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How To Keep Moving Forward Through Grief

Andromeda Peters, LICSW

Grief is something that everyone will experience at some point in their lives. With that being said, grief looks different for everyone and our experiences with grief may look different for each experience we have. Although we may find ourselves at a point of radical acceptance, grief is not something one can always plan ahead for. We know we will come face-to-face with challenges, but we may experience emotional decompensation, challenges in day-to-day functioning, and even various forms of emotional and psychological trauma.

What Is Grief? 

Grief is described as the emotional pain that comes with loss. Many emotions of confusion, guilt, anger, and more may accompany grief depending on the type of relationship we had with the person we lost. While grief cannot be avoided, some people may experience acute grief, some may experience prolonged grief, and some may experience emotional pain at later times. In her novel, On Death and Dying, psychiatrist, Dr. Kubler-Ross, has identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance that many people experience; however, we are all different and experience these stages differently.

How to Move Forward With Our Lives In Healthy Ways While Grieving 

Grieving the loss of loved ones such as a sibling, parent, or spouse may be intense. It is said to take several months to a year to be able to healthily cope with loss. It is important to allow the experience of emotions as they arise, even challenging emotions. So, how can we move forward with our lives in healthy ways? The American Psychological Association recommends taking these steps:

  1. Talk about the death of your loved one with your safe circle of friends and colleagues. Doing so can lead to closure and acceptance, rather than isolation and loneliness that can lead to other mental health concerns.
  2. Accept your feelings. Emotions may vary widely from exhaustion, sadness, anger, and back to baseline. They may even fluctuate. Accept that your mind and body are holding a lot of space. Allow yourself to move in and out of emotion. Working with a mental health professional is beneficial in aiding you in this process.
  3. Do your best to take care of your physical body. Our bodies endure a lot of stress when we are grieving. Staying hydrated, getting adequate rest, eating healthy foods, and even exercising is helpful to the body during the grieving process. If a loved one is grieving, check in with them to make sure they are doing their best to maintain their physical health and mental health.
  4. Celebrate the lives of your loved ones who have passed on. Remembering their lives and honoring them are healing. Ways to remember them can be experienced when sharing stories about them with loved ones, passing on their family names to new babies, or planting a garden in memory of them. 
  5. Keep up with traditions and stay connected. Our cultures may play a role in how we celebrate the lives of our loved ones. Many cultures visit shrines or memorials on loved ones’ birthdays and anniversaries of their passing or celebrate them during national celebrations in their countries. Allowing yourself to experience these traditions is important to stay connected to a community and support system and to also remember our loved ones and the impacts they have had on our lives.

Remember, mental health support is important, especially during times of grief. Many mental health professionals are trained in helping individuals and families in their healing journeys around grief and loss. Asking for help from trained professionals can offer us more comfort and support as we reach stages of acceptance and stability. It is also important to lean on our social support during these times. Many people may offer support or ask how they can support it. You may not always have the answers at that time, but when you could use someone to speak with, someone to spend time with, or even financial contributions, give yourself permission, to be honest about what your needs are.

If you are working through grief and want to talk to a therapist for support, we are here to help you on your journey. Contact Symmetry Counseling today to get paired with a skilled counselor in Washington D.C., Arizona, Illinois, and Texas

References:

Grief. Retrieved from  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/grief .

Grief: Coping with the Loss of Your Loved One. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/families/grief on January 1, 2020.

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