Unfortunately, grief and loss are inevitable parts of life, but they can affect us in different ways. Coping strategies for such periods of sadness are essential, and include creative expression, travel, reaching out to others, looking forward to the future, avoiding mind-altering chemicals, honoring the person you’ve lost, the use of certain herbal remedies, meditation, and personal care.
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What are Grief and Loss?
Those two words resonate with people all over the world who have felt the pain of losing someone, experiencing a tragedy, or suffering a great loss. When the world seems to constantly be against us, kicking us when we’re down… that is what grief can feel like. The painful empty ache of loneliness after a tragedy can have many side effects, resulting in sadness, depression, social isolation, disturbed eating and behavioral habits, sleep loss, lack of concentration, poor performance in your job, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities… the list goes on, and it often feels as though grief and loss will go on forever too. An altered routine, lifestyle, or frame of mind is to be expected when you are suffering, and most of the people around you will allow you time to recover in your own way. That being said, the method that you choose to cope is important and can have a long-term impact on your future health and happiness.
Everyone has their own coping methods – ways to deal with the pain and loss that they feel during a grieving period. Some people turn to self-reflection, others pour their energy into work and distractions. Some people give in to their baser natures, unleashing emotional tirades or abusing their own bodies with alcohol, drugs, and other lifestyle habits that can numb the pain. While coping is a normal part of recovery following a loss, it is important that you cope in a healthy way. Unhealthy coping methods, such as addictive or obsessive behavior, may do more harm than good in the long run.
Ways to Cope With Grief and Loss
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best ways to deal with a tragedy.
Reaching Out to Others
When you have lost someone you care about or suffered some other great personal tragedy, it can be an easy fix to simply withdraw into yourself, and not show the world the incredible amount of pain that you’re experiencing. This can often seem easier than discussing or facing the issue at hand. However, reaching out to others will provide outside perspectives and a support network. Seek out people who have experienced similar things, or who understand the situation and may have a valuable perspective to share with you.
Avoid Mind-altering Chemicals
Numbing yourself to the pain is what far too many people choose when handling grief and loss. This is not only a poor solution, but it can also create more problems. The desire for a few cold beers to relax after a stressful event is one thing, but going on days-long benders and drug-fueled weekends in an effort to “get away from it all” does not bring you any closer to recovery. Seek out healthier ways to channel that destructive anger, or else you may be digging a deeper hole, rather than climbing out of it.
Many people shy away from taking SSRIs, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, but there are different herbal remedies that can provide you with some peace to calm a troubled mind. Some of the best herbal options are chamomile tea, valerian root, passion flower, and lavender. You can use these in many forms, from aromatherapy and tea brewing to tinctures and essential oils on your pillow. They can have anxiolytic effects and help you get to sleep, which can be very difficult when in a grief-stricken state.
When you experience a tragedy, you often look inwards, but not always in the most productive or healthy way. Meditation is not about isolation or cutting yourself from the world; it is about identifying the truest sense of self that you possess, and finding out what truly makes you tick. Meditation can be difficult when your mind is bogged down by grief and loss, but that means it is also when you need meditation the most!
Your frustration or confusion at why a particular event happened can bubble over and potentially burst out into emotional flares, typically anger or sadness. Having a creative channel to put this energy is a healthy choice that will protect your other relationships and prevent the dangerous bottling up of emotions. Let your creative side out, and express your feelings in a new, more productive way.
Some people compare travel following a major loss to “running away”, but that is far from the truth. A change of scenery, after handling a tragic loss and entering the recovery stage, can kick-start your life back in the right direction. It will remind you to relinquish control, stop blaming yourself, and move on in life. Travel has a unique ability to inspire us and remind us of the good things in life, which is essential if we are grieving.
Looking Forward to the Future
When you lose a loved one or a friend, it can feel like life has crashed to a halt. One of the best ways to move past a tragic loss is to look forward into the future. Find something that you are excited about (e.g., a vacation, a wedding, a new house) and start making plans for it. This will remind you that the future is coming one way or another, and your loved one would want you to live life to the fullest.
Honoring the Person You Lost
When someone is gone, it doesn’t mean that their memory is forgotten. You should find a personal, special way to honor a person that you have lost. This can be anything from a small ceremony or a dedicated bench in a park to a daily ritual you might put in your life. This can be your connection to the person, as well as your means of saying goodbye, allowing you to move past your pain into the next chapter of your life.
Personal and Professional Care
During a period of grieving, it is easy to stop taking care of yourself. You might stop eating, sleep less, take days off work, stop returning phone calls, and essentially drop off the face of the Earth. It is important that you take care of yourself while you’re grieving, particularly in terms of your diet and sleep patterns. Making yourself sick will only sink you deeper into grief and misery. Think of the person you lost – wouldn’t they want you to be healthy and happy?
Going for a jog might sound like a nightmare for someone wracked by grief, but exercise does provide a natural space for individual thinking and free association. Your mind can be focused on the methodical process of lifting weights or swimming laps, thus releasing serotonin and other healthy hormones into your brain. This personal space for self-reflection is very valuable, and the routine of exercise can help drive you past the painful memories.
Word of Caution: Grief and loss manifest in many different ways, and if you are feeling severe depression or anxiety following a personal or professional loss, you should see a professional. These home remedies and strategies should be considered complementary remedies, but speaking to a counselor is always a great place to start the road to recovery.