You are hurting, feeling grief stricken and in pain. You may be in shock from the loss of a loved one, or of a relationship, or some other loss.
A huge change has occurred: You may never be the same.
You are vulnerable and going through what may feel like an endless ordeal. You may be stuck in it and it may feel like an eternity. It may feel like you will never get better.
I am sorry.
The pain of loss cuts deep. It can immobilize us with its heavy burden. Grief is heavy: it weighs us down.
Here are some suggestions for coping with grief
This is a good time to give yourself space to feel. Grief is uncomfortable, yes, but it is time to feel your sorrow and hurt feelings. The first step in grief recovery is to feel your pain, not medicate it or avoid it.
It may feel overwhelming, but the more you tighten against it and hold grief back, the longer you are stuck.
This is not the time to run away from it or take drastic action. It is a time to feel. Your feelings will help you navigate the seasons of grief.
But you don't have to deal with the whole weight of grief at this moment. You can digest it slowly–bit by bit, moment by moment,breath by breath, feeling by feeling.
Grief is often wet...and if you can shed tears now, that can be the beginning of healing.
Give space to your feelings.
This is a time to be with yourself and your feelings. It is a time to take care of yourself and make space. Space to feel, to open up, to let tears come, and to breathe.
Yes, breathe. Deep, slow in-breaths from your belly, and slow relaxed exhales, sometimes with a "sigh of relief" and sometimes silent. Breathing like this makes space for your feelings, aerates them, and makes it easier to cope with your sorrow. It helps you go gradually from grief stricken into the grieving process.
Water and Air are healing at this time. The cleansing effect of the river of tears helps wash away the pain of being grief stricken and speeds you towards grief recovery. And conscious breathing has numerous health and psychological benefits.
Drinking extra water can be helpful to rehydrate you from crying, and help flush toxins from your system.
What if you can't shed tears?
Men in particular have difficulty crying...we're taught early on not to be a "cry baby." You may have forgotten how to cry, and learned how to suppress feelings of grief and pain. You may have been told to be strong, to "act like a man."
At this point, follow the recommendations, even if there aren't physical tears. If needed, cleansing tears will come at the appropriate time.
Sometimes when we are grief stricken, we are not yet ready for tears. We may feel dead, empty, numb. This is a way that our body-mind is trying to protect us and separate us from the pain. Being spacious and gentle with yourself will gradually allow some feelings to emerge to be digested.
Trust your Process
Each of us is on our own journey, unlike anyone else's. We have our own timing, with each phase slower or faster than others.
How long should you grieve? "Long enough."
Many of us have received poor advice. Some people can't handle being around grief and so they may avoid you or even say something like "get over it!" to try to get you to be back to your "old self." You may be told to "be strong", "chin up","get on with it" or even "cheer up."
In fact what you may need is the opposite...to fully explore your feelings so you can move forward in your life.
Grief is the heaviest of the emotions. And coping with grief is tiring...it's like carrying around a very heavy weight. People who grieve often stay low...on the floor, on a bed, feeling the weight of it, the gravity of it.
The suggestions on this page and in this website can help you
move on your journey, coping with grief and moving through your grief
Pay attention to your physical health
You may not feel like eating and taking care of yourself when you are grief stricken but put effort into your wellness. Grieving is hard work and you need to take care. This is a time for healthy eating, exercise, getting enough sleep, and not turning to alcohol or other drugs.
Gentle movement, such as walking, can be valuable now. Walking is ideal, it is grounding (helping you be oriented in time and space), and gentle, but gets the full body moving and breathing.
Spend time with friends
You are going through a lot, and it can be helpful if you can find a supportive friend to be with you at this grief stricken time. Your friends may want you to get over your grief sooner than you are able to, and they may make unhelpful suggestions, but friends can help you work through your feelings by being a faithful listener and by giving you time, love and attention.
Find ways to express your pain.
Another helpful way to digest grief and shift from being grief stricken to consciously carrying your grief is through creative expression. Journaling about your grief, painting it or using another art medium, or any other creative channel can be helpful in working it through, and in revealing the deep wisdom within it.
"Truly, it is in darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us." Meister Eckhart
Grief has its own rhythm and timing, its own phases or seasons. While your grief recovery journey is different than mine, there are common stages we all go through. And there are certain things, such as those suggested on this "grief stricken" page, that can make your journey easier and richer, and uncover your own meaning of grief.
Getting Help–Grief and Loss Retreat
If it feels like you've been grief stricken for a long time, or there is a part of you stuck in past pain, then you might consider getting some grief counseling from a therapist. You might also consider one of the retreats that I lead on grief and loss.
This grief recovery retreat creates a loving environment to heal our pain and loss. At the retreat a small group of people join together to express unexpressed feelings and heal old pain. For more details go to Grief and Loss and other Difficult Emotions Retreat.
Getting Help–Long Distance Grief Counseling
If you are unable to attend a retreat, Jon offers Grief Counseling using the telephone and Skype. For more information go to the Grief Counseling Page.
Jon Terrell, MA is a psychotherapist who leads retreats for emotional healing, especially focusing on those who are grief stricken. He has an office in Northampton Massachusetts and in downtown Manhattan.
If you have any questions about any of the programs leave a message for Jon Terrell through the form below.
Jon Terrell, M.A.
25 Main Street, Suite #342
40 Exchange Place, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10005