Merriam - Webster’s definition of grief is “a deep sadness caused especially by someone’s death; a cause of deep sadness.” What I want to say to Merriam - Webster is “you’re not even close”.
Grief is a complex emotion. Grief encompasses: anger, sadness, frustration, hurt, guilt, regret and shame. It isn’t something easy to understand. It doesn’t go away in a day, and it hits you hard at random times.
Grief is not only experienced by the death of a loved one but also experienced when we lose a job, have a relationship different than what we expected, have a plan for the future that is suddenly changed: experiencing anything that turns our sense of self, safety and control upside down.
The big question is - what do we do when we experience grief? There is no one right answer to this; experiencing grief is very individualized but here are some suggestions:
Feel it, don’t ignore it
Sometimes we think the easiest thing to do is avoid. Avoid our feelings and avoid triggers and for a short period of time, this can work. However, in the long term the feelings come back stronger because you build them up and file them away. Feel your grief - the more you feel it, the less scary the feeling will be. It's ok to cry, to cleanse. Write your thoughts in a journal to release the tension of all your emotions. Take each day at a time.
Take time to understand it
Because grief has so many different layers, we sometimes need time to understand all that comes with it in order to fully process and move forward with life in whatever new way we need to. You may want to see what this event or loss has brought you in the form of guidance and acceptance. How going forward there is something to learn and take from this experience.
Give yourself compassion for the different aspects of life that will be harder
Grief is hard. It will take a toll on you, both physically and mentally, which may cause difficulty at work, at home, in relationships, etc; please have compassion for yourself. Grief is not an easy emotion to navigate so don't expect yourself to be 100% all of the time while you process. Let others around you know that you are having a tough time with it and allow the support around you to be there.
Seek out help
Grief can take a long time to understand. It doesn't totally go away, depending on the situation, but its impact can be significantly decreased by working through it. Sometimes a licensed professional therapist can support you in a way that brings you to understand why you are stuck. Seek help. You matter and can begin to heal.
Stephanie holds a license in New York to practice Mental Health Counseling (LMHC) with a MA degree from Baruch College in Mental Health Counseling. Trained in Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness & Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and EMDR Therapy.
Stephanie specializes tween, teens and adults struggling with eating disorders.