If you’ve experienced a major loss in your life such as the death of a loved one or pet, a divorce, illness, miscarriage or job lay-off, it is normal to go through a grieving process. Unfortunately, society today does not honor the mourning process and encourages us to “get over it”. Many of us feel we have to quickly move on with our lives. If we repress our grief, though, it can cause all sorts of problems such as anxiety, depression, physical illness and a general feeling of dissatisfaction. If we express our grief on the other hand, we will experience more joy, vitality and purpose in our lives. Here are some suggestions to help you express your grief:
1. Feel your feelings. Meditate and journal every day to get in touch with your painful feelings. Start writing using the prompt, “What I really lost is…” Write for ten minutes without stopping. Then, sit and meditate for ten minutes. Continue to write as new thoughts, feelings and insights surface.
2. Engage in activities that keep you in the present moment. Move your body through exercise. Engage in hobbies such as painting or gardening. Spend time in nature to help you feel centered and grounded.
3. Get in touch with where grief lives in your body. Sit quietly and meditate. Listen for where grief lives in your body. As you get a sense of the energy of grief, give it a name and ask it why it is there and what it needs to continue to heal.
4. Write a letter to grief. Tell it how it has affected your life. Allow it to respond. What does it need from you to continue to heal?
5. Write a letter to your deceased loved one. Share how their death has affected you. Say what you didn’t have a chance to say while they were still alive. Offer forgiveness or ask for it. Express gratitude for the time you shared together. Next, write a letter back from your loved one. What would they want to say to you?
6. Engage in meaningful rituals. What did your loved one feel passionate about? What did you enjoy doing together? Plant a tree and hike to it every year on their anniversary. Or, scatter their ashes in an area they enjoyed visiting.
7. Memorialize your loss. Dedicate a park bench in your loved ones honor or have a piece of artwork created such as a collage of pictures and memorabilia. Check out: www.BereavementArtists.com for more ideas.
8. Give back. Volunteer your time helping others. This will help you feel a sense of renewed purpose while offering you a healthy perspective about your loss.
9. Reach out for support. Don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to friends and family who support you. Join a support group or engage in one-to-one counseling.
Questions to ask yourself to determine if you may need extra help:
- Do you frequently experience feeling irritable, annoyed, intolerant or angry?
- Do you feel an ongoing sense of numbness or isolation from others? Do you feel like you have no one to talk to?
- Do you feel anxious most of the time? Is it interfering with your relationships or ability to concentrate?
- Do you feel preoccupied with your loss and think about it constantly even though it has been several months?
- Do you feel restless and in high gear, like you need to be constantly busy?
- Are you afraid of becoming close to new people for fear of losing again?
- Do you find yourself acting in ways that may be harmful to you like drinking more, driving recklessly, or entertaining thoughts of suicide?
- Are you heavily burdened by taking on too much responsibility?
- Do you feel stuck in your grief, unable to move on, even though it has been some time since your loss?
If you find yourself answering yes to any of these questions or would like additional assistance with following the above suggestions, then I encourage you to reach out for professional support from a therapist or counselor who specializes in grief and bereavement, like myself. You don’t have to walk through your pain alone.
(Karen is the author of Sail Into Your Dreams: 8 Steps to Living a More Purposeful Life, a speaker, Life Transformation Coach and Grief Counselor. She assists her clients to heal their grief, so they can experience more joy, vitality and purpose in life. If you are ready to heal your grief and move on with your life, call Karen today for a FREE 30-minute phone consultation to determine if her services are a good fit for you. (831) 359-2441. She offers private phone, Skype, or in-person sessions. You can also check out her website for more useful information about this topic and to join her mailing list to receive future articles and offerings: www.LiveAPurposefulLife.com)