Although it’s never easy, grief and loss are a part of life. While we often associate grief with the loss of a loved one, the truth is that loss comes in many different shapes and sizes including the death of a pet, losing a job, divorce, selling a home, poor health, or a miscarriage. Even something trivial, such as graduating from college or changing careers can cause a sense of grief.
While grief and loss are inevitable, the side effects can have serious consequences. As noted in the Harvard Health Blog, “Grieving takes a toll on the body in the form of stress,” which can impact everything from your immune system to your organs. Other times grief can lead to depression. When not addressed, symptoms of depression can include insomnia, loss of appetite, and suicidal thoughts.
Thankfully, there are ways to help you cope with your grief and loss so that you don’t experience these side effects, such as the following techniques.
Acknowledge and accept your feelings.
“Grieving is a normal part of dealing with loss. But you can’t grieve if you don’t allow yourself the opportunity,” writes Dana Sparks for the Mayo Clinic News Network. “Be sure to recognize the need to grieve and let it run its natural course. Your emotional health will be better served if you face your grief.”
And, it’s also important to remember that you won’t feel this way forever. Grief is like waves cresting and then crashing. “Part of what people find helpful is riding the wave,” says Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center bereavement counselor Kimarie Knowles. “Understand it’s coming up, try to find support, take care of yourself, and allow it to go.”
Talk to others.
Do not isolate yourself no matter how bad you feel. Talk to supportive friends and family members. Join a support group. Or, speak with a therapist.
If there isn’t someone to talk to when you need them, like maybe during the middle of the night, journal your thoughts to get them out of your head for the time being.
Take steps to fill the void.
“When you lose something of value to you, there is usually an empty spot within you that craves your attention,” writes Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD. “The closer your connection and the more intense the loss, the more profound the emptiness may feel.”
When you feel ready, “find ways to fill up this gap with something positive that makes you feel good whether it is another relationship or an activity that generates vitality and gives your life a new meaning. Redefining parts of your life after a loss may be needed to compensate for the empty spot,” adds Rad. “Getting into a good relationship, doing volunteer work that gives your life a new meaning, joining fun recreational activities, or traveling are just some of the examples of how to bring about something positive.”
Focus on positive memories.
Replace your negative thoughts of loss with positive memories. For example, remember the games you and your siblings used to play in your childhood home if it’s been sold. Reflect on why you loved a friend or family member and then celebrate their life.
Take care of yourself.
During times of loss, we tend to neglect our well-being. It’s important to continue to eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. This way you’ll remain healthy and energized.
And, never turn to drugs or alcohol to numb your pain.
The most important thing to remember is that you can feel however you want for as long as you need. However, when grief doesn’t go away, it is in your best interest to seek professional help so that you can start feeling better.