goes away, and may increase with a memory or reminder of the loss, but the intensity of the pain usually will ease over time.
There are many strategies that can help ease the pain of a loss, yet it's important to remember that each person is unique, each experience of loss is unique, and so too will the ways an individual finds to cope be unique and individualized to that person.
Be mindful of your experience of mourning
Grief is a normal experience and allowing this process to occur can bring about the process of mourning or being able to accept or endure the loss. As such, when difficult emotions surface, rather than dismissing these emotions, allow yourself to experience any emotions that surface for as long as you feel able. Another option is to set aside time during your day to allow yourself these moments to grieve fully.
Seek support from family & friends
When the raw, acute pain of a loss subsides, it can be helpful to have a network of support that can be there and listen to your experience of grief. Others may not be able to know exactly how the grief feels, but they may be experiencing their own pain and can relate to just how hard it can be.
Express yourself creatively
Finding an outlet to express and process the difficult emotions connected to grief can be hugely beneficial for some individuals. Some possibilities include journaling, drawing, painting, singing, dancing and more more.
Perform rituals to help the mourning process
Many cultures perform rituals to honour and mark a passing or significant loss including funerals, parades, or shaving facial hair. Other, non-religious rituals can include creating a momento or poem of the loss, writing a goodbye letter, or creating a memory box with photos or keepsakes to cherish memories and honour a loss.
Take care of your physical and mental well-being
Maintain physical health through regular exercise, a healthy diet, drinking plenty of fluids, and having enough sleep. Check in with your mental well-being during the grief and mourning process and reach out for more support as needed (more information in the next section).
Maintain a routine
Moving forward with life can feel impossible after the experience of any loss yet maintaining a routine can help to identify areas of life that an individual is still a part of, even after experiencing this loss. Finding areas of life that are less painful or even still produce joy or contentment can show an individual that they can still experience fulfillment in life and that the loss can feel less heavy over time.
Be kind to yourself
Find ways to remind yourself that it's okay to take time to process a loss and to grieve and mourn in your own way. Be kind to yourself through small gestures of kindness or support.
Please note: Prolonged grief or the inability to mourn a loss may indicate complicated grief.
Grief or bereavement counselling focuses on helping a grieving individual (or couple or family) through the process or stages of grief. With the aid of a therapist, the client is helped to understand that their reactions to a loss are normal and that expressing these reactions or feelings are completely normal. For some, the counselling room can be a safe space to express themselves either verbally, through crying, or other healthy ways of expression (eg. art therapy).
Other components of grief therapy can include exploring the meaning of the loss, creating or adapting a new identity for the client in order to help accept their new reality, and building new relationships or connections with others. Grief therapy can be especially important for an individual experiencing complicated grief, as it may not be possible to move through the stages of grief or mourning alone.
Joining a support group can be beneficial for a person to know that others have been through a similar experience of loss and can identify on some level with the pain that the loss has caused. It can be comforting to know that others understand that things aren't okay at that moment and that it seems impossible to mourn because it can seem like these acts or rituals will make the loss 'more real'. A support group is usually led by a mediator (a volunteer or grief counsellor) who can help the group through activities that promote healthy grieving practices.
For some individuals, even the thought of leaving the house can be too much. Support can also be found over the phone through grief helplines. Many helplines are staffed by professional counsellors who trained volunteers who are adept at creating a safe and comforting space for an individual to express their grief in a short-term supportive environment. Many countries have grief helplines and a quick Google search can help you to find one in your area code.
There are also many options for online counselling which can suit many individuals who would like more support through their grief. The options for online counselling are similar for face-to-face including video, audio-only, and chat with the benefit of being able to talk with a therapist in the comfort of your own home or office (and in your pajamas, if you want).
If you're looking for more information on mental health topics, check out my previous series on anxiety and depression.
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