Losing someone or something important in your life can be one of the most challenging and life-altering events you may face. It can profoundly affect your career, personal life, physical health, mental well-being, and spiritual connection.
Coping with a loss is never easy, but with the right guidance and support, it is possible to find your way through and emerge stronger on the other side. Here are some essential tips on how to find your way through life-altering loss:
1. Allow Yourself to Feel
When you are grieving, it is normal to experience a wide range of emotions. There is a misconception that when you are grieving, you only experience heavier emotions; that is untrue. You can laugh, be amused and then, at the moment next, feel great sadness. Remember, there is no one right way to grieve. You are practicing being non-judgmental toward yourself and giving yourself space and time to be in what is in that moment.
When our feelings are swirling or bubbling, expressing them can be a real blessing in our healing process. The energetic shift in your body is an actual release of chemicals felt in your nervous system.
Our body is always working to protect us and return to homeostasis. Trust yourself and allow the natural processes to happen.
Loss can threaten our sense of safety and security in the world. When this happens, the way we see life has been disrupted. We are processing so much information consciously and subconsciously. If we don’t stop to feel, the emotions can become buried and manifest in real health concerns later.
Allowing yourself to feel the pain and sadness that comes with losing attachment to someone, something is essential. Create safe times in your day where you can privately explore your emotions.
You are human, and grief is a part of the human experience. Know that your strength will come from your vulnerability in feeling your feelings.
2. Seek Support
A support system is crucial during this difficult time as you process the loss. Many cultures worldwide emphasize that processing grief is best done in a community. Rituals are part of the healing journey, where people come together to honour the loss publicly and support the grieving person. Grief is shared, not hidden. Adapting to the cycles of life and death can be taxing when done in isolation.
We have all grieved. Open your mind to realize this truth.
Anyone who has loved or dreamed or even laughed in a joyous moment has grieved the loss of that experience. I caution you to realize that while people want to support you, not everyone is skilled at listening. If you reach out to someone, one strategy is to preface the conversation by telling them they don’t have to say anything, that you need to talk out your thoughts, or that you need a hug or to go on a quiet walk together. Helping them know what you need will teach them how to support you and reduce the chance of withdrawing because you feel they didn’t hear you.
Change is inevitable. We will all be impacted by the loss of changing circumstances, people, and abilities. There is evidence supporting how our connections are the source of happiness, so please keep trying to reach out to family, friends, or professionals like myself, who can provide the guidance and support you need to navigate your loss. You don’t have to go through this alone.
3. Take Care of Your Physical Health
Loss can affect your physical health, so taking care of your body is essential even though you may not want to leave your bed or get off your couch. Symptoms of grief that people often do not realize involve changes in concentration, the ability to organize time and process information, periods of interrupted sleep, and much more.
The expectations around activities of daily living, such as working, caring for family, and managing household responsibilities, will likely need to be adjusted. When people offer to help, look for practical ways to respond, such as providing them with a grocery list, the route for walking the dog, picking the kids up from school or going with you to the bank or appointments to assist in notetaking.
Your appetite may be affected, be aware and choose, regardless, to eat well, get enough rest, and engage in physical activity. This will help you to manage stress and improve your overall well-being.
Start small and recognize every small action you took to care for yourself. Small steps taken regularly yield big results.
4. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is crucial during times of loss. Just like taking care of your physical self, consider your whole self, sit quietly and ask yourself what you need to support your mental and emotional well-being. Simplify the ways you approach self-care. Engaging in activities that bring you joy will help you relax, such as reading, listening to music, looking at the sky and spending time in nature.
Self-care also involves setting boundaries on your energy and time, which will fluctuate during grief. Try this activity, put your hand on your heart, and tune in to your rhythm; this will help invite peace into your moment and, done regularly, bring more peace into life.
Ask your heart for direction, and listening to what you need from moment to moment will help you to maintain a sense of harmony.
5. Be Open to Finding Meaning in your Loss
I am offering a disclaimer here – Each human experiences life and death and the complex journey in between differently depending on our culture, economic structures, religious beliefs and practices and more.
Not all loss will bring great philosophical shifts, enlightenment, profound insights and personal healing. In reality, some people will carry pain and grief for a long time, if not their entire lives. People may turn to spiritual beliefs to explain challenges in life and karma. We all approach life and death influenced by our culture and death systems.
Also, there are social justice issues and inequity inherent in processing grief. Consider the workplace bereavement policies—most leave policies cover three days for losing your closest family. There needs to be more support in workplaces. Some people are blessed with more resources.
Financial resources allow some people with the ability to take time off of work or hire help to subcontract the tasks involved in maintaining work-life balance.
Some people have emotional resources, those relationships with people who are a source of love, care and involvement. Having resources available allows the person to explore their grief and dedicate themselves to healing.
And considering all of these elements, although it may be difficult, trying to find meaning in your loss can contribute to depth and richness in living life after loss.
When you witness your strength, this can be extremely empowering as you face future hardships.
Reimagining your life after loss can be challenging when you are deep in that place. Yet, the slightest spark of hope can light a new path forward and develop a new sense of purpose.
Consider what lessons you may have learned from your grief experience and how you can use these lessons to grow and develop as a person. You cannot go back to before the loss. Grief provides each of us a moment to emerge wiser, more compassionate and more resilient.
Remember, healing takes time, and with the proper support and guidance, it is possible to learn to integrate all of life’s human experiences on this soul journey we are all on together.
If you’re struggling to find your way through life-altering loss and want to help reimagine your life and connect with who you are now, don’t hesitate to contact Kelly MacLellan, MSc Rehabilitation Counsellor, at www.embraceyourlife.ca and book a complimentary call. Her expert guidance and support can help you navigate the challenges and find a path to healing and growth.