There is a lot of great information out there on the grieving process and how to get through it. I am not going to talk about how to get through it, but rather how to grieve with grace. I think oftentimes we make things harder on ourselves, in this already difficult time, and this is my personal and observed experience of how to make things a little less stressful.
Embrace your emotions.
I think one of the things that I have heard over and over from people who are grieving is that they try to control how and when the emotions come. I think this is a fundamental error. When we try to control our emotions, not unlike an unruly toddler, they will tantrum until they get the attention and respect they deserve. When we try to control them, we are refusing ourselves the very necessary cleansing that they are there to do. I think this is why some people get stuck in the grieving process. They are not ready to face the emotions and, therefore, continue to stuff them. I recognize that this is difficult and the emotions at times feel like they will swallow you up. The thing is, when we try to stifle them they end up doing just that. When we feel through them, they lose the power and they are released. When they are stifled or stuffed, they will demand our attention and, the more we stuff, the louder and stronger they get. Therefore, my suggestion is when they surface, feel through them. Trust that you will be ok and allow them to be released. You deserve to grieve and you are right in how you are feeling at that moment.
Allow others to support you.
Too many times we try to be strong in our grief we perceive that we are on our own. We all have people in our lives who can support and love us through the loss, so let them! No matter how big or small people want to help and support you, most times they are just unsure of what they can do so they fear they will say or do the wrong thing. Don’t be afraid to turn to others for support, ask for what you want and allow others to show their compassion. I believe this is not a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of true strength. Naturally, we are social beings and we need our tribe especially in times of sorrow. I suggest reach out to those you trust and allow them to support you in whatever way that may be. It could be something as simple as going for supper or perhaps it is support with the figuring out logistics around your loss. Whatever you may need, ask for it. If they are true members of your tribe they will be there no questions asked.
You don’t need to be strong.
It’s ok to show weakness! It is human and we are absolutely entitled to be weak at times. Too many of us feel like we need to be the strong ones, like we need to hold it together, and we judge ourselves for showing signs of weakness. I understand we view being weak as vulnerable and it absolutely is a very vulnerable place to be, but that does not mean that we are weak. In fact, it means that we are brave enough to face our story with grace, honesty and the natural vulnerability that is associated with loss. When we are too consumed with appearing strong, we tend to stuff our feelings and keep to ourselves. In the end, we prolong our suffering because we are not really dealing with it. Instead, we are merely postponing it and, in most cases, making it that much more difficult to deal with when it does surface. Be strong, be brave by owning the vulnerability that is associated with loss. If not now, then when?
Live in the present.
I found in my grieving that the hardest days were the days where I was not in the moment. I was either looking back with regret or nostalgia OR I was in the future forecasting how different and scary my life looked without my husband. The easiest days were the days that I stayed present. I know that it is easy to get nostalgic or to worry about the future, especially when you are faced with a whole new life, but the sooner you can bring yourself back to the present, the better off you will be. Enjoy your memories or learn your lessons from the past but don’t dwell there. It is natural to think of the past or grieve for the loss of future plans, but when we stay in that space for too long we lose touch with the present. There is no amount of regret or worry that will change your loss, but focusing on the past and future will surely prolong the grieving. I would constantly have to remind myself to be present, which meant being present with my feelings, my new reality and myself. Being present is definitely a part of, and goes hand in hand, with allowing your emotions. Be in this moment as hard as this moment is!
Own your grief story.
What I mean by this is everyone grieves in their own way. There is no set timeline or perfect picture of how grieving should look. I found that at times I would judge myself for grieving differently than others. I would question “Am I heartless because I am doing ok today?”, “Am I stuck in the grief because others are doing ok?” When I was in this place I would criticize my grieving, which made things that much more difficult. Your grief story is your grief story, whether you move through with ease or find yourself stuck in a certain stage, it is absolutely alright. Trust, you will process things at your speed and capacity. Don’t add to your suffering by comparing yourself to others, good or bad.
Side note: I would like to add to this that if you feel like you are stuck and can’t move past then definitely reach out for support. If you are moving through, but not at the pace you would expect, stop judging. Be kind to yourself and have compassion for the serious work you are doing.
Although this is a difficult time and you may wonder what on earth could I be grateful for, then that is the exact reason you should try to practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude has an amazing power to lift our spirits; it shifts from negative thinking to something more positive. I had already been dabbling in gratitude practices before I lost my husband and, through my grieving, I started a daily practice. Each night I would find at least 5 things to be grateful for.
Somedays it will be easy, somedays it may be a struggle, but the rewards of practicing gratitude are so worth the effort. No matter how big or small there is always something to be grateful for.
Grieving is something that we will all go through in our lives to some degree. It is a difficult process on its own, so we don’t need to add to it by making the process any harder than it already is. These suggestions, from my experience, are a way to find grace in the grieving process.