Losing the man who raised me has been, by far, one of my most difficult losses of my life. His untimely death is one of the most difficult to process and although he passed away three years ago and I have learned to navigate my life without him, he will always hold a piece of my heart. Think about your family and friends as a puzzle. If you remove a piece, the puzzle is incomplete. Depending on which piece is removed, the piece may alter everything about the picture and the way it materializes. When a piece is lost and we try to push the pieces back together, there may be similarities in the image, yet the picture will never quite look the same.
Death is difficult to process because we cannot change the heartbreaking reality that the person you love is no longer here. Grief is complicated, personal, and a unique experience that unfolds at your own pace. How we grieve is determined by several things, from your personality, age, beliefs, the dynamic of the relationship, and your social supports.
Kubler Ross identified five stages of grief, comprised of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, as part of the framework that teaches us how to live in the absence of the ones we loved and lost. There are vast emotions associated with grief including confusion, shock, rage, anxiety, restlessness, panic, benumbing, and loneliness. It is important to accept your feelings and try not to fight them, allowing yourself to fully experience the painful journey. Grief is not linear like time, contrarily, the process is incalculable. One moment you may be laughing and the next moment breaking down into uncontrollable tears. This is normal so individuals need to welcome grace and patience toward themselves and those around them.
The practice of self-care techniques is invaluable when navigating through sorrow. Coping skills include taking time off of work, spending time with family or social supports, starting a journal, exercising, painting or other personal hobbies, spend time outdoors, communicate your feelings, and talking about who or what you lost with those you can trust.
There are signs that may indicate that you are stuck in the stages of grief, perhaps unusual behavioral reactions, such as irritability and anger, constant fear, self-harm, obsessing over the loss, depression that you cannot shake, or addiction. If you are feeling stuck in despair, it may be helpful to connect with a professional therapist, such as a licensed clinical social worker, who is trained in grief and loss to support you through the process. A grief counselor can help guide you through areas in which you feel unable to move forward and provide interventions to assist in healing. The grieving process promotes restoration, thus a therapist can provide education about the stages of grief, assist in the implementation of coping skills, self-care, and a variety of other interventions that can be beneficial in propelling you forward.
It is important to note that when we refer to grief it is not always related to death. We grieve many things in life including relationships, loss of employment, stability, independence, loss of dreams, health, youth, mobility, and other variations of loss that are delivered by life’s timekeeper.
Some losses make such an impact that it may take the wind out of your sails and the ground from beneath your feet. Remember, grief is a place to pause, not a place to stay. You must press play on life’s adventures and try not to get so off track with what you lost that you too stop actually living.