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Twenty Tips for Good Grieving
1. Talk about your loss with friends, family or a professional counselor. Grief is a process, not an event.
2. Grief is work. Grieving requires energy and it takes time.
3. Let yourself enter the emotions of grief. Too often the natural tendency of grievers is to avoid the painful emotions of grief. Losing someone close to you means that you deserve to allow yourself to feel all your emotions — sadness, anger, intense longing, guilt, or fill in the blank ___________.
4. Consider writing a letter to your loved one. Say what you want to say to them as if it were your last chance. Whether or not you share the contents of the letter with anyone else, this exercise may help you to work through your grief.
5. Resume your life but leave time and space for grieving. Life marches on for the living and the practical necessities of life must be attended to. Try to resist the temptation to "throw yourself" into work or other diversions. This leaves you too little time for the grief work you need to do for yourself.
6. Take care of yourself. You have been wounded. Something very valuable and dear has been taken away from you. Give yourself time and space to begin the healing process. Get enough rest. Eat nourishing food. Give yourself a break.
7. Resist the temptation to use alcohol or drugs to numb your pain. These can interfere with the grieving process by delaying it or covering it up.
8. If you have any religious inclination, consider contacting your place of worship. All religions recognize that grievers need special help. Consider taking advantage of these services even if you have not been attending regularly. You will not be turned away.
9. Consider seeking out other grievers. Someone who has also been through grief can empathize with you and perhaps you with them. Several organizations like Compassionate Friends or THEOS Foundation have long recognized the value of sharing in a group setting. Please contact the Good Grief Center for a listing of support groups in Allegheny County. For other regions, please call your local mental health facility or place of worship for groups in your area.
10. Don't feel obligated to join groups if they are not for you. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The grief process is highly individual. Some people prefer solitude or reflection rather than group work. Do what feels right for you.
11. Don't neglect your own health. Realize that grieving puts a heavy burden of stress on your body and as such, can disturb sleep patterns, lead to depression, weaken your immune system, and worsen medical problems that had been stable such as high blood pressure. Keep taking any prescribed medications and get regular check-ups. If you suffer from disabling insomnia or anxiety, see your doctor, sometimes short-term medication can be very helpful.
12. Get help for severe or persistent depression. Someone once said: "grief is not a disease but it can become one." Grief can lead to serious depression. Consider getting professional help if you feel overwhelmed, hopeless, or helpless. Other signs of depression can include sleep impairment (too little or too much), appetite or weight change, low energy, difficulty concentrating, and feeling listless or agitated. By all means, seek professional help if you have suicidal thoughts.
13. Realize that grief work can become complicated. Mixed emotions (positive and negative feelings), unresolved emotional turmoil and losing someone after having an argument can complicate the grieving process for the survivor. Talking these feeling over with a concerned person can help but sometimes a professional therapist is a good idea. He or she can help you make sense of the difficult or mixed-up feelings. Talking about sensitive subjects with a professional also keeps them confidential. Call the Good Grief Center for a listing of therapists in Allegheny County who specialize in grief counseling. In other regions, please ask your primary care physician for a referral or inquire among your family and friends. They may be able to make a recommendation. Grief therapy need not be a long-term commitment. If you don't see yourself as the kind of person who seeks out therapy - this may be the exception. Getting help for the intense emotions associated with loss and grief is one of the most frequent tasks that therapists contend with.
14. Feeling angry is common in normal grieving and it is certainly justified when a loved one dies due to the malevolence of others. Try venting your anger in a letter. Consider channeling your anger into constructive action. Volunteer to work for causes that seek justice and prevention. Consider spending your energy by reaching out to help someone else and help yourself in the process.
15. Allow time to grieve. One to two years is not a long time to allow yourself time for working through grief. In this age of instant communication, we need to remind ourselves that the healing process cannot be rushed; it will proceed at its own rate.
16. Be patient with yourself. The natural process of grieving can move forward with irregular steps. Don't expect yourself to "just get over it" by a certain date. Your grieving might be "on hold" for a while and then resume for another intense period. Sometimes, reminders can trigger a flood of emotion months or years later. Do not be surprised if this happens. Do not interpret this as weakness, rather, your psyche is telling you that more grief work needs to be done. If you can stick with your emotions of grief as they come to your awareness and be open to exploring what their meanings are at the time, you will help yourself to heal.
17. For those who have lost a partner or love companion, at some point in the future, you will need to face the decision of whether to be open to a new relationship. Consider imagining the situation reversed. That is, if you died and your lover or spouse survived, what would you want them do? It may help you to see your situation from this angle.
18. If you feel stuck in your grief, try a new approach. We are all creatures of habit and we learn very quickly how to avoid painful situations. This "routine" may not help to work though the entirety of your grief, however. To "jump start" the grieving process again, consider reviewing memorabilia, photos, home movies, or videos. Talk about your loved one at holidays when his or her absence is most obvious. Don't avoid it so as not to "spoil" the festivities. This is the perfect time to "check in" with other family members about how they are doing with their own grief work and to mutually support one another.
19. Create your own memorial service. Celebrate their lifetime accomplishments, values, and principles. Consider carrying the torch of a cause they believed in as a memorial. Start a scholarship, plant a garden, or make a donation in their name.
20. You will know the grieving process has run its course when you feel weary of rehashing events and memories and you finally accept the fact that your loved one can only remain with you in spirit. For some, the grieving process never really ends; it just gets easier over time. You will know you are ready to move forward when the energy you once had invested in your loved one is available to be re-invested in a new place. This will take some time. Good grief means being good to yourself during this process.