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How to Cope With Grief

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How to Cope With Grief

Photo by Dhivakaran S from Pexels

One of the hardest lessons of the pandemic concerns grief: both the many ways we respond to it (both as individuals and as a collective) and the varying forms it can take. In recent years, many have felt destabilized by lost jobs, routines and loved ones. Since grief is still sometimes viewed as a taboo topic, it can be difficult to articulate and process.

The sense of fear surrounding discussions about death can be dealt with similarly to how you might deal with other fears: by using known information and resources is to inform open, frank and sensitive discussion. Doing so can help break down this stigma, connect with others and hopefully find solace in the process.

Grief: It’s Complicated

According to website What’s your Grief, there can also be many types of grief, including “complicated” grief where the grieving process takes longer than anticipated, although some argue that along with the subjective nature of bereavement, this type of grief may be felt more strongly in those with depression and anxiety. Alternatively, the deceased may be someone we had a difficult relationship with, so it can be hard to know how to feel.

The important thing to remember is that unless you are “numbing out” with maladaptive coping mechanisms (such as drugs and alcohol, which can delay the process and make you feel worse), there’s really no “right” way to grieve. If you find yourself feeling self-critical, mindfulness, acceptance and self-compassion are all helpful tools within your reach.

Growing Around Grief

Assumptions and expectations about grief can make things even harder to deal with. Rather than envisaging it as a straight line, it can help to view it as something our lives “grow around”. As his short clip from the BBC demonstrates, grief has the potential to shrink or expand throughout our lives, depending on a number of different factors (including potential triggers) without ever fully going away.

One of the hardest concepts to deal with is impermanence, but this also means that everything ebbs and flows, including the initial shock of grief itself. Just as there were happier times before, there will be again, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.

Bright Lights and Helping Hands

When processing any difficult emotion, there are (unfortunately) no shortcuts, or to quote the poet Robert Frost: “the best way out is always through”. This can feel daunting, so to help you navigate what can feel like a dark and lonely time, it helps to have two things: a “bright light” (otherwise known as factual information to help guide you), and a “helping hand”, such as a therapist or online support group to help understand, validate and process your feelings.

Endnote: Finding Meaning

Many people are aware of the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief, although this is something that fluctuates: rather than moving from one stage to another we might move back and forth between the different stages throughout our lives.

A lesser-known extension of this was devised by Kubler’s colleague, David Kessler, some years after her death and shortly following the death of his 21-year-old son. All too often, we might think of death as “senseless”, but Kessler argues that beyond death itself, finding meaning can help bring us peace.

This can be done in many ways: from fondly reminiscing about loved ones to arranging a memorial service that truly honors the wishes of the deceased in a heartfelt and personal way. Discussing the practicalities surrounding death can be a helpful way to get started, which is where The Postage (specialists in wills and legacy) can help.

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