No matter how ‘tough’ or resilient you might be, grief can be overwhelming for most of us. It’s like a shroud of darkness that descends upon you, shutting out every little source of light. Unfortunately, there are plenty of circumstances that can cause us to experience grief – from the loss of a loved one, to the end of a relationship, or the loss of livelihood. While grieving is natural, how we cope with it makes all the differences. No matter how prepared you may think you are, grief throws up a flurry of emotions that make almost no sense, from anger and disbelief, to shock, guilt, betrayal, and a deep sense of loss.
While the most obvious impact of grief is emotional turmoil, grief also takes a toll on your physical and mental health. You are less likely to eat healthy, exercise, or get adequate sleep, and you are also more vulnerable to depression. This makes it important for us to learn how to cope with grief and eventually get past it. Hopefully, my own experience with loss and grief will help you get through yours.
How I Went Through 5 Stages Of Grief
I was 17 when I lost my best friend. We were friends for just 4 to 5 years before she became an important part of my life. We didn’t spend our childhood together, but it didn’t matter – we were inseparable. I couldn’t fathom life without her, until I had to spend it without her. She was a happy soul, and could brighten up the room with her mere presence. But depression is a silent killer and in time it would steal her from me.
This was one of the hardest experiences of my life and I actually did go through the five cliché (yet totally true) stages of grieving, starting with denial. I don’t know if I couldn’t or didn’t want to accept the fact that one day I was on a call with my best friend and the next day she was gone and I would never hear from her again. It was all beyond my comprehension, and it took me quite some time to realize that as bad as it was, it really did happen.
The next step to after this realization was rage. I was snappy, frustrated and in zero control of myself. This was of course, accompanied by guilt and self-blame. I should have been there for her and should have seen the warning signs! I raged against everything and everyone – god, the universe, or whatever force had taken my only friend away from me. The anger was followed by bargaining, and I just wanted her back and in return, I was ready to give up anything. If only life were that simple!
With the acceptance of the futility of any effort to change the past and bring her back, came depression. This was the hardest to cope with and it also lasted the longest. It was emotionally and physically draining, leaving me with no energy or motivation to do even the most mundane tasks. I was depressed for about two years before I finally accepted the fact that I had lost my best friend and there was no bringing her back.
In time, and with the support of others, I began to realize that I was wasting my life and wallowing in my misery. I knew that this I was in a situation where my best friend would have hated me to be. I wasn’t honoring her or doing myself any favors by continuing in this manner. That’s when I made a conscious effort to overcome and move past the grief. It was difficult at first, but I found some coping methods that resonated and helped me get my life together. Here are a few strategies that might help you too.
Express: The first step out of depression is the hardest, but I did muster the courage. I expressed what I my feelings, opening up to my parents and this helped the most. Stop trying to suppress or control your emotions. Express yourself in ways you feel are the best and are comfortable in. Talk to a friend or someone you trust. Cry if you need to. Don’t be scared to listen to particular songs or visit certain places or do certain things. It will bring back memories, but it will become less painful eventually .
Lean On To Your Friends: After months of denial, depression, and keeping to myself, I decided to leave the house and meet my friends to see how they were doing. Diverting my mind for a few hours every week was truly helpful.
You need your friends and family now, more than ever. Accept the assistance, condolences, support, and care they’re willing to offer. All too often, people want to help but don’t know what to do, so tell them what you need – whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, help with something, or just someone to hang out with. Be grateful for the people in your life who love you and are there to support you. Of course, if you’re feeling isolated and don’t have too many strong relationships, remember that it’s never too late to make new friends .
Dwell Deeper In Faith: Prayer isn’t something that I tried, but it could help you. If you are a religious person, your faith can be a source of immense comfort. If you are an atheist or agnostic, have faith in yourself. Faith doesn’t have to be spiritual, but can be centered on beliefs in the goodness of humanist and so on. Your faith can be channeled into positive outlets like exercise, philanthropy, and other enriching hobbies .
Be Gentle With Yourself: I felt like i was working in extremes – either I was expecting too much of myself or was simply coasting along. After agonizing over this at first I eventually accepted the extremes. Grieving is tough time and it can feel like the end of the world, so you should be gentle on yourself. At the same time, remember that you do need to break the cycle eventually. Start with small victories – take naps, eat healthy food, keep yourself away from substances that may harm you like alcohol and drugs. Most importantly, smile and actively seek enjoyment without feeling guilty .
Reminders: Put reminders on your phone, use sticky notes, tell your friends to shake you out of the rut. Daily or periodic reminders to yourself can help to rewire your brain, making it easier to overcome feelings of sadness and guilt. This may seem silly and almost absurd, but it really does help.
Seek Professional Help: I’ll be honest. Despite all my exposure to social media commentary on depression and the need for professional help, I had a mental block and resisted help for the longest time. In hindsight, delaying seeking help actually cost me years. Psychologists, counselors, and therapists can help you confront and deal with problems that you may not even realize affect you. Seeking professional help was like a breath of fresh air. If you’re unsure about this, try online therapy or on-call consultation.
If there’s one takeaway from all this, it’s that time does actually heal. At the same time, you need to make a conscious effort to cope with and overcome grief or you never will.