“We begin life as a raindrop on the mountainside, then follow a winding path along the river of life, until we reach the sea, the ocean of consciousness, our home.” ~ Peter Shepherd
Holidays and special occasions make us remember people that are special to us. This time of year is especially poignant, even traumatic, for some. You may find you are managing grief as you head into the holiday season. You will find plenty of evidence on social media to convince you that everyone else is happily celebrating. Remember the reality – this social media snapshot of life depicts only a sliver of what is real. The truth is that almost everyone misses someone around this time of year. Those that don’t yet grieve WILL undoubtedly face this in their future.
I want you to know this: there is no timeline for your grief. You are not expected to ever ‘get over’ your loss. A better phrase is ‘coming to terms’ with it. For many reasons, you might return to the early stages of grief well after you thought you were ‘done’ (acceptance and hope). This return might happen YEARS after the loss or death of a loved one.
Here is the grief model we call the 7 Stages of Grief:
- SHOCK & DENIAL- You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief.
- PAIN & GUILT
- ANGER & BARGAINING
- “DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS
- THE UPWARD TURN
- RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH
- ACCEPTANCE & HOPE
These stages apply when the loss is a pet. They apply to miscarriage. They apply to divorce. They apply to lost time with children as a result of divorce. It is also possible to have profound grief over something you did not have – such as a safe, nurturing childhood.
Many of us are many miles away from our deceased, making it impossible to visit their grave and/or places that hold our memories of them. This can be an obstacle for grief, making it seem disjointed and even unreal. We can manage this de-realized state by creating remembrance.
5 Ways to Make your Grief More Bearable
- Figure out a ritual to remember your loved one by. Do this on their birthday, on special occasions, or whenever you need to. (Look at photos if you’re ready, write them a letter, buy a plant in their honor, use a concrete object for remembrance such as a piece of jewelry).
- Give yourself time to feel sad and cry when necessary. This will subside. It is a temporary feeling. Simply allow the stage of grief you are in to exist.
- If possible, talk to someone who knew your loved one and share a story. If this is not possible, connect with someone that is kind and listens to how you feel.
- If you find your day is consumed by grief, make a plan to SET ASIDE time to grieve. (Example: write and meditate in the morning. Example: journal and pray at night.) Tell yourself this space is just for you – to honor your grief – and focus on getting done what is needed for the rest of the day.
- Try to maintain compassion, try to focus on your heart-centered approach to others. Your grief is unique, your story is unique, and no one can be exactly in your shoes. Things people say might feel dismissive, even rude. Know they are likely doing their best, as we all are. Being compassionate with self and others will allow a gentleness in this difficult journey.
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