By: Associated Behavioral Health Care Contributor | ABHC
One of the most difficult experiences in life is losing a loved one. After a year of tumultuous trials and tribulations in navigating the pandemic, almost all of us have experienced some level of grief. Whether you have or have not personally lost a loved one, there is a sense of collective grief that has been experienced. While it would make things easier if grief followed a consistent pattern or path, it doesn’t. Grief affects people differently and can cause troubling feelings throughout the grieving process, such as perpetuating or inciting the use of drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. However, using substances to cope with grief will only worsen your feelings in the long run. For those who have recently experienced the loss of a loved one, today’s climate is even that much more challenging with limited social interaction and human connection.
Grief Won’t Last Forever
The onset of grief can bring many overwhelming feelings, including sadness, fear, confusion, denial and anger. It might even feel like you cannot regulate your emotions without help from a substance. Grief tends to come in waves and when you accept that your emotions will fluctuate drastically, you can learn to ride these waves. Emotional suffering is an inherent part of grief and sometimes when you experience pain, you might interpret this as something is wrong with you. As a result, you might resist allowing yourself to experience grief because you think that you should be able to handle these feelings and to “move on.” However, this expectation is not realistic. When a wave of grief hits, remember that it will not last forever. Try to remain kind and patient with yourself. Practice self-care and do not resist feeling grief and, over time, these waves will subside.
You Can Handle Grief without Self-Medicating
Resisting strong emotions or avoiding emotions attached to your grief could further incite feelings of fear, frustration and isolation. You cannot determine how long your grief will last and you should not try to force your feelings to conform to any expectations. Everybody’s grieving process is different and this is OK. Remember that it won’t always be this consistent and intense when you work to understand your grief and meditate on your emotions. Make space to experience painful emotions—this will help you practice resilience and grow your internal resources for coping with grief.
Be Kind to Yourself during the Grieving Process
Often during an episode of grief, you are the first person who you neglect. Your cares and responsibilities can seem to fall away, and before you know it, you are engaging in negative thoughts and behaviors. Additionally, you might be looking for a quick fix to combat your feelings. When you find yourself in the throes of such behavior, you need to be honest about this and return to practicing self-care. If you cannot motivate yourself to do so, it is time to reach out for help. Consulting a doctor or therapist could help bring balance back to your life. A professional can talk you through your grief and help you find ways to get some sleep, eat better, and stay in touch with the things that make you happy.
Being kind to yourself also means not feeling guilty or ashamed to cry or feel sad. For example, you might think you are over the crying stage, but it sneaks up on you when you least expect it—this is part of the process, so don’t be so hard on yourself. Likewise, it is OK to experience moments of happiness and enjoyment. Don’t keep yourself from experiencing joy because you don’t think that the appropriate amount of time has passed to do so. Moments of laughter and joy are healthy to experience during grieving, so don’t judge yourself for how you are feeling in a given moment.
Think Cyclical Rather than Linear
When you reach a point where you feel good only to feel bad again, don’t interpret this as a sign of relapse or getting worse. It is how grief works and believe it or not, this is forward progress. Rather than a direct path that has a beginning and an end, grief often comes in cycles. Sometimes a memory or physical sensation will produce certain feelings and memories. They might not always be attached to what you are grieving about, but rather prior episodes of grief that you experienced and what you were doing, and how you felt during that time.
Find Meaning in Grief
While we never truly get over the loss of a loved one or completely let go of other traumatic experiences that cause us grief, there are ways to incorporate these experiences into your life as you move forward. These experiences influence how you see yourself and grief can offer the opportunity to reflect on what matters most, such as the positive people in your life and the enjoyment of life when you are sober. These qualities about yourself can help give you a sense of meaning. These reasons are what should motivate you to keep moving forward each day. All of these experiences, including grief, can provide further enlightenment into the person you want to be in the face of life’s challenges.
Associated Behavioral Health Care (ABHC) has four outpatient locations in the Seattle area and has seen well over 500,000 patients since its doors opened in 1995. We are one of only a handful of companies across the United States that provide all facets of behavioral health care including, but not limited to, psychiatry, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), psychology, psych testing, chemical dependency counseling and assessments, and medication management services. Our staff members include MDs, PhD’s, master-level clinicians and administrative staff.
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Disclaimer: Blunovus content is not therapy and is not designed to diagnose or treat any condition you may be experiencing. Please contact a medical or mental health professional for treatment that is specific to your needs.