Working through grief

Working through grief

Time heals all wounds, but does it?

Trauma can become manageable over time, but not all trauma disappears. Grief – whether it is criminal victimisation, bereavement, relationship breakdown, health quarantine, a significant injury or condition – is sometimes longer lasting than others would believe. A feeling of despair doesn’t implode like a dying star. It doesn’t disappear over a good night’s sleep. Sometimes it can be a slowly fading ache in the pit of the stomach that sickens a little less with each passing moment. Trauma has no set form and no known cure. 

A method used throughout the ages of time is working through grief. Literally. It manifests itself differently depending on the individual but usually it involves education, employment, personal projects, hobbies or housework. For example, a teacher may start working longer hours on campus or taking more books home to mark or business people may stay after closing to crunch extra numbers. This is the keep busy tactic. It’s a popular one. 

There are other things that must be incorporated to the keep busy tactic to keep healthy. If not, there’s a risk of burn out. This leads to potential sleeplessness, anxiety, appetite changes, weight loss/gain, hair loss and other stress-related side-effects. 
To avoid that, stay balanced and read these top tips for managing grief as you work through it in a productive manner. Emotions will haunt us unless face head on.

Common symptoms of grief

Shock
it can be hard to accept what has happened

Sadness 
feelings of emptiness, yearning or loneliness

Fear
feeling helpless or anxious, having panic attacks, the loss of a loved one can remind us of our mortality

Guilt
regretting the things you said/didn’t say or did/didn’t do

Anger
resenting yourself, doctors, God, or the person who has died for leaving you. Blaming other people or yourself for the injustice

Physical problems
lowered immunity, weight loss or gain, insomnia, nausea

Ways We Keep Busy

Education

University courses, night classes, online studying or vocational qualifications.

Career

No matter what the job, there's always ways to find more work to do.

House work

Everyone has cooking, dirty dishes, laundry and trash to deal with.

Volunteering

Fundraising, running charitable groups, working 1:1 with people in need.

Creative

Getting stuck in to writing, artwork, gardening or making music.

New skill

Take up a new instrument, learn a new language, play a new sport or try D.I.Y.

Self develoment

Managing mental health, budgeting finances or writing a five year plan.

Sport

Regardless of what vice - running, tennis, swimming, cycling, yoga or horse riding - it's one way to keep busy.

Personal Projects

Dreamed of starting your own business, working freelance or running a website?

10 vital steps to work through grief

10 words of advice

1. Sit with the first response
This is not one emotion. Some people may feel fear, despair, rage, shock or numbness. There is not a right way to grieve no matter what the reason. Feelings cannot be avoided. Tears must be shed if they are needed and words must be shouted if only just into a pillow. 

1.  Take the time you need
Not everyone can experiece trauma or loss and then return to work the next week. Speak to your employer or your GP to assess your fitness for work. Sometimes it’s okay to take a break from life. 

2. Maintain a routine 
Time off work is normal, but it is important to keep a steady routine for waking up, showing, exercising and eating. Even if you don’t want to, there are things that you may need to grit your teeth to bare it. Opening the curtains is a good example – natural daylight helps our mood and energy levels. When we’re depressed we’re often drawn to darker places. 

2. Be wary of filling the void
With food, smoking, drinking, sex, adrenaline rushes… these are all ways to numb the brain from feeling. Avoiding the issue allows it to snowball into a larger problem. Everyone wants to disappear and hide from problems, throwing material stuff at them until it disappears. 

3. Reach out to your suppot network
Subjective to you. It may be support groups or professionals. Maybe it’s simply a trusted family member or close friend. There are so many connections we may have available; mentors, teachers, colleagues, neighbours. Use those relationships as a strength.

3. Act the opposite to how you feel
Human emotions are tricksters: sadness makes us was to isolate, anger causes us to become irrational, jealously pushes people away when really it wants a sense of closeness. Try acting against your instincts, see what happens.   

4. Seek professional help
We won’t always get the response we want or need from GPs, so it’s essential to be persistent. Mental health referrals or treatment can be difficult to obtain, so stand your ground. Getting sick notes is easy, but it doesn’t tackle the root of the problem. 

4. Look at yourself from the perspective of a close friend
Often we are harder on ourselves than we would be to those around us, even a stranger. If you’re struggling to be kind to yourself, give yourself slack, try thinking from the point of view of a person who deeply cares about you. 

5. Focus on self development
This may revolve around one area of life, or many; mental health, work, relationships, hobbies, follow your calling. 

5. Take care of yourself instead of others
Energy is often misdirected. Save some of that battery power for your own electrical supply.  

6. Return to a balanced diet
It’s okay to eat an entire box of popcorn, family size chocolate bar or live off sugar donuts for a week. You can’t do it forever. If you don’t end up sick you sure won’t have many teeth. 

6. Feel your emotions, don’t ignore them
Regardless of specific mental health conditions, every individual 

7. Get closure
Closure isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. The rumoured myth is that you require a second person for closure. Untrue. Close it yourself. 

7. Use deep breathing when tense
To diffuse tension there are varieties of mindful and paced breathing to try. Controlling the breath helps to calm the heart rhythm 

8. Move on
This doesn’t mean forgetting, ignoring or not dealing with the experience. It means accepting it for what it is. As much as you may want it to be different, without accepting things as they are, they never will change. 

8. Prioritise what matters
People and relationships are important. They are not the be-all-and-end-all of life. List the things that matter to you and number them in importance. Now work on the ones you can.

9. Try new experiences
Sometimes pain and trauma can lull us into staying in repetitive routines, avoiding engaging with anything new or outside of our comfort zone. Take advantage of life’s opportunities to learn and always try new experiences. 

9. Avoid old habits
Whatever the vices; nail biting, binge drinking, chain smoking, spree spending, the things people yearn to do to just forget yet makes life far more problematic. It’s normal to slip back after a loss, but remind yourself of the progress and keep moving. 

10. Treasure memories
Trauma and loss may feel like an emotion we would label as negative, but without the bad there would be no good. If you’ve lost a person, it shows you had a person worth losing, for how ever long that period of time lasted. Take the best moments and keep them close to your heart. 

10. Learn from your past
Loss and trauma can do one of two things; turn you against the world, or open it up. The stereotype of becoming old and bitter exists for a reason. Try to approach everything with an open heart and open arms. 

Don't give up.

Grief, loss, heartbreak and bereavement all lead to some type of mourning. Pain cannot be avoided forever. As much as we may not want to feel the despair, anguih and suffering caused by the lack of presence of a person we love deeply, there is no other way to come to terms with it. It must be known we cannot fester in those feelings. Feel them, truly feel them, without seeing only pain.

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