One of the overall common themes this past year for nearly everyone I know, has been grief. From the loss of graduation celebrations to activities with friends, to jobs, to the hundreds of thousands who have lost loved ones, the losses experienced have been countless. One of the unique aspects of 2020, and there have been many, is the fact that these losses, on some level, have been experienced by everyone. We are not alone in our grief. We are a grieving community, a grieving country, a grieving world.
Like all experiences of grief, we will not simply forget with time or just eventually get over it, but we can, and we will get through it. We can get through it, we can heal, and we can become stronger and more resilient because of our experience.
Grieving is so multi-dimensional and impacts every aspect of our being. It’s our mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical response to loss. According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, there are Five Stages to Grief: 1. Denial, 2. Anger, 3. Bargaining, 4. Depression, and 5. Acceptance. These stages are not necessarily linear and it’s possible to cycle through them over and over again.
The value, as I see it and as I’ve experienced it, is in noting where I am within the stages of grief and then using that knowledge to take action toward acceptance and healing. I believe that healing is one of the stages that is missing from this model.
The healing stage, the stage where we start to grow in our strength and resilience, the stage where we begin to recover from the devastation of the loss, is only possible once we’ve reached the acceptance stage. Acceptance may come quickly for some, and yet may be a long process for others. Some will reach acceptance and cycle back into denial, possibly repeatedly.
The healing stage, however, is generally slow and can be quite painful in and of itself, regardless of how quickly we may have reached the acceptance stage. This stage requires action.
Here are 7 tips to that will help you gain more strength and resilience as you move through the healing process:
- Give Yourself Permission to Grieve: Allow yourself the time and space to heal. Giving yourself permission and time to heal is an critical part of the grieving process.
- Cry, It’s Good for You: Crying is healthy and a natural part of the grieving process. If you’re feeling emotional, don’t hold back. Keeping it all in may make it worse and could make it harder to move forward in the healing process. Not everyone will need to cry to process their grief, but for those who do, it will help.
- Talk About It: Talking about it will help release some of the intense emotions that are associated with grief. One of the signs that we are healing is when we lose the desire or need to talk about it.
- Write it Down: Journaling your thoughts and feelings is a healthy way of expressing the way you feel and honoring your grief. Studies have shown that writing and journaling can improve our mental health.
- Get connected: Support groups are powerful. Talking about our grief is helpful but talking about our grief with others who are experiencing similar losses or going through the same process, will give you even more strength and resilience.
- Count Your Blessings: It may be hard at first but focusing on the things that you’re grateful for will help you process any negative emotions. In fact, there are often blessings that are overlooked when all we are doing is focusing on our losses.
- Get Professional Help: This will be beneficial, especially if you find yourself stuck somewhere in the grieving cycle. For many, the entire healing and recovery process will be much more manageable with help from a professional counselor or therapist.
While it’s important to be mindful of the impact of grief and the grieving process, there is no specific timetable for healing grief. One of the most important things you can do is allow yourself time to grieve, be kind and gentle with yourself, and seek professional help if you find yourself stuck. Taking action will help you move forward no matter what stage you are experiencing.
KJ Foster, PhD, LMHC, CAP is a leading expert on fostering resilience for overall health and wellbeing. Dr. Foster specializes in working with individuals and family members who are impacted by substance use issues, helping them to effectively communicate from a place of forgiveness and compassion, instead of anger and shame. She is an author, speaker, and YouTube creator. Her latest book is entitled Fostering Resilience for the Family in Recovery: A Guide to Helping You and Your Loved One Get Out of the Swamp of Substance Abuse and Addiction. For more information visit www.drkjfoster.org