- Written by Victor M. Parachin Victor M. Parachin
Reaching out on social media, a woman wrote:
“My husband died suddenly of a massive heart attack. He was 55 and had no symptoms or warning signs. I can’t bear to live without him. We’ve been together since I was 16, and I’m 46 now.
“I’ve never lived on my own, and I don’t know what it’s like to be ‘single’ — I’ve always been part of a couple. I cry every day … I don’t want to live without him.”
Her experience reveals the depth and anguish of grief. As intense as bereavement can be, the reality is that the vast majority of people do recover from the shock and pain of loss.
Here are a dozen ways people have found to live with loss and heal with hope.
1. Begin with patience. It takes time, a much longer time than most people expect, to heal from grief. Remind yourself there is no quick fix. Most people find it takes a year or so for the intensity to ease up.
2. Expect confusing and conflicting emotions. Grief brings a wide variety of feelings and emotions, such as: guilt, regret, sadness, depression, anxiety, fear, and difficulty concentrating.
While these may feel extreme and troubling, they are common symptoms of the grief process. Expect them; accept them; and continue on, knowing they will ease up and fade away as you adapt and adjust to the loss.
3. Express yourself. Talking with a good listener is healing. Every time you talk about the loss and its ramifications, you peel away a layer of pain.
4. Let yourself feel sad. Don’t deny your grief. Feel the pain. Experience the loss. Cry if you need to. Tears cleanse the body of stress toxins.
5. Follow a routine. Adhere to a regular daily schedule. This will build emotional security and confidence for you. A routine will also keep you organized and on top of things.
6. Sleep. The emotional strain of grief is exhausting. Get good rest. If you can’t sleep for a prolonged period of time, check in with your physician.
7. Don’t numb the pain. Avoid alcohol and drugs. They may dull the pain, but once the effect wears off, the pain emerges.
8. Eat nutritious meals. A time of grieving is not the time to fill up on “junk” foods. Eat healthy meals. Limit eating at restaurants.
9. Take care of your body. Exercise daily for at least 30 minutes. Walk, bike, jog, or join a gym and take fitness classes.
10. Delay major life changes. If possible, don’t make any big changes during the first year. Don’t remarry, don’t move, don’t leave your job. Give yourself time to adjust and adapt to the loss.
11. Be part of a support group. When there has been a loss to death, it often creates relationship shifts. Some friends drop away because they don’t know how to be helpful to a griever.
A grief support group is made up of people who understand and will be comforting. Join with them, learn from them, and, in turn, be supportive of others who are grieving.
12. Remain positive. Trust yourself and believe that you will heal from loss. Stay positive throughout the grief journey. Hold on to hope.
Victor M. Parachin, M.Div., is a grief counselor, bereavement educator, and author of several books, including Healing Grief.