How do you deal with the pain of grief? The following are strategies suggested by Clinical Social Worker, Ann Price to help people to cope and work through their grief. Note: Each method may work differently for each individual.
• Get in touch with your breath and heed what is happening in your body
“As part of the grieving process the breath tends to move high up into the chest and people breathe very quickly,” says Ms. Price. This type of somatic response is triggered by the limbic system of the brain. In the midst of grieving, some may go into what is known as “fight, flight, or freeze” mode. This is a when the body attempts to do one of three things: combat what it is feeling (fight), try to escape what it is feeling (flight), or become immobilized by those feelings (freeze).
“The body holds trauma and grief,” says Ms. Price. “You don’t want to force anything, but it can be helpful to notice your breath and take some calming, deep breaths. Doing this can help push a person past the place of being in fight or flight.”
• Check in with Yourself
When people are grieving or going through a turbulent experience, it can sometimes be easier to focus on external factors to distract from those uncomfortable feelings. This is precisely why Ms. Price advises people check in with themselves and pay attention to feelings that are surfacing. “Emotions are held in our body,” she explains. Without an awareness of those feelings a person might be unable to provide themselves with what he or she needs. For example, if a person is hungry but is so consumed by grief that it inhibits hunger, that individual won’t receive proper nourishment. Maintaining an awareness of your body’s needs is paramount, especially during trying times.
Engaging in exercise has multiple benefits both for physical and emotional health. While physical activity doesn’t eliminate grief, it does promote general well-being. If an individual feels better (mentally and physically), they are likely to be more resilient and thus, better prepared to cope during a difficult situation such as grief. There are multiple types of physical activity including walking, running, yoga, lifting weights, dancing, participating in sports, riding a bike, and hiking.
• Keep a Journal
Expressing your feelings on paper can be a very productive coping mechanism. Journaling can externalize emotions and be a medium to expressing things you would like to say or perhaps wish you would have said [to the person whom you lost].
• Make Room for Healthy Distractions
Taking a mental break can be a relief and distractions can be a good way to redirect our attention. By turning to a distraction as a means of coping, you allow yourself a periodic pause from a difficult situation. Examples of distractions include watching a show or movie, calling a friend, getting out into nature/going on a walk or hike, or getting together with a friend or family member.
*It is important to not rely on distractions as an interminable way to avoid your feelings. This can create other challenges. It is also important to note the difference between healthy and unhealthy distractions. Healthy distractions are ones that don’t pose a risk to a person’s well-being. Unhealthy distractions may pose a danger to emotional or physical health. Examples of unhealthy distractions include engaging in high-risk behaviors such as self-harm, excessive gambling, or substance abuse.
• Practice Self Compassion
Being self-compassionate can be the first step toward healing following a loss. When we possess greater kindness for ourselves, our thoughts are generally gentler, our emotions are more easily received, and we are able to better express compassion and empathy toward others.
Meditation can serve as a way to connect us to our inner-self and to our breathing, which is the central means of survival [we need to breathe to live]. Meditation can help us to be present and mindful of our feelings. For those who partake in meditation, the feedback is often very positive. Meditation has been shown to help individuals feel more centered, reduce anxiety and depression, as well as benefit physical health.
• Consider Higher Powers
For those who are religious and/or spiritual, a higher power can be a source of solace during the grieving process. That might include prayer, attending religious services, or participating in specific rituals. Faith of any kind (whether it be organized religion, an established relationship with god, or feeling an unnamed connection to a higher power) can help guide people through challenging circumstances.
• Seek Professional Help
If an individual is struggling, seeing a mental health professional may help the situation. Ms. Price says, “you don’t need to wait until it gets bad to get professional help.” She stresses that there is no shame in asking for help. “Maybe it’s only a few counseling sessions. Therapy doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. People are often worried about the stigma associated with what it means to go to therapy, but a person can always benefit from getting support.”
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