You are hurting, feeling grief stricken and in pain. You may be in shock from the loss of a loved one, a relationship, or other loss.
A vast 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 seem 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 time to give yourself space to feel. Grief is uncomfortable, yes, but it is time to experience 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.
It 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, emotion by emotion.
Grief is often wet...and if you can shed tears now, that can be the beginning of healing.
Give space to your feelings.
It is a time to be with yourself and your feelings. It is 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 help you rehydrate 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 your grief and pain. You may have been told to be strong, to "act like a man."
At this point, follow our recommendations, even if there aren't real 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 and be digested.
Trust Your Process
Each of us is on our unique journey, unlike anyone else's. We have our timing, which may be 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, 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." They may tell you to "be strong,""chin up." "get on with it," or even "cheer up."
In fact you may need 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 hefty weight. People who grieve often need to stay physically close to the ground...on the floor, on a bed, feeling the weight of it, the gravity of it.
The suggestions on this page and this website can help you
move on your journey, cope with grief and move 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. Grieving is hard work, and you need to care for your physical health. 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 orient in time and space), and easy. Walking gets your whole body moving. breathing and releasing.
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 pain sooner than you can, and they may make unhelpful suggestions, but friends can help you work through your feelings by being faithful listeners and 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 emotional pain 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 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 unique rhythm and timing, its phases or seasons. While your grief recovery journey is different than mine, there are common emotional states we all go through. And there are certain things, such as those suggested on this page, that can make your journey easier and richer. For information on Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' Stages of Grief go to Stages of Grief.
For more advice on coping with grief, you might want to see this page on Handling 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 think about getting some grief counseling from a therapist.
You might also consider one of the retreats that I lead on grief and loss. Our grief recovery retreats are a loving environment to heal pain and loss. At the retreats, 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, primarily 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