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Understanding & Coping With Loss
Grief. A five-letter word all of us have experienced but may not fully understand.
It manifests in different ways for numerous reasons. Whether you get a pit in your stomach, feel the urge to cry at any moment, or even feel numb to all emotion, this is a way your body & mind are adjusting to a tragic event or death of someone you know.
While loss is a normal part of life, it only happens occasionally, making it feel especially uncomfortable and even maybe abnormal.
“It is helpful to understand that losses and stressors are not a sign that life is not working but rather is how life works,” says Grant Clowers, LCSW, Clinical Services Supervisor with Carson Tahoe Behavioral Health Services. “Difficulties may last longer than we want but they are always temporary. Remembering that any difficulty or loss is a part of a larger picture can be extremely helpful.”
The good news (we should all keep this in our back pocket for a rainy day) is that things are likely to get better in the future and there is always more to the present than difficult experiences.
“One of the most powerful things we can do is accept all of reality: yes there are trying, even painful experiences happening right now, and there are beautiful and meaningful things as well,” Clowers says. “Accepting both the painful piece of the puzzle and the bigger picture is a way of putting loss in a larger, more helpful context. “
3 Things To Consider When Grieving (And Keep Reminding Yourself Of)
- Be patient and give yourself grace. If you wear the same t-shirt every day for a week and can’t bring yourself to be in a room full of people, so be it. If you can’t get yourself to cry, even if you feel extremely sad, don’t worry about it. Just as you do not want to be judged by others, do not judge or put pressure on yourself to look or feel a certain way while going through trauma or loss.
- Really lean into your feelings. Nothing is off limits. You are allowed to be upset, sad, angry, etc. If you do not let yourself fully experience those emotions, they may linger longer than they need to. Rising and falling emotions is a way of your mind processing the situation at hand.
- Look at the bigger picture. A powerful way to work on this is to take the time to reflect: here’s what’s happening that is difficult and here’s what’s happening that is good and helpful. The key thing is to actually practice accepting reality, both the painful and the positive.
3 Things To Consider When Trying to Help Someone who is Grieving
- Listen more than you advise. Ever heard that we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak? It’s true. Sometimes people who are experiencing great loss just need to vent or release emotion. We all know there’s not much (if anything) we can do to lessen the loss. So, instead, we should try to be empathetic and provide them a safe space as opposed to trying to “fix” their problem. P.S. While being that support for someone who is grieving, you may find yourself trying to relate to what they are going through by sharing your own experience, with the goal to make them feel less alone. While the intention is pure, the best thing to do is listen and sit in the darkness with them.
- Offer help, when they want it. Maybe it’s a simple statement … “I’m here if you need anything, just say the word.” Sure a casserole or sympathy card is always welcome, but again, try not to be overly invasive. Some people may crave space while they move through their emotions, and some may want someone there to help care for them in various ways. Just remember, different strokes for different folks.
- Avoid extreme positivity & extreme negativity. You are there to offer hope and understanding for their hurt. It’s a tough balance, but you can let the person experiencing grief guide the conversation. This way, you may be able to better gauge the type of support that person needs in the moment.
“When we experience disappointments with fundamental parts of life such as relationships, work, hopes and dreams we understandably can feel sad, afraid, and even angry,” Clowers adds. “Accepting that life is both disappointing and deeply fulfilling, and that the disappointments do not override the positives or possibilities is an important part of the path to realistic happiness.”
Remember that grief is normal, but it doesn’t make it any easier to go through. If you, or someone you know, needs a little guidance, please visit CarsonTahoe.com/BHS. Carson Tahoe offers individual and group therapy, as well as other mental health resources to help you digest those tough situations.