It's okay to grieve at your own pace
There are two types of people in the world: Those who have lost someone they love and those that have not--yet. The latter are almost always the ones who will tell us how we should grieve, that we should “get over it”, or will offer up inane platitudes about it being “for the best”.
I’m here to tell you: You are free to ignore them. Grieve in your own time and in your own way.
I speak from experience: I lost both my parents before I was 30. My mum first, as I’ve mentioned. Then my dad passed away in 2003. I still miss him every single day, but I have wonderful memories to call on.
The important thing to remember about bereavement is that everyone deals with it in a different way. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
The strength of a relationship, the amount of shared love, the circumstances of the death, your personal history, life experiences with that person and myriad other factors play their parts in the grieving process, but none of them predicts the length of despair and depth of broken-heartedness we may feel.
Grief takes its own time
Accept that grief is like a meandering road. We don’t know the journey or the final destination, and we certainly don’t know how long it will take to get there. Sometimes we have people who travel with us but even then, each person’s experience of bereavement is unique. Whether alone or sharing our loss with others, losing a loved one is incredibly hard.
There is no timeline for feeling better. It takes as long as it takes.
Considering we all know that death is inevitable, most of us are surprisingly ill-equipped to deal with it when it arrives. On top of the loss, we often struggle with “protocol”.
What are we meant to do after someone dies? How long are we meant to grieve? How are we meant to behave or hold ourselves? How long are we supposed to stay single if we lose a life partner?
There can be many social and individual expectations from family and friends that we might feel we need to follow. Of course, respecting other people’s feelings, especially when they, too, are grieving, is important; but again, remember that people deal with loss in different ways.
For instance, if you have lost someone after a long illness, you may feel that you lost that person months or even years before their death. It’s therefore likely that you are further through the grieving process than others might imagine. No one really knows, except maybe you.
Some people will bottle up their grief and try to hide it; others will express their raw emotion all the time; and some will try to find a happy medium. I try not to give advice about grieving, because each experience is unique. But let me say this: Bottling up or suppressing our emotions can be extremely unhealthy, and those emotions will almost always spill out eventually--often as anger or frustration.
Ideally, aim for some middle ground. Be compassionate with yourself and others, especially if you or those others are not behaving as you might expect. No one knows the full extent of how another person feels, or what’s going on for that person, so be kind.
They mean well…
Despite all the wonderful people around you, and the support you receive from them, you may find that friends, relatives and acquaintances can say some really stupid things when you suffer a loss. Remember, this is rarely deliberate.
Often they think they are helping, or they feel so uncomfortable because they don’t really know what to say, what they do end up saying comes out wrong! If this happens to you, give them the benefit of the doubt; their intentions were probably good, although their execution was poor. Don’t judge them too harshly or let what they said get to you. Besides, once they get home and realise what they said, they will probably feel bad enough for the both of you! You know what you know about how you feel, not how you are meant to feel, and that’s all you need to know.
People talk about being able to “manage the new normal” or “feeling the pain ease slightly every day”, but it’s a completely unique emotional road for each of us, so do what you feel is right for you.
That said, always make sure you stay present or look to the future, rather than getting stuck in the past.
When you get stuck it’s debilitating and exhausting. Life cannot continue normally, and the impact on you and those around you can be significant. Be gentle with yourself but also firm. Take one day at a time and you will emerge from your grief as surely as night follows day. Don’t overthink anything, and don’t berate yourself if you don’t feel better in a few weeks; but at the same time, don’t allow yourself to wallow in the loss for years.
Taking each day one step at a time is a powerful and practical mantra when you are dealing with loss or bereavement. Think of it like narrowing the beam of a spotlight: It reminds you to just focus on what you need to deal with right now. This, in turn, helps to minimise the feeling of being overwhelmed, and also gives you direction during a very directionless time. The focus on now also helps you maintain motion, which is essential for working through the process. And it helps you avoid unhelpful thought loops about what was or what will be that can so easily keep you stuck.
The person you have lost would not want you to stop living. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and a brighter day will arrive. You will always miss that person, and there will always be moments that remind you of them and retrigger your grief, but the day will come when you can manage that sadness and still look forward to life instead of constantly looking back.
Here are some tips and strategies that might help:
- Talking is good. Share memories, experiences and how you feel with close family and friends. This is why we have a wake: It allows people to come together and remember the person, share stories and experience more than just sadness at the loss. Sharing in this way also helps us to reconnect to happy times, which can help the healing process. For your own sanity and peace of mind, try to limit your sharing with people outside your close circle. They won’t necessarily understand your experience and it may just end up feeling uncomfortable.
- Consider starting a journal and writing down how you feel each day. Express yourself fully in the pages and allow it to become a cathartic, self-healing process. Another option is to sing or paint how you feel. The key is to express yourself in whatever way helps you to come to terms with your loss and move forward with your own life.
- It’s OK to feel numb. Shock and disbelief can cause your brain to short-circuit for a while. This is totally normal. Don’t rush it, or force yourself to pull yourself together. You feel what you feel, so just allow yourself to feel that emotion.
- Don’t feel you have to make decisions about things too quickly. Being active can be good, but not at the expense of your health and wellbeing.
- Before you go to bed each night, think of three things you are grateful for. Include one from the person you lost if you want to, or just from life itself. This is a great way of regaining perspective and coming to appreciate that you still have lots to live for. In fact, this is a great technique for all of us to use, regardless of our circumstances.
- Consider counselling. If you are struggling and can’t seem to move forward, you may want to seek professional guidance. There are some wonderful bereavement counselling groups and therapists that could help you become unstuck.
I hope these help you as you work through your grief.
Want to learn a little more?
Grief can sometimes knock our confidence so why not sign up for my next webinar on “How to uncover your self-limiting beliefs and become more confident” I’ll be talking more about how self-limiting beliefs can impact our day to day living, where to find them, and how over-turning a self-limiting belief can lead to a much happier, successful, and more fulfilled life. You will have the opportunity to ask questions in a completely anonymous environment.
Places are going to be strictly limited to ensure I’m able to respond to questions so grab your place today!!