Is it possible to be happy again after a devastating loss? Someone once concluded that grief is the price of love. Once you have experienced loss and are wrapped in a shroud of pain, you may think that your life is over. But not only is grieving normal, but it is also a necessary part of processing.
Everyone goes through the devastation differently, including when it’s finished. However, do you ever “get over” the suffocating feeling of losing someone or something precious in your world?
The good news is that you can use grief as a survival tool. Although it never disappears, you develop coping skills and a new reality. Eventually, you will feel empowered by your pain.
Have you experienced a loss that has turned your world upside down? Do you feel guilty when you dream of having joy again? Here are a few gentle suggestions for coping with loss and reviving your heart.
The unexplainable flood of emotions we call grief is not exclusive to humans. Multiple studies indicate that animals also experience loss too. For example, elephants have been known to mourn their dead, having something like a funeral procession.
Since the process is so personal, we may all define grief differently. Also, cultural traditions usually dictate how you grieve. For some cultures, a display of painful emotions may be taboo. Other religions may value public weeping and sharing one’s loss.
Many cultures throughout history had strict protocols on how people should grieve and how long it should last. In Victorian times, a widow wore black mourning clothes and a veil for a year. Then, she was expected to spruce up, dry her tears, and get on with life.
Grief touches every segment of society, regardless of race, religion, or socioeconomic status. Learning more about the grieving process will help you when you face it. Fortunately, you can grieve the way you see fit.
Whenever you have a loss in your life, you mourn. When you grieve, you feel many emotions in an exhausting loop. It’s your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual response to losing something precious.
The Grieving Process
When you are reeling from a painful loss, you are bombarded by every emotion imaginable. This overwhelming swirl of conflicting feelings is often called the grieving process. Rather than a static feeling, the sorrow you feel is a combination of emotions.
Are you familiar with the classic grief process study by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler? These medical scientists mapped human grief into five emotional stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While studying their participants, Kubler-Ross and Kessler noticed that these emotions came in cycles.
The Stages of Your Grief
The first emotion that strikes after a loss is usually denial. At first, your brain tries to equalize your body to prevent shock. Denying what you see or hear temporarily numbs your feelings. While rejection is reasonable, it can impede healing if you let it continue too long.
Have you ever been angry when you grieve? Most grief-stricken individuals experience anger in their faith, others, themselves, or even the deceased. It is an internal rage that pleads, “Why me? Why now? Why?” The inability to answer these questions just fuels anger.
It’s also common to bargain with your faith and a spiritual being after a devastating loss. You may beg to return your loved one or erase this situation. If you complete all these promises, you temporarily believe that a divine being will give in to your wishes.
Unfortunately, faith does not give you instant relief, and you must realize that your bargains of grief are futile. At any time during the process, your sadness may deepen into a depression. If your despair lingers and disrupts your daily life, consider talking to a licensed grief counselor.
Although you will never get over the situation, you will learn to finally accept it. You will come to terms with your loss. It does not mean that you understand or agree, only that you realize your situation can’t be changed.
Understand that this is not a neatly packaged process that runs from Point A to Point Z. As you process your grief, the emotional stages are cyclic. Even after initial acceptance, don’t be surprised if you feel some of the other emotions again.
Grieving Different Types of Losses
When most people hear the word “grieving,” they automatically think of death. While the passing of a loved one is at the top of the list, other losses can make you grieve too. You may experience the same emotions after these losses as you do mortality, although not to the same degree.
Anytime you lose something significant or encounter a substantial change in life, it brings grief. Did you know that people who often retire subtly grieve themselves into a depression? Other positive changes like a graduation or moving away from home also gives them brushes with grieving emotions.
Some devastating losses other than death include divorce, losing a job, illness, and financial crises. If you have ever experienced these disheartening events, you know it breaks you mentally and physically. The process is the same; just the severity is different.
Finding Peace after the Storm
Whoever said that time heals all wounds was sadly mistaken. True, the emotional loss may diminish over time, but the scars are long-lasting. If a devastating loss has recently ensnared you, you can find healing in your time.
When you are grieving, give yourself the same compassion you would give to a friend or loved one. Realize that your reeling emotions are normal and permit yourself to feel the loss. Nobody processes grief the same, and you have a right to mourn however you need.
1 – Reach Out to a Friend
Part of your journey of healing from sorrow includes time to mourn and reflect alone. Understandably, we all need to be by ourselves sometimes to process our emotions. However, continued isolation can be harmful to you in the long run.
When you are hurting, reach out to a trusted friend or loved one. This is a person who will be a silent arm of support without lecturing or minimizing your pain. He or she is with you when you need them most.
Don’t listen to typical condolences people offer the bereaved. Awkward clichés include, “You just got to have faith, or I know exactly what you are going through.” While people mean well, none of these offhanded comments are worth heeding.
2 – Talk About Your Feelings
Silence is not always golden when you have so many overflowing emotions. Talk to your trusted friend whenever you feel lonely or despaired. Refuse to believe that you must be strong and keep your feelings to yourself. Talking about your feelings with friends or a counselor shows true strength.
3 – Gradually Create A New Reality
At some point, you will realize that you can’t change your loss. You begin to feel empowered by your grief to restructure your life. Getting closure is a gradual process, so allow yourself as much time as you need.
Creating new rituals or daily habits can be useful. Maybe you will find comfort by honoring your loved one’s memory with pictures or recalling pleasant memories. Restructuring your life can give you the strength to cope with your loss.
4 – Permit Yourself to Be Happy Again
Happiness is fleeting and circumstantial, while joy is a decision. While you walk through the shadows of grief’s trials, don’t feel guilty when you bask in the light you will eventually see.
No matter what your loss is, you will discover peace in your own time. With order comes the joy of acceptance. Your forever scars are proof of your strength and humanity. Allow yourself to feel the pain to its fullest so that you can properly heal.
Finding joy after a crushing period of grief does not mean you have forgotten your loved one or the situation. Many people postpone their healing because they feel guilty or believe they are selfish. Again, extend the same kindness and empathy to yourself that you would give to others.
One way many bereaved people find to heal is by helping people in similar situations. There is a familiar comfort in bonding with those who have experienced loss. Empathy empowers not only the grieving person but also the empathizer.
We all feel pangs of devastation and depression after a loss. It becomes a threat to your well-being when you can no longer function from day-to-day. Clinical depression may also lead to thoughts of suicide.
If you feel trapped and hopeless in your grief, reach out for professional help. A licensed bereavement counselor can help you process any type of loss. If you are feeling suicidal, seek advice immediately.
The journey of grief does not have to be a dead-end. You can find happiness again and be at peace with your loss. Allow yourself time, be self-compassionate, and reach out to others for the help you need. You can and will get through this difficult time.