Grief is universal. At some point in our lives, we will all grieve. But how we grieve is unique to everyone.
This has led to a lot of misunderstanding about grieving. People treat grieving as an obstacle or something that we need to “get over” or “move on” from.
But grieving is normal. It’s a healthy way to heal and to cope. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve, but some methods of grieving have shown to be more effective — or healthier — ways of coping with a loss.
Get Back to Nature
Nature is a proven fix for emotional stress. Studies have shown that even a walk in the park can increase serotonin and decrease the risk of developing depression.
And connecting with nature also has been proven to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and anger, and improves overall happiness and quality of life.
Keep Memories Around
Sometimes when facing a loss, people try to remove anything that can be associated with the deceased. They throw away or try to hide things like photos, books, and clothes.
This can be jarring — especially for children — and can lead to developing complicated grief. Studies show that memorials and traditions play a big part in healthy bereavement and having a dedicated memorial will help in healthy healing.
Many people feel they need to “control” their emotions. They try to hide different emotions, especially ones they feel make them look “weak.” But we mourn for a reason. Emotions are part of the journey, and you should allow yourself to feel. Don’t ignore feelings. It’s ok to be sad, angry, or scared.
This video by Dr. Christina Hibbert, a clinical psychologist who specializes in grief and loss, does a good job of explaining how to identify and cope with your emotions.
Exercise may seem like the last thing on someone’s list when mourning, but exercise is another proven healthy way to heal. Even a short walk can energize you and make you feel happier. Exercise is therapeutic and can be a great way to gain a sense of control, as well as manage your emotions.
Don’t Set an End Date
Don’t listen to the estimates of how long you should grieve. It’s a process, and it’s different for everyone. Some will mourn for months, others for years. What’s important is to focus on how you feel, and to make sure you are mourning in a healthy way.
No one should mourn alone. Dr. Hibbert says that “Families who feel together heal together.” Having a healthy support system of friends and family is an important part of the grief journey.
Know When to Seek Help
Sometimes coping will require extra help. Therapy is a great way to get unbiased guidance and advice when navigating a loss, and professional help can help with cases of complicated grief.
Here are the signs that your grief may develop into complicated grief:
- Disturbances in sleep
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
- Self-destructive behavior
- Isolation and withdrawal from friends and family
It’s important to remember why we grieve. It’s a process that helps us heal after facing an unimaginable loss.
As the author Vicki Harrison puts it, “Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”