When you lose someone, a pet or a dream that has been very precious to you, the grief is intense. Pain, memories, and questions can easily haunt you. You may feel that you’ll never be the same again; never really laugh, never recover, never be whole again. You may feel that life will never be the same because this gaping big hole where that person or being once was will swallow you up and never let you see the happier side of life again.
Have faith in the promise that you will see the sun shine on your life again. It is possible to heal emotionally and to grow stronger mentally, physically and in spirit. You will become a compassionate, feeling, laughing and hopeful human being once again in time. Allowing the pain to flow through and onward is key to your recovery and while it may feel both hard and even disloyal to the memory of that which is now lost, the ultimate loyalty and honoring of what is lost is in remembering well and forging ahead by taking with you the best of your memories to inspire your way forward. Remember well to live well and you honor both yourself and those now passed.
1. Face the loss.
It can be easy to sedate yourself with distractions such as drugs, alcohol, oversleeping, internet overuse, promiscuity or any other habit that threatens your well being and leaves you vulnerable to addictions and confusion. And while other people around you may help you temporarily to forget your pain, you’ll never truly heal until you confront the loss and what it means to you personally. Ignoring the pain caused by the loss, sedating your feelings so that they cannot be worked through will bring more serious repercussions later, including depression, trauma and addictions. Allow yourself some time to hurt deeply but don’t allow yourself to get stuck there; even as you’re hurting, you also need to start working out how to cope and find resilient pathways through your pain and loss.
2. Share your feelings with others.
You’re suffering, and it’s okay and it’s healthy to seek out people who will take care of you. If you can’t find a friend, lean on a compassionate stranger. Keeping your feelings bottled up inside carries enormous risk because there will come a point where you can’t even articulate the real feelings to yourself, let alone to anyone else. Even if you feel as if you’re rambling, confused and uncertain, talking to someone you trust is one form of allowing yourself the space to think out loud and to start dumping out some of the pain you’re experiencing. See talk as a sorting action, in that it doesn’t need to be coherent or reasoned, it just needs to be expressive of whatever needs to come up and out of you.
* If you’re worried others listening to you might be confused or upset by what you’re saying, a simple warning up front can alleviate this concern. Just let them know you’re feeling sad/bad/upset/confused, etc., and that some of the words you say aren’t always going to make a lot of sense but that you appreciate having someone listen. A good listener and caring friend or supporter will not mind in the least.
3. Ignore people who say unhelpful things such as “get over it”, “stop being so sensitive”, “I got over it quickly when it happened to me”, etc.
They are expressing their inability to cope, their frustration or guilt and it has nothing to do with you. They’re not inside your head, so don’t give their throwaway lines any credence. If it becomes evident to you that they just want you to take your pain somewhere else, let them go. You can reconnect with such people when you’re feeling stronger; until then, you don’t need their impatience knocking against you.
4. Let your pain come out.
Let the tears flow. It is okay to cry even if you’re not the kind of person who shows your feelings. Moreover, realize that there is no right or wrong way to feel pain, to release pain and to keep trying to work through it. What is important is recognizing the pain and trying to work through it; how you do so is entirely up to you and the feelings inside of you. Crying, pummeling the pillow, going for a long run, sitting somewhere special with a view and just contemplating, throwing things out, going for a long drive, screaming at the top of your lungs in a forest or other solitary place, painting or drawing memories, writing poetry, getting angry with your workout equipment, going dancing, and so forth are just some of the ways people find outlets for their pain and they’re all equally valid methods for releasing what is building up inside. Find your best ways to release the pain by listening to your gut feelings and following them.
* Avoid doing anything that might result in harm to yourself or to others. Loss isn’t about inflicting harm or making things worse. Loss is a time for learning how to draw on your inner reserves and learning how to cope better with pain.
5. Shift the focus as often as you can from the sadness, disappointment, anger and broken heart and try instead to remember the good times and the best things.
Focusing on negative aspects to try and increase the intensity and duration of the pain from your loss won’t change what has happened but will make you feel a great deal worse. Ultimately, you need to question to what avail, as making yourself unhappier is a recipe for longer term health problems and risks debilitating you. And be assured that no person or being who has brought you happiness would have ever wanted you to collapse in a heap. Every single time you feel tempted to become even more sad, angry, down or self-pitiful, grab a diary and write down the good things you can remember about the person, pet or dream that has been lost to you. If you’ve lost someone, remember such things as what a person said or did, the small quirky mannerisms to the large generosities, the times that you spent laughing together and the things this person has taught you about life and yourself. If it’s a lost pet, remember the beautiful times you spent together, the happy life you enabled for your pet and the special traits your pet had. And if it’s a lost dream or object of desire, remember the good that came of pursuing or having these things, and be thinking about what you learned that can be applied to better experiences in the future.
6. Distract yourself.
Too many thoughts going around your head in circles can lead to second guessing, wishing you’d being more this, that or the other or to other unhelpful thought processes. By getting busy and occupying yourself in tasks that require a different focus, you give yourself a break from constantly ruminating over the loss. This also gives you the space to realize that there are good things about your world still and that life does go on, as cliched as that sounds. And while work or studies can provide some relief from the constant thoughts about loss, don’t simply rely on your routine to distract yourself or you risk feeling that there is only work and sorrow and nothing in between. Help reacquaint yourself with happier pursuits by doing something that gives you peace. There are all sorts of possibilities, such as gardening, cooking, fishing, listening to your favorite music, walking, drawing, painting, writing, etc. Choose whatever calms you and gives you a sense of joyful achievement (not something work or studies can always promise).
* There is a lot of therapeutic good to be found in pursuits such as art, cooking and gardening and many people even use these as therapy, such as in the case of art therapy. Anything in which you use both mind and body coordination and in which you’re being both creative and engaged is an important way to help yourself gradually unfurl from the pain inside.
* Perhaps involve yourself with social work. When you involve yourself with other people’s lives, you gain many insights on how to cope better. Consider volunteering as one possibility. If you like children, helping with young children who display lots of spontaneity and laughter may serve to soothe you.
7. Treasure your feelings! Treasure your feelings!
Save things that remind you of your loved one or your lost dream. Just because a person or a pet is gone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always remember them. It may be comforting to know that even if the person or pet is no longer here, the friendship, love and family/personal ties you have with them still exist. No one will ever be able to take that away from you, and the relationship you have with them will always be a part of you. And if you’ve lost a dream, that doesn’t mean that you have to discard all memories of the journey taken toward it. Some mementos will always be worth keeping to remind you of your own courage, tenacity and ability to envision a better future, and the memories of what you have striven for will continue to exist for you to draw on with new dreams.
8. Find delight in beautiful days.
When you’ve been experiencing the blues for a time and you’ve been keeping indoors or walking with your head down and not noticing the world around you, embrace the sunnier or fairer days when they happen. Use these days to get outside and spend some time walking, contemplating and simply noticing the life and beautiful things around you. Do this regularly to get back into the swing of the world. Don’t try too hard – just let the warmth of the sun wash over you, the sounds of the world flow through you and the beauty of the trees, architecture, artwork, routines and busy activities remind you that the world is ever present and that there is beauty in it. Listen for bird song and the sounds of people going about their everyday business. Yes, life does go on and you deserve to be a part of it and to eventually rejoin the daily routine.
9. Believe in Future.
Allow time to heal. Time will heal through allowing you to remember the good things and to start honoring the lost through a renewed determination to enjoy your life more fully. You won’t ever forget those you’ve loved. Nor will you misplace the inner strength that drove you to seek lost goals or achievements. What may change is how you approach your life from this point – there may be a sharpened focus, a new sense of value or a totally changed perspective about certain aspects of your life. All of that is good because it’s part of your growth and part of you learning how loss can be turned into a way of redirecting your life’s path, reminding you that life is precious and that you’re responsible for making the most of your time here.
* Sometimes you can get stuck in a bind of wanting to ensure that you’re grieving properly, and as such you might find yourself extending grieving past when you’re ready to move on. There is no right or wrong time length for grieving; for every person it is very different and healing has its own personal pace, including ups and downs during the grieving time. Expect to be gentle on yourself at any time but don’t draw deadlines on grieving or postpone your happiness either; listen to your feelings and do what feels right inside.