In our social media-heavy society, we see a highly curated view of the world that’s all joy and excitement. so when we encounter heartbreaking situations, it can be difficult to process our emotions. This difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that everyone grieves differently. The tongue-in-cheek “Top Tips” I outline below come from a combination of scholarly research, discussions with grieving friends, and my own personal loss experiences.
Whether you’re grieving a pet, friend, family member, injury, illness, or opportunity, take solace in the fact that your emotions are valid. If you take anything away from my article, take this: Your grief is valid, and you cannot compare it to anyone else’s. Research indicates that losing a pet can be just as painful, if not more so, than losing a human companion. Holding my cat while the vet euthanized him was the most painful experience I can remember, but I also grieved terribly at the sudden loss of my Aunt to the flu, and at being passed up for a promotion I had been told was guaranteed. All grief is valid.
1. Talk about it: Other than eating and sleeping, one of the few shared experiences across all life is death. Every single person has grieved in some way. Everyone understands, to some degree, what you’re going through. During my daily team stand up at work, I let everyone know that the only vet appointment I could get to end my cat’s suffering was immediately before a large in-person meeting. Everyone expressed their sincere condolences, and my boss messaged me later, ordering me to stay home and call into the meeting that day. You may be able to take a sick day or use bereavement leave, and I’m willing to bet that a colleague will help you figure that out once they know a bit about your situation. You might be surprised to find how many people respond with empathy and similar stories of grief. Be the one to open that line of communication and let support come through.
2. Bit by bit, be yourself: Every article on grieving I found told me to take care of myself first, but I know when life is terrible I cannot keep food down. When my husband was in the hospital after major surgery (he’s fine now!) I lost 10 lbs. in a week, and spent a month trying to gain that weight back. The point here is the month I dedicated to getting back on track. When you’re in the deepest throes of grief, you may not be able to do laundry. Or, maybe doing laundry is the only thing that clears your mind. Choose the baby step that is right for you, and keep adding parts of you back in until you feel like yourself again.
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3. Recognize the ways in which you need to adapt: I know, I just told you to be yourself. Depending on your loss and your grief, there are ways in which life might change. After a particularly harsh breakup, I needed to build an entirely new set of friends and find a new job, because what I had either took his side in the breakup or was too painful to still be around. At the moment, I saw these changes as a betrayal and as forcing me to alter who I was as a person, but within a few months, I found myself growing in new ways and loving my life more than while I was in that relationship. It’s unlikely you’ll replace who you lost; you’ll grow space to love someone new.
4. Stay hydrated: Tears, like sweat, are just water leaving your body. The more you cry, the more you need to up your water intake. Don’t laugh! Mild dehydration can cause you to experience dizziness and confusion, both of which are going to make your progress back to normal even more difficult. I especially recommend this tip if you’re not eating; getting some nutrients from a smoothie or soup will be highly beneficial.
5. Get up: Research consistently proves that even minor doses of physical activity and/or sunlight boost your mood. Go for a walk, read a book outside, try out the gym, follow a yoga video in your living room… whatever works for you. After hours of hiking, I always have a clear mind. The grief may come flooding back after I’m home, but for me, the combination of physical activity and sunlight always makes my problems easier. Either sprinkle in the activities you used to love as you can, or start building new experiences into the adapted you. Either way, you won’t regret it.
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I’ve had a rough time lately, but two weekends in a row of girl power hiking have done wonders. 💪 Not to mention facing my fears of heights and snakes along the way. 🐍😬 Get out there if you can, people, and make yourselves feel better. . . #hiking #walking #snakes #spring #biggunpowderfalls #optoutside #waterfall #baltimore #maryland #sawmilltrail #lostpondtrail
I understand that these may all sound like big steps, but my sincere hope is for you to start small however you can, and build your grief into something meaningful.
“…time can do amazing things. A deep wound scabs over, and the scab becomes a scar, and then one day you look for the scar and it’s barely visible.
What’s important is not to become the wound. Not to spend your life and your time and your attention on the hurt and the heartbreak. Take it and make art with it, instead, or use it to push yourself forward, into things, not away from them.
Good luck.” – Neil Gaiman
Bonus Tip, Think ahead: With loss fresh in your mind, this may be the time to think about your own personal will, life insurance policy, or even the beneficiary on your savings account. Even if you don’t act now, really think what a solid plan looks like for you and your loved ones.
You’ll get through this one day at a time. I believe in you.
Gaiman, N. (2016, August 27). The official Neil Gaiman Tumblr. Retrieved April 1, 2019, from http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/149535112526/how-do-you-get-over-a-broken-heart
Mayo Clinic. (2018, February 15). Dehydration. Retrieved April 1, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086
Spruch-Feiner, S. (2018, May 16). Working While Mourning: A Survival Guide For The Living. Retrieved April 1, 2019, from https://www.girlboss.com/work/working-while-grieving
Winch, G. (2018, May 22). Why We Need to Take Pet Loss Seriously. Retrieved April 1, 2019, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-need-to-take-pet-loss-seriously