Thinking Out Loud: Helpful or Unhelpful
Although it’s said there is no right or wrong way to grieve, I prefer to say that there are, in fact, helpful and unhelpful ways to grieve. To transform grief we need to take action. If we do nothing and expect the pain to diminish with time, we will still experience it years later. Additionally, if we take action that is unhelpful, then we will still experience pain later on.
Unhelpful ways to grieve consist of using drugs and alcohol as a way of moderating the pain. While in the short term these might help us forget, it is only temporary. Once the effects of the drugs or alcohol wear off, we are still left with the feelings we’ve been trying to hide from.
Telling everyone that we are fine and trying to continue as if nothing is wrong is another unhelpful way to grieve. You don’t need to spill your heart out to others. However, simply acknowledging that you are not OKAY and that you are doing your best allows you to start transforming your grief. Our worlds become shattered after the loss of a loved one. It is our right to acknowledge that something is wrong and that we don’t know how we are going to cope.
Pushing emotions away is another unhelpful way to grieve. Again, acknowledging emotions is not about spilling your heart out to everyone. It’s about admitting to yourself that you are hurting and you do feel that emotion. It is about giving yourself permission to feel the pain so that you can let it go. When we don’t acknowledge our feelings, we tend to indulge in things like eating too much, watching too much television, using drugs and alcohol, and even overcompensating with too much exercise.
The most helpful way to make sure that you can cope with the loss of a loved one is to make sure that you have a great support network in place. This can be family or friends. You might not want to talk and share your feelings with them, but just knowing that people are there to tell you they care and/or give you a hug can make a world of difference.
If you feel you need more support, you can begin to see a grief counselor, minister, rabbi, or priest. Sometimes having someone impartial to listen to you in a non-judgmental way can make all the difference.
Another helpful way is to take action. After loss we might feel like staying in bed and not eat nor drink as we hibernate with our pain. This won’t help us. Getting up and eating something, going for a walk, or picking up the phone to speak to someone are all actions that can help us move forward after the loss of a loved one.
As you read this, reflect upon the things you have been doing since you lost your loved one, and ask yourself if they are helpful to you or unhelpful? Then ask yourself what more of the same actions would be helpful or possibly what you need to do differently?