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Grief: There's No Right Path

How can you manage your grief? Is there a right way? The last six years of my life have been spent working with individuals who are struggling with a terminal illness. During this time, I learned one very important thing, that there is no “right way” to grieve.

You may be wondering, “How long will it take to get over this?” The answer is that no one knows how long each individual person will take to get over a loss. Here's the thing about grief--it's intensity to each person is unique and often not time specific.

You may also wonder whether grief can be something other than loss of a loved one to death. My answer is unequivocally, yes. Grief is not just the loss of a loved one. One can also grieve other types of losses, such as losing a job, ending a relationship, or moving to a new place. Grief takes all forms, shapes and sizes.

If you’re thinking, what are the best ways to get over my grief, you’ve come to the right place:

  • Acknowledge your grief.

    • Don't bury your emotions; find a way to express yourself.

    • Talking with trusted friends, family, and loved ones about your grief.

    • Use art to express your negative feelings.

  • Seek support through therapy

and self-help groups.

  • Join a grief therapy group.

  • Start a self-help support group in your community or connect with an already-established group.

  • Join a group with another common interest.

***Many healthcare practices and offices are now providing services through telehealth, making support more accessible. iHEAL offers in-person and telehealth counseling services that may be helpful in supporting your grief.

  • Develop customs and traditions to help you cope with holidays.

    • Write a letter to your loved one and stuff it in a holiday stocking or decoration.

    • Visit the loved one's grave site (if applicable) and talk with them.

    • Tell stories of your loved one at a family meal.

    • Ask family members to write stories of a loved one and share them out loud when together.

    • Bake or cook your loved one's favorite dish and share it with someone else that you love.

    • Visit a place with treasured memories of your loved one.

  • Leave out of the house.

    • Get some sunlight and fresh air during the day. Research shows that Vitamin D helps to lift mood.

    • Stay hydrated and eat well. A healthy diet is proven to increase mood! During episodes of grief, you may experience a decrease in appetite. It’s important to maintain regular meals.

  • Journal your feelings (there are several ways to do this).

  • Write down the negative emotions that you experience and what triggers them. You may find relief from just putting pen to paper. The awesome thing about journaling is that you don't have to share it with anyone! If you'd like to journal but do not necessarily want to look back on your words, consider disposing of the journal pages afterwards or burning them as a way to honor the words you have written on the page.

  • Create a video journal. If you don't like to write, open a recording program on your phone or computer and start talking to yourself. Talking out feelings can be very helpful for people who don't like to write but want to look back at how they were feeling. It can also be deleted at any time.

  • Protect your sleep schedule.

    • Get adequate sleep when you are grieving a loss. A lot can be said for healthy sleep hygiene and how this affects our mood (Check out our article on Improving your Sleep from A to ZzZ). Per Harvard University sleep research, even partially-altered sleep can impact one’s mood negatively (Division of Sleep Medicine, HU, 2008).

    • Engage in other self-care practices. Doing things that decrease your stress is helpful when you are grieving. If you enjoy hiking, go for a hike. If you like baking, find a new recipe and bake.

  • Don’t compare yourself.

    • Focus on your own process and ignore how others are grieving. Your grief is never going to look the same as someone else's. No one has your personal experience, though some can be similar. Moving through grief does not always mean encountering the same emotions in a linear fashion. Many times, we can revisit the same emotions several times.

    • Let go of the notion that there is a "right way" to grieve. over. Grief is not limited to specific times or spaces. Your grief journey is yours alone, and there is no standard amount of time that one should grieve. Some take time to grieve after the loss, others have “episodes of grief,” depending on the time of year or level of stress in their lives. Honor your grief for what it is and seek help from others when needed.

There are many ways to help address your grief, whether through community support, therapy, rituals, or self care. Remember to always be gentle with yourself when grieving. Know who the safe people are in your life, and lean on them. Have courage and faith that conditions will improve over time. Remember that you are not alone.

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1 Comment

Vey well said and spot on. You sound very skilled and empathetic. I’ll bet you are a great counseler!! Thank you for your well timed advice. Sincerely, MJ

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