Tears spilled from my friend’s eyes and mine joined her as we talked about her mother, one of my best friends of eighteen years. She’d recently died of a lung disease and my heart broke to lose such a faithful friend.
After my sister’s house burned down, daily she’d try to focus on what she was grateful for and write down ten things. “Sometimes I felt so bad I could only be grateful I had ten toes.”
“We just found out our little girl has leukemia and our hearts are broken for what she’s going to have to go through,” a friend shared about their four year old daughter.
A friend who deals with a spouse who suffers from ongoing depression told me, “I apologize for not returning your email asking about him. I get tired of telling people nothing has changed. He’s still struggling with depression.”
When she was seventeen, a car accident threw a friend of mine up against a windshield and put her in a wheelchair. Accidents or health challenges can permanently change your life and there is a normal grief process which goes with those huge losses and life adjustments.
Learning how to grieve is one of life’s most important skills. If you want some tips on how to grieve, you’ll find them here as you read on.
Grief comes to us all at some time in our lives over big and smaller events. If we do not learn how to grieve well, it can cause health problems emotionally and physically.
Don’t discount some of the other everyday losses you experience. They may not affect you as deeply but they do affect you all the same.
One time at work, I saw a sign on a colleague’s cubicle. He wrote,”No, I am not doing well. This is my daughter’s first day at kindergarten.”
After the death of her little dog, a friend posted on Facebook, “We’ve got a hole in our heart right now. We feel lost without her.”
I saw another friend in the grocery store and she shared, “I’m busy the next two weeks. I’m moving my mom to a retirement home. She’s having a sale to get rid of her things. Though she made the decision, she’s sad as she leaves this part of her life behind. My mother and I are very close and so it’s sad for me too because a realization comes that I may only have another ten years with my mother here on earth. It’s the end of an era.
Another friend lamented, “I used to be so close to my friend but now she’s pulled way from me. She won’t return my calls. I don’t know what to do.”
“I miss my community of friends so much ever since we moved. I especially miss the holiday celebrations,” my friend posted on facebook.
Maybe you too feel sad over the loss of a friend or a family member, a pet, a financial reversal or the loss of health or experience loss in a transition such as a son or daughter leaving home or moving. Or maybe you have to be separated from a loved one for an extended period of time or maybe your marriage did not work out the way you’d hoped.
As a member of a nation, you grieve too when there’s a national tragedy or senseless shootings. Or you could be affected by a fire or robbery and some other attack. Perhaps you’ve experienced a devastation from nature, an earthquake, tornado or hurricane or some other natural disaster. Sometimes even if you’re not personally affected, you live in an area which is and you’re affected by it.
Life brings us many losses to deal with personally and in community.
Your loss may have been a long time ago or maybe it’s been recent. Either way you feel sad. You go through a normal grieving process when you lose someone or something you value or you have to be separated from them. Or when you experience the loss of property or an attack which robbed you of something you value.
The depth of your grieving depends on the significance of the loss. Some situations you work through more quickly and others take a long time.
Some losses are gradual and some are sudden. Sometimes you have time to process the loss and sometimes it’s a total shock. During my mid and late twenties my parents sudden death devastated me, first my mother and four years later, my mother. When one of my best friends died, we were able to walk through it for two years.
Whether the loss is sudden or gradual, you can either go through it or you can grow through it, depending on how you respond to the situation.
If you don’t deal with grief in a healthy way, your emotional wound can fester just like an untreated physical wound. You may experience negative effects physically and emotionally so it’s important to learn how to grieve. I developed fibromyalgia symptoms for years until I was finally able to grieve the death of my father. Once I was able to get in touch with those feelings of grief, cry and process them, the symptoms went away. I realized then that grieving is one of life’s most important skills.
Everyone is unique and goes about grieving in their own way so take what applies to you and discover what works for you. You don’t have to fit into someone’s idea of what you should do or feel. Do be willing though to try something that may uncomfortable to see if it might help.
How do you find healthy ways to grieve?
5 Secrets to Healthy Grieving
1. Allow yourself to have sadness and tears. We have a tendency to say to people, “Don’t cry. It will be okay.” This is the worst thing you can say or have someone say to you. You need to cry. During times of deep grief, sometimes I’ve had a hard time crying. I’d prayed for God to orchestrate times for me to cry. Crying is healthy for you. Tears release hormones which help you feel better.
2. Let yourself have your other feelings as well. Depending on the situation, you may feel anger, despair or depression. These are a normal part of the grief process. After my mother’s untimely death, the depth of my anger surprised and scared me. A friend said to me, “Of course you’re angry. Let yourself have that anger.” You’ll find other blog posts on this website which help you deal with your anger in healthy ways. You don’t need to medicate your strong emotions. Allow yourself to feel them.
3. Recognize that things may be chaotic for you. When I went through a season of deep grief, I couldn’t seem to focus and get things done. My sleep was fitful and I felt emotionally unsettled. Emotional and physical is normal especially at first and if the loss impacted you in a significant way. You may not be able to sleep. You may have more trouble focusing and remembering things. You may be irritable and have some physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches and other physical and emotional symptoms.
4. Talk about your feelings with someone you trust. Make a conscious effort to connect with those who have shared the loss or an empathetic friend. Talk about your feelings and memories. Reminisce, cry and laugh. If you don’t have others who have shared in your loss, talk to an empathetic person. During a devastating loss, a friend simply listened to me on a regular basis helped me tremendously to work through the grief I felt.
5. Write about your feelings. Process all of them, good and bad. Vent on paper. This can be very healing and you can gain insight into yourself and the situation. Sometimes during my times of grieving, I’d wake up at 2 or 3 a.m. unable to sleep. I couldn’t call someone in the middle of the night so I’d sit down and write about how I felt. Usually after I poured out my feelings on paper I would be able to go back to sleep.
They say time heals all wounds. Time does helps but you can heal faster and better if you are intentional about grieving. As you can actively cleanse a physical wound with medicine, there are things you can do to cleanse and heal your emotions.
Tippy, my dog had been a faithful friend and comfort to me for nearly fourteen years. When he died, I sat right down and wrote for four hours straight to process the feelings of grief I felt.
A friend who lost her young daughter to cancer shared, “I would chose an afternoon when I had some free time and get out all the photos and letters. I’d look at them and go over them and allow myself to cry. I did this over and over to be intentional about taking time to grief.”
Grieving is an important thing to do. If you learn how and take time to grieve your losses, you will be a healthier person in every way.
Intentional grieving is worth setting aside time to do because if you get stuck in grief, it can stunt your growth and keep you from contributing all you have to give. There is a time to grieve and then a time to move on.
When you’re finished reading this post, read this story about one man who found himself stuck in grief and then found a way to say goodbye. He found a whole new identify when he discovered an honoring way to say goodbye to his mother and move forward.
Also, a friend of mine shared comforting spiritual insights in this post about how God walks through our grief with us.
There is much written on this subject and you can read further online or in books about the five stages of grief and other helpful insights to help you grieve. These are some tips which have helped me and I trust they will help you as well. One of the most helpful books I’ve read is a small book called “Good Grief: A Constructive Approach to the Problem of Loss” by Granger Westborg. Another one which helped me tremendously is “The Grief Recovery Handbook” by John J. James and Russell Friedman
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NIV)
How about you? Share in the comments below what has helped you deal with loss?