How to Deal with Grief and Loss
Grief is associated with more than death. Feelings of grief and loss could be from the loss of loved one, a job, a relationship, a pet, our health, trauma or loss of a dream. Grief can impact us negatively without us even realizing it. Ever numb out because you didn’t want to deal with it or feel anything? The pain. The emotions. It’s too much. It’s all overwhelming and easier to avoid it all together.
You park those feelings in a garage and walk away. We stuff down our emotions. We think that we outsmarted it. But it builds and festers until…WHAM! It’s like a 2x4 hits us upside our head. It’s like a pot of water that starts by boiling slowly and so we turn our back. In the meantime, it’s getting bigger and bigger until it’s spewing and spilling over the sides.
We are moody. We’re less tolerant. We get angry. We are more argumentative and question everything. We’re selfish. We judge others. We’re stressed out. No matter how hard we try nothing will satisfy this feeling on the inside. We feel restless…all the time.
I get it. I've been there. Between relationships ending, massive career changes, health issues and my grandmother passing away in 2016 I was avoiding my feelings. I stuffed everything down. I pretended I was “fine” for so long. Everything in my life looked good on paper - climbing the corporate ladder and all. On the inside, it was a different story. I was screaming, but no one could hear me. I was drowning in a sea of what-ifs. I felt lonely even when I walked into a room filled with my closest friends. I had bills to pay so my passions had to be hobbies. I was exhausted all the time because at work I felt like I had to be in bitch-mode to get anything done or be taken seriously, which wasn’t the real me. I felt like I was wasting my life and not making a difference, but I didn’t know what to do about it. So every day was rinse and repeat.
Scan your life. Is there something or someone you are grieving for in any area of your life? Are you avoiding and numbing out by using food, drugs, alcohol, sex, smoking, work, exercise, shopping, video games, Netflix binges, etc.? Be honest with yourself. No one needs to know. If you want to stop self-sabotaging yourself, it’s important to bring awareness to what’s going on inside - in your heart and soul.
On Christmas Day 2018, I received a text that a friend of mine died. It was sort of expected, but it’s always a shock and you never really expect it during the holidays (even though it happens all the time). I didn’t get a chance to see her before she passed away or attend the funeral. She always brightened the room and she was so much fun to be around. So I wrote a letter and I told her everything I wanted to say. Once completed, I (safely) burned the letter for symbolic reasons. It was a way for me to honor her as well as help me grieve. I’ve done this ritual with relationships, when I massively changed my career, health issues and when loved ones passed away.
No matter what you are grieving, here’s a ritual that has helped me in the past to deal with grief and loss. I encourage you to make it your own.
Find a quiet space.
Light a candle or use essential oils in a diffuser.
Play some instrumental soothing music (I personally love Native American flute and drum music for this exercise).
Sit with your feelings.
Write down everything (don’t sensor yourself).
When complete and ready to let go, safely burn the letter.
End with statement of gratitude and prayer such as I’m grateful for everything this (person, place, thing, health crisis, relationship) taught me. I release it now with love from my body, heart, mind and soul.
Get it all out! Even those feelings that you aren’t “supposed” to really talk about like feelings of desperation, anger, hurt, trauma as well as all the awesome things, happy memories, etc. I think when we go through the rollercoaster of emotions that are part of life and be honest about how we are thinking and feeling that is what helps us heal. It won’t feel good in the moment; however, when you get it all out it will feel like a huge release.
If writing things down isn’t your thing, talk out loud as if that person was in the room with you. You can also find a coach, friend or therapist that will be willing to help you with grief.
A final step in this ritual is to do something to honor their memory. Something that reminds you of them and brings joy. For me, my friend and I traveled a lot when we worked together so she had certain songs on repeat. We would dance, sing and laugh in the car. It was especially fun doing that in the drive-thru line at Starbucks. The sideway looks we got were hysterical. In her honor, I played those songs, sing and dance! They always remind me of the fun times.
What awaits you on the other side is more fulfilling than you can imagine right now. A weight will be lifted off your shoulders. You can appreciate life again. You see the beauty and value in others. It’s freeing! Yes, there will be hard days that come up that might bring you back to the grief and sadness. I do this ritual again when that happens.
I want you to "hear" me when I say: you are not alone.
We all experience grief in many different ways and it may take some people 1 day or 5 years to go through the process. It’s not a race! Become aware that you are grieving (even if you have no idea what it is) and accept where you are at in the process. It will unfold organically. Don’t push it down any longer. Don’t avoid it. Don’t numb out. Those are temporary “fixes” that will turn into a hot mess for you and possibly others down the road. If that happens, that’s okay too. It happened to me. I was most definitely a hot mess. I learned the hard way that holding all your emotions in can create an internal storm that ultimately causes physical disease and pain as well as a host of many other things. My hope is that you avoid getting to that point. Recognize where you are and take one step at a time. Ultimately, everyone has to follow their own path and journey.
If you need someone to listen, I’m here. If you have any wisdom to share with the group, please comment the below!