Grief: How To Keep Going When All Is Lost
Some time ago, my family received some devastating, life-changing news. It was expected in one sense but as it usually is with grief, knowing what may happen doesn’t really ease the shock when it does actually happen.
Hearing the words of the news can be a jumble: shock, denial, relief even. Time can seem to slow right down and you’re stood watching people go about their every day lives, knowing yours has just fallen apart.
After I received the news, I found myself looking online for things that might help to ease the crushing sadness and despair I felt, but there wasn’t much that helped, so I wrote this. Maybe it will be of some comfort for you too.
1. Acknowledge that you feel lost.
Everything is shifting. Your life direction – you thought was solid, or hoped was solid – has suddenly changed. The very foundations of your life, your day to day activities, your closest relationships, maybe even your faith in God or the universe is shaken. Shaking.
It’s going to take a while for the dust to settle. It will likely last longer than when concerned friends and family have stopped asking how you are and what they can do to help. Go at your own pace – there is no timetable for healing.
2. Allow space your grief.
Sadness, confusion, shock, bewilderment, anger, relief, fear, hope, numbness – just as there is no timetable for healing, there is also no certainty about what you may feel as you gradually take in and come to accept what has happened.
There is no right way and no wrong way to feel. Allow the feelings to rise. Each one will pass eventually. Rushing yourself to change can prolong the process. You feel what you feel for a reason.
3. Seek support
Grief can be so isolating. It’s so easy to feel like nobody gets it – and that’s true to some extent. Nobody can know your grief in quite the way you will. However, there are people out there who are able to hear you and hold you through these bleak days. Perhaps you have trusted friends and relatives that can sit quietly with you in your distress without moving to offer advice or cheer you up. Not everybody does have that person in their lives and professional support from a counsellor or bereavement and loss specialist may be beneficial.
4. Find ways to support yourself
Support from others is important, and they can’t heal for you. You will need to support yourself too. What is needed will be different for each person. Take a few moments to think about what has helped in the past when you have been having a difficult time, or getting in tune with yourself to find out what you need in this moment.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal can provide a sense of release. Walking in nature helps me to remember that the world is bigger than how I’m feeling – that there is space for my emotions and beautiful things still in the world.
It will be particularly important to take especially good care of your needs. Start with the basics – eating, sleeping and fresh air – baby steps.
5. Remember to look for the little good things.
This idea may annoy you. At first they may be tiny. Notice them anyway.
6. Keep allowing space for your feelings as you begin to move forward.
Know that moving forwards is different to “getting over it”. Now this change has happened, it will be part of your life story. You will carry it with you as part of who you are. At first, the great big ball of grief will consume you. Over time, your new life will grow around the great big ball of grief. There will be space for happiness again when you’re ready. Keep making space for your feelings as this growth happens. Grief doesn’t go away and your emotions will continue to rise and continue to subside.
7. Positive changes.
When you’re ready, you can think about whether you want or need to make some adjustments in your life. While this change has been unwanted, it may provide an opportunity to reassess what’s important in life – to remember how short and precious life really is.
I’ll be honest, I wrote this blog post in part to anchor myself. The reality is that you can’t follow a 7 point blog post to peace but perhaps a little structure can make it slightly more bearable.