No one wants to be sad. In fact, we spend a good part of our life in the general pursuit of happiness, doing anything we can to avoid sadness, heartache, discomfort and pain. That is, until someone we love dies. And suddenly, not only does happiness feel so far out of reach, we may find ourselves actively (if not always consciously) avoiding grief.
The thing is, it’s not just about losing someone we love. This was someone we counted on. This was the one who helped us make decisions, or who supported us no matter what we did. This was someone who knew us like no one else, and who loved us anyway. Someone who was such a part of our daily life, that when their life ended, our life feels like it ended too.
So who would want to think about that? With so much lost and so much sadness, isn’t avoiding grief, or at least trying desperately to push down or push away the overwhelming emotions, the only thing that would make sense?
Of course there is the other end of the spectrum – those people who feel a prisoner to the grieving thoughts. Who would welcome some avoidance, or even just a short respite from the grief, if only they knew how.
Somewhere between avoidance and floundering there could be a place that allows a griever to sit with their grief without being totally and completely swept away by it.
But before we get to that, let’s look at some of the ways people may be avoiding grief and why it doesn’t work:
Continue reading “Avoiding Grief: Why It Doesn’t Work”
Every loss is different, and few people understand this better than the survivors of suicide and overdose. How a griever copes can often depend on who they lost, how old their loved one was when they died and how it happened. And for survivors, the “how it happened” can become as consuming as the loss itself.
Losing a loved one to suicide and overdose brings with it challenges that other grievers may not have to face, and for some, support can be especially hard to find. Recognizing and getting validation for these obstacles can be an important part of a survivor’s healing.
Here are 5 things that only a survivor of suicide or overdose may be able to understand:
Continue reading “Suicide & Overdose: 5 Things only Survivors Understand”
The challenges of living and coping with loss can seem insurmountable on a day-to-day basis. Trying to get through life while being assaulted by a never-ending stream of unexpected triggers is something every griever can relate to.
Still, there’s no doubt that some days and some dates are more foreboding than others. Anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and special occasions…not to mention the dreaded anniversary of the loss itself. When coping with loss, what is the best way to handle the days that bring with them the possibility of additional hardship?
Continue reading “Coping with Loss: When Planning to Be Sad Helps”
Everything changes after the loss of a spouse or partner. For many, this was the person we spent most of our time with. This is who we made our plans with…the one who shared our worries. Every part of our past, present, and future revolved around this person, and to be without them is harder, sadder, and lonelier than we ever could have guessed.
And here’s the thing…not only is it harder than we could have thought; the people we spend time don’t always seem to recognize the depth and duration of this loss. This can be felt any time someone tries to cheer us up, smooth it over, or make it better. Our loved ones are well intentioned, there’s no doubt, but here is what most grievers who have lost a spouse would want those around them to understand:
Continue reading “Loss of a Spouse: 5 Things Only a Widow/er Understands”
Regret: it’s an emotion we can all relate to and something we have experienced many times prior to the loss of a loved one. What’s interesting about regret is that it can come as equally with action as it does with inaction. We can regret doing something as much as we can regret having done nothing at all.
In life before loss, however, there is always the sense that tomorrow is another day. That even if we took the wrong path there would always be the chance to set things right.
I often say nothing can prepare us for the finality of loss, and I think in this same way nothing can compare with the powerlessness and frustration of wanting to go back and do things over or do things “right”. How hard it is for a griever to live with the fact that because of the finality of this loss, whatever went “wrong” can never be changed.
We can get stuck in this frustration. And we can punish ourselves for the things we “should” have done, the things we feel we “should” have said, the things we wish we’d done differently…
There are many reasons a griever may be feeling regret, but here are just a few examples:
Continue reading “Regret & Loss: When Remorse Hinders Healing”
Our worlds can become very small after the loss of a loved one. Grief can create blinders that make it hard to see past anything but our own pain and anguish. It can be challenging to get the help we need and to know how to be supportive…in the past we may have turned to friends and family when we’re hurting, but what happens when they’ve also been
impacted by this loss? Can we get the help we need, and is it possible to be supportive when we’re grieving too?
Continue reading “How to Be Supportive When You’re Grieving Too”
When I first started facilitating bereavement groups, I sort of assumed that people would be coming for help for “just” one loss. Of course one loss is more than enough…it’s already too much. Yet so many grievers I met were experiencing multiple losses.
And while in most of my writings the word “loss” pertains only to the physical loss of a person, for the sake of this piece I’m going to discuss all types of losses. Because let’s face it, as hard as the tangible loss of a loved one is, so can the other losses we experience in life add up and tear us down just as swiftly.
Here are a few examples of the multiple losses a griever can face:
Continue reading “Multiple losses: How to Cope with Loss & Change”
If you read the comments in the forums of Grief in Common, you’ll see that when grievers are given an opportunity to share their story, they will talk about who they lost, when it happened, and the circumstances surrounding the loss. And besides their grief the one thing that so many of these grievers have in common is the “end” of their story, where they say, “and now I just don’t know what to do…”
For some there is a “to-do” list on the other side of loss. The planning of the memorial service perhaps, or the settling of the estate. There are closets to be cleaned out, thank you cards to write and phone calls to be made. I find for most there is a paradox in the chores that follow loss. While tedious and tiresome, sad and somber, there’s still something to be said for the role these chores play in keeping a griever on track in the beginning, and the way that they keep the deceased in their daily life, plans and conversation.
But eventually everything on the to-do list gets crossed off and there’s nothing actually left to do, but grieve.
And what does that look like? Crying all the time? Pining, longing and yearning? Because in the beginning everything about the grieving is a verb, an action – something to do. But eventually there comes a point where that changes and it feels like a noun- a thing: the grief. And what’s a person “to do” with that?
Continue reading “What To Do If You Don’t Know What To Do After Loss”
The 5 Stages of Grief (as originally established by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) may be one of the most widely sited tools of grief- it’s also one of the more misunderstood and questioned. These days, experts in the field of grief and loss hesitate to offer anything that resembles a timeline for fear that it creates unrealistic expectations for how a griever “should” cope. And with good reason. Grief is too individual and too different from one person to the next. Yet, as the stages of grief suggest, there are commonalities found amongst grievers and if I were to add one final stage, I would add loneliness to the list.
Continue reading “Loneliness: 5 “Don’ts” If You’re Lonely After Loss”
Delayed grief…some grievers may wonder why they’re starting to experience their grief more intensely when it’s been several years since their loss. Rather than feeling they are getting “better”, they may find that they are crying more, withdrawing from friends and family, and perhaps feeling even less accepting of what’s happened.
How can this be? With more time to process, more time to experience life without a loved one, and more time to re-learn what this new life looks like…why would it suddenly feel like it’s harder to cope? And is it normal?
Continue reading “Delayed Grief: When Grief Gets Worse”