We all experience loss, and the resulting grief, at some point in our lives. Dealing with the pain of loss is a part of the mythological roots of the hero’s journey. Legends from around the world often depict classical heroes encountering and, eventually, moving beyond loss. We can follow this example in our own lives.
Grief itself is a journey, from the first raw moments to the eventual lessening of the feelings involved until they reach a manageable level. Dealing with loss requires us to move from our darkness back into the light.
Grief is not always due to the death of someone we love. It can also result from a falling out with a close friend or family, being let go from a meaningful job, or the loss of a pet.
No matter the source of your pain, a key thing to remember is your grief does not have to define you, consume you, or last forever.
You can eventually gain control of your feelings and thus the intensity and duration of your suffering. But don’t give yourself a time limit or feel pressured to grieve at anything but your own pace. Just let yourself believe the deep hurt of loss will lessen. There is a path forward, and a way out.
Here are some other steps you can take to ease your journey through grief.
Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About It
Many of us resort to emotional stoicism and aloofness to deal with loss. This is especially true for me, who are often discouraged from expressing emotions because it isn’t “manly.”
But ignoring, or actively suppressing, our feelings is unhealthy and rarely sustainable. Your emotions will express themselves somehow, and often in destructive and debilitating ways.
Finding a way to express and process your grief is essential to the healing process. You must let go of worrying whether or not your feelings will inconvenience someone else, or will make you seem “weak.”
Talking to loved ones can be a healthy way to express yourself. But don’t rule out grief counselling from clinical psychologists or therapists if you’re having trouble seeing the way forward. Professional help may be necessary if your loved ones are going through grief simultaneously, since they themselves may also be in need of assistance. Accept that you may need to talk to a third party not connected to the loss.
Be Good to Yourself
A serious loss can feel like a brick wall suddenly appears in the middle of your life. Whatever path you were traveling can suddenly seem blocked. But there is a way over, around, under, or even through that wall.
It might be easy to keep exercising, eating well, and getting a proper night’s sleep. However, these can be some of the most emotionally beneficial things you can do for yourself.
Maintaining a routine, and returning to your “normal” behaviors as much as possible, can provide structure when the seeming “chaos” of loss interferes with life.
Avoid Harmful Coping Mechanisms
Exercise can be a helpful coping mechanism to give your body and mind some relief from the oppressive feelings of grief. The same goes for writing a journal, meditating, doing meaningful work (such as volunteering), or finding a way to play. You shouldn’t feel guilty about letting in a little light and enjoyment.
However, you should be careful to avoid potentially detrimental coping mechanisms. Alcohol, recreational or prescription drug abuse, gambling, and compulsive eating are some of the more common ones. They might provide temporary relief, but will inhibit your healing in the long run.
Moments of emotional turbulence are an easy way to start habits that can form serious addictions. If you feel yourself gravitating towards these activities unconsciously, realize they can be replaced with more beneficial ones, and get help if you need it.
Accept that Time Will Do Its Work
Communicating and getting professional help is going to lift some of the dark clouds from your mind. Healthy coping strategies can help you get through some rocky patches.
But it’s important to realize these aren’t quick fixes. They take time, as you work naturally through the healing process. Be sure to let yourself have a bad day now and then. You don’t have to put on a facade of a positive attitude all the time. Don’t suppress yourself. Keep walking forward and accept that, at some point, the pain will become more manageable.
Ultimately, the losses we suffer will always be a part of us in some way. They shape the landscape of our lives, and can even serve to make us better people in the long run.
We can transform our suffering into strength if we open ourselves up to the sheer power of human adaptability. We have existed for millennia thanks to the gift of our will to thrive. We all have this legacy of strength.
Let yourself wield that power during your darkest times, and you can emerge from even the deepest grief.
This post was previously published on LiveTheHero.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
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