It doesn’t matter who you are or what challenges you’ve already faced. If you are grieving, you are doing the hardest work of your life. Does it feel like a fist is squeezing your heart, and you’ll never take a deep breath again? You might believe the very idea of finding happiness after a loss is impossible — perhaps even profoundly disrespectful.
The good news is that everything you are feeling is perfectly natural and lies within a well-studied continuum of grief processing that, while predictable neither in time nor order, can be identified and linked to valuable resources. Believe it or not, one of the final steps in this process is the ability to find happiness after a loss. It’s there, we promise.
How to Deal With Your Grief
Because everyone’s grief journey is unique, the following steps toward healing can be considered in any order that feels right to you. Your path from pain to finding happiness after a loss belongs to you and you alone, and these six steps can help you get there:
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- Be Patient With Yourself. You will run the gamut of grief emotions, and doing so will take time. Each stage of grief is a necessary part of the healing process and should not be rushed. Because coinciding feelings are deeply uncomfortable, it’s normal to try to minimize or suppress them. However, consider that by doing so, you are not only doing yourself a disservice, but also denying the full precious impact of your loved one’s loss.
- Honor Your Loss. The depth of your grief is a direct testament to the significance of your loved one’s life. Memorialize that role in ways that have meaning for you. Openly speak of the deceased, set aside time to sort through memories and be thankful for them. Choose a safe site where you can sit and connect fully with your grief — whatever stage you’re in.
- Ride the Wave. Emotions ebb and flow like waves in the ocean. Just as you feel you’re about to be completely taken over by the intensity of your grief, it will lessen for awhile. The goal in this step is twofold: to hold on and ride the process out. Panic or fear at sharp points of mourning often leads to avoidance behaviors.
- Add Comfort and Peace. Try to bring a bit of beauty and calm into your environment. Listen to music, cuddle with a pet, walk in the fresh air. Consider cutting fresh flowers for your home or cooking a favorite comfort food. Find a beautiful frame for your best-loved picture of the deceased. You don’t have to display it right now — it can be tucked safely away for the future.
- Connect Meaningfully. It’s neither disloyal to your loved one nor burdensome to others to create a secure web of support. Accept loving, nonjudgmental help from those you feel safe with while you’re vulnerable. Practical offers to cook, clean, watch the kids or take care of pets benefit on many levels. Acceptance of such allows you continued time and space for healing, supports your household and satisfies the desire of others to be of assistance.
- Avoid Guilt. There will come a time when you discover with shock that you have not thought about your grief journey for a short while. Or you might find yourself chuckling in response to an amusing remark. Perhaps a workout might feel so therapeutic that your body actually relaxes. This, too, is a natural part of the process. You are not forgetting your loved one — you are healing. Just as the depth of your pain is a direct result of your loved one’s impact, so is the strength of your recovery.
Mourning never truly ends. Time lessens its intensity, and circumstance allows for healing. In recovery lies the possibility of happiness after a loss — which, if you think about it, is precisely what the deceased would want for you.
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