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Navigating Grief: How to Support Yourself and Others in Tough Times

  • August 29, 2020
  • By Luanna

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not “get over” the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will build yourself around the loss you’ve suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Grief is a difficult journey, yet it is one that we will all take at some point in our lives. From the death of a loved one to the end of a marriage, loss of a dream, grief is a natural part of life. For many, the events of 2020 alone have caused us to grieve for a life we once knew.

In honor of this year’s National Grief Awareness Day on August 30th, let’s take a moment to increase our awareness of grief, acknowledge how real it is, and consider how we can best support ourselves and others through difficult times.

What is Grief?

Grief, although uncomfortable, is a natural and normal response to loss. It can occur with a sudden loss, as we try to make sense of what has happened. Or, it can happen after a loss that we knew was coming. Either way, when we lose someone near and dear to our hearts, our minds and bodies must process and heal.

Psychology has taught us that there are several steps to the grieving process. And while this may be true, what each of us have to realize is that there are no hard facts, fast rules or proven strategies for how to deal with grief. Grief is so intensely personal that each person experiences and moves through their grief differently. For some, the emotions of grief are overwhelming. Others feel numb or confused. We may experience anger, guilt, sadness, depression, or shock – or all of the above.

Through the years, I’ve experienced much grief. From the loss of the only grandparent I knew, my father at age 13, my best friend who passed away in our late 20s, and my mother in my late 30s. More recently, I have experienced the loss of a long and treasured friendship, that at this stage in my life is causing me daily pain, sadness and heartache.

Who Experiences Grief?

While most people are familiar with grief after the death of a loved one, grief can occur with any kind of loss. For example, we can feel grief for the loss of a lifestyle when we lose a job, a home, or even an opportunity. We may feel overwhelming grief after the loss of a friendship, or when we file for divorce. These are some of the most common reasons we may experience grief:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce or break-up
  • Broken friendship
  • Missing persons
  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of financial stability
  • Retirement
  • Loss of an opportunity or dream
  • Loss of health or difficult diagnosis
  • Serious illness in a loved one
  • Miscarriage
  • Death or loss of a pet
  • Moving or loss of a home
  • Loss of sense of safety after a trauma

Tips for Acknowledging this Year’s National Grief Awareness Day

Navigating Grief

Reach Out to a Friend.

Sometimes, the best way to manage our own grief is to help a friend through theirs. Reach out to a friend who you know has been affected by loss. Write them a note to let them know you are thinking of them, invite them for a cup of tea, or simply give them a call.

If you want to support a friend in their grief, remember to talk about everyday life and the future as well as any struggles they are having. Ask them how you can help. Could you offer a cooked meal? A new book? A trip to the store? Often, your simple caring company is more than enough to ease a grieving heart.

Navigating Grief

Journal Your Thoughts or Memories

Grief can feel overwhelming, especially when we keep our feelings locked up in our minds. The cure is to release these emotions onto paper. Dedicate 20 minutes to the release of journaling. Allow your thoughts to flow on to the page;  you might be surprised to see what comes up. You may choose to write a letter to someone you’ve lost, or simply express the way a loss has made you feel. Alternatively, record a happy memory of a loved one or a time when you felt complete.

Navigating Grief

Ask For Help.

There is no shame in asking for help when you need it. Grief is an incredibly difficult process; there’s no need to go it alone. In fact, working with a grief counselor, therapist, or another professional can help you process your grief while rebuilding your emotional and mental health. If you feel overwhelmed by your grief, now is the time to find a helping hand.

Navigating Grief

Channel Your Grief.

Sometimes, grief is so personal, it is hard to take that first step toward counseling, even when we know we could benefit from it. For some of us, we are scared to be in a room acknowledging our grief, our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities with a total stranger. For some of my friends who have lost a child or a spouse, group counseling has been the answer. It allows them to be in a group of similarly grieving people sharing thoughts and feelings. This safe haven allowed them to know and take comfort in the fact that they aren’t alone in the process. They were able to talk and discuss and even make new friends. It was truly instrumental to their recovery.

Navigating Grief

Seek Closure.

Not all losses come with closure. In fact, many who suffer from grief struggle because they feel undone or incomplete. Many people like to create a memorial or memory object as a ritual of closure. Others may write a letter, create art, or record memories of their loved one. For those who have lost a job, security, or a dream, find closure by exploring new opportunities.

Acknowledge Loss Through COVID-19.

The past several months have been difficult for everyone as we continue to learn to navigate a new world after the coronavirus crisis. This novel disease has caused mass levels of fear, uncertainty, pain, and loss for many of us. Some lost loved ones. Others have lost their jobs, homes, routines, or security. All of us may grieve the loss of “normalcy” that we once took for granted.

For me, the last few months have been, and continue to be, a struggle in many ways. Focusing on the positives in my life have helped tremendously. Take some introspective time for yourself and focus on the future. What could be gained from a new way of life? What can we be grateful for? What really matters in our lives? While the search for the silver lining can help us feel strong and capable in times of uncertainty, it’s still okay to grieve what we miss. Take this special day to grieve what you miss of your “old” way of life, then get back to your silver linings tomorrow.

Loving Thoughts to All Who Grieve.

There is no right or wrong way to process your grief, as long as you remember to care for yourself along the way. In difficult times, remember that to know grief is to also know love. On this National Grief Awareness Day, I wish you strength, comfort, and peace.

By Luanna, August 29, 2020
  • 7
    August 29, 2020

    Very profound. Thank you Luanna for a very well composed, thoughtful and timely blog.

  • Kim P
    August 29, 2020

    Stellar writing regarding grief. I wish u closure in the loss of that friendship.

  • TG Baugh
    August 29, 2020

    This is a fantastic article. Grief is something everyone encounters in their life. Your tips are spot on. Thank you for the beautiful article.

  • Stacy Kopper
    August 29, 2020

    Thank you for this. Since March I’ve been: angry, lost, driven to get things in order only to suddenly find myself sitting still (not a skill I’ve been good at since my 30’s). While I am trying to channel my energies for good (volunteer contact tracer, who would have though?), I still am lost for a purpose. I hadn’t thought about grief and Kubler-Ross’ 7 stages…need to work on acceptance.

    • Luanna
      August 29, 2020

      We’re all a work in progress. Life as we knew it is gone for the moment, and it’s so hard in so many ways.

  • Regina Panza
    September 1, 2020

    Thanks Luanna for sharing this insight. It came at an appropriate time as we (myself, my sister, my entire family) are still dealing with the sudden loss of my 26 yr old nephew. I shared the words of Dr Kubler-Ross with my sister…hoping they help us all process and deal with the grief.

    • Luanna
      September 1, 2020

      Thank you, Regina. I know of the recent tragedy in your life. So many are affected and at times, there’s the feeling of hopelessness and tremendous void. I deal with grief nearly every day. It’s a process, certainly. I wish you and your family much strength and continued support.

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