February 7, 2024

Navigating the Sea of Grief

By Alex Stewart
Mental Health & Wellbeing

Grief is a global experience that everyone must face at one time or another. It can be due to the loss of a loved one or a significant change in life. Each person’s grief journey is intricate and completely unique to them– each person will experience a wide range of emotions and challenges as they navigate grief. In this blog, we’ll review a basic understanding of the grieving process, as well as strategies to manage grief and loss in a way that is gentle and compassionate to self and the humanness of pain.

Starting the Grieving Process

The start of the grieving process is marked by the ability to not only recognize loss, but to accept the reality of it. This process is easier for some and harder for others. The precipitating event can look differently for everyone. Some examples:

  • the deathly loss of a loved one
  • breaking off a relationship whether (familial, platonic or romantic)
  • leaving a chapter behind (moving, changing jobs)
  • changing as person due to circumstances out of one’s control (health issues, injury, trauma)

Regardless of this event, acknowledging its impact and the effect it has on one’s life is a crucial step to start healing. Without being honest with yourself and others about the loss and the way it has changed your life, it is impossible to move forward.

Giving Grace

It’s important to note that acknowledging and accepting loss can trigger a variety of heavy emotions that range from sadness and guilt, to anger or confusion. One may feel like they’re on an emotional rollercoaster where feelings can feel big and overwhelming, almost uncontrollable. This period of time that feels unpredictable and emotionally exhausting for a person and the people around them is part of the process. Allowing yourself the space to feel these emotions without judgment and ascribing them as who you are is a pivotal part of the grieving process.

Ways to Cope

  • Seek Support: Connect with friends, family, or join a support group in order to share one’s feelings in a safe space, receive comfort, and know that one isn’t alone. Solitude is not a requirement of grief.
  • Professional Help: The next step up from seeking support in one’s social circle is reaching out to a mental health professional such as a therapist. Sometimes grief can be too complicated to handle on one’s own or with the health of friends and family. There is no shame in this.
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Grief is physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing. Being intentional about one’s holistic health contributes to one’s ability to manage this process with a level of resilience. This looks like prioritizing hygiene, sleep and physical activity, as well as engaging in recreational, self-fulfilling activities outside of responsibilities.
  • Honor the Loss
    • Rituals: Having regularly occurring rituals or ceremonies to celebrate or  honor a loved one or time period in one’s life can be therapeutic. Examples of this are annual events that feel relevant to the loss, creating a memorial, or being intentional about taking time to reflect.
    • Memorialization: Being able to memorialize a loved one or a time period in one’s life can be helpful. This can be done in creating a scrapbook, writing letters to the loved one or about that period of time in one’s life or contributing to a cause that is relevant to the precipitating event.

Handling Triggers

Similarly to starting the grieving process, it’s essential to be able to identify and acknowledge things that trigger emotions related to the loss. Being able to identify these triggers can help with managing those feelings, as well as giving one time to develop coping skills in order to continue on one’s grieving journey. Avoiding memories that are triggered can hinder the process as well. Discerning if one is able to not avoid and embrace some of the memories can be a healthy way to move forward. Facing these memories can look like journaling or gathering mementos.

Remember: Healing isn’t Linear

While one may want to push through the grieving process in a prompt and efficient manner, grief has no timeline. There may be periods of time that one is tired of managing the feelings that come with griefing. It’s important to remember that avoiding or rushing the grieving process can cause detrimental effects to one’s mental health and in the long run, can potentially cause the  process to be longer and more difficult. Be mindful that while the bulk of the grieving process could be finished, anniversaries and holidays can manifest seasonal grieving. There is no one way to grieve and every journey has its one length. Process waxes and wanes, and healing is never linear. Set realistic healing goals and remember to take time to celebrate them. Accepting that life will be different is critical– know that grief does not destroy one’s capacity for happiness.

Feel like you’re treading water in the sea of grief? There are tools to help you float. Reach out to our experienced therapists for guidance and support.

Written By

Alex Stewart

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