Like anything in life, healing from the pain and loss from grief does take work. Some of you may have heard of the five stages of grief that allow you to move through the grief and heal from your loss. While the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, may be what you experience, these stages are not the most accurate ways to move through and accept a loss. The emotions that we as grievers experience are much broader and deeper than those five stages though. The fact of the matter is there is no right way to grieve and your feeling of the loss is solely yours and cannot be compared to what others experience.
Rather than following the five steps of grief and thinking of healing as a linear approach, let’s throw all that out the window and start fresh. You cannot heal from what you do not feel. Simple but yet it can be quite hard to allow yourself to feel all the different emotions that will arise. The longer you try to suppress or deny your feelings around grief, the longer it will take for you to heal the pain of the loss and it can often show up again as delayed grief or depression. To truly feel your emotions it’s important to name them – and even better to write them out or share what you’re feeling with a therapist or trusted friend. Having clarity around what you are feeling and being able to communicate it to those in your life will allow others to support you on your healing journey.
With a loss comes a time in your life where things have changed – a new page has been turned or a new path has been taken. Acknowledging that you and your lived experience is now different is vital for understanding how to support yourself. Knowing that you may need different types of self care or more self care than normal is understandable when you realize that your life is now different. As hard as it is to not look at the past, do your best to focus on the present – what you need in this moment, today or this week to care and love for yourself as you navigate the change in your life. Aside from self care rituals and habits, a huge positive impact on your healing process is spending time with people you love dearly. People you’re close to and love will continue to bring joy into your life despite it feeling like joy is foreign to you now.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and the relationships in your life is to ask for the support you need. As a people pleaser myself, I find it hard to ask for exactly what I need but I know how vital it is to the healing process. Most people don’t know what to say or ask when someone is grieving, so being as clear as you can to allow them to be there for you is vital. You can say “I really appreciate the invitation for dinner but I need some time alone right now. Please keep me in mind for future plans and know I appreciate you and our friendship”. Or you may need the opposite, and you can say something like, “I really need to be around people today. Are you available for a walk or a coffee today?”. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need and this will also allow those around you to show up better for you. As someone who is trying to support a friend who is grieving, also don’t be afraid of being direct. Ask them if they’d like company, or if they need time to themselves. Showing you care is by being there, not only physically but emotionally as they navigate their loss and healing.
Lastly, it's important to know when to ask for professional help. If you are feeling sad more than not, unable to live your normal day to day life or your sleeping or eating habits have been extremely impacted it’s best to seek out therapy and professional support.