The bad news is that the grief cycle is a natural process that we must all go through when we suffer a loss.
The word “loss” is even subjective. Too often we are scared to admit that there is some grieving that has to take place, which we may reserve for when someone dies. But loss applies to many aspects of our lives. It can be felt when we lose a job, lose a relationship or lose our state of health and of course when we actually lose a loved one. Whatever the loss is, the grief cycle is present. It is well documented that grief has stages. We can go through the stages moving backward and forward throughout them, depending on what we are processing at the time. The following are some tips that you can use to help you in the grief cycle so that it doesn’t consume you.
When my husband passed, this was one of the great pieces of wisdom that was passed on to me. When we live with regrets, the shoulda, coulda and wouldas, we get stuck in a cycle of self abuse and grief. Not fun! Saying “no regrets” reminds us that we are all imperfect, we are all learning constantly and we all make mistakes. Give yourself a break and recognize that your “mistakes” are actually just opportunities to learn. Yes, there are things that you could have done differently, recognize and acknowledge them. But you also have to recognize you can’t go back and change them but you can learn from them and move on.
Forgiveness is huge! We need to come to a place where we can forgive not only the others involved, but also ourselves. When I start to really get entrenched in the grief cycle, especially the anger stage, I remind myself that forgiveness is what I need. It is important to honour the stage that you are in but recognize that it’s not healthy to stay stuck in it. Forgive yourself for having angry thoughts and realize that it is natural. Forgive the other person for their part and note you both were doing the best with what you had at the time. If you are struggling with this one I find it helpful to keep repeating to myself “I forgive myself for ….” and “I forgive (name) for ….”.
Honour your feelings
The grief cycle is a whirlwind of emotions. One minute you could be laughing at memories, the next crying and feeling overwhelmed. Honour this! You are entitled to your feelings no matter how rapidly they may change or not. It’s important to recognize them and give them space to move through you. Oftentimes we get so fearful of them consuming us that we push the emotions aside and, like a child throwing a tantrum, they are sure to get louder and stronger if we ignore them. One thing I do is acknowledge the feeling. If I am feeling angry, then I take a deep breath and breathe into the feeling and eventually it passes. I make sure to really feel into it. Lastly, I honour the fact that it is a natural feeling and that I am completely normal for having it. This process allows me to honour the feeling so that it doesn’t consume me and my thoughts.
This one can be difficult when we are in a place of suffering, but I believe there is always something to be grateful for, no matter how small. Personally speaking, after my husband passed, I have been so grateful for so many great things that have happened, not to mention being grateful for having him in my life, no matter how short a time frame that was. I often find myself appreciating certain characteristics about him and all the memories that I hold so dear. Showing gratitude is something that can bring me out of the darkest funks!
Recognize your strength!
You are strong, you are coping and you are doing your best! I know when I was going through the loss people would always comment “You are so strong,” however my internal dialogue was “I am not, I’m barely functioning.” Looking back now I was and I continue to be strong, we all are! Some days the strength is just getting out of bed, sometimes the strength shows up as moving forward. Either way, it takes strength to survive and just show up in life. Recognize this. You are a warrior!
Keeping these things in mind will help you move through the grief rather than getting stuck in it! The grief cycle is one of those things that is unique to everyone; we process it in our own time, in our own way and that is completely normal. So remember – be kind to yourself, honour the process you are going through and recognize you are strong just for showing up!