As a chaplain, I work with many who have experienced losses in their lives. Losses come in diverse, and often unrecognized, ways. When we lose a loved one, either through death or separation, we know that we’ve experienced a loss, but unrecognized losses can also evoke a grief response, including loss of health, mobility, independence, identity, and self-esteem.
So how does one cope with the effects of grief? Do we wait passively for grief to subside or can we actively engage our grief in ways that help us find meaning and hope as we move forward in our lives?
I often speak to grief support groups about this very question. One of my most requested topics is called “Suggestions for Coping with Grief.” In this talk I offer fifteen suggestions. Here are a few of them:
Be patient with yourself. Grief is hard work. Everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time. Practice self-acceptance, compassion and gentleness toward yourself.
Express your feelings and tell your stories. Express your feelings by writing them down or sharing them with a support group or a friend. Whenever we share our memories and tell our stories, we heal our own soul, touch the hearts of others, express feelings that need to be expressed, honor our loss, and make meaning of our experience. Remembering and sharing our stories keep hope alive.
Take care of your body; take care of your soul. When we grieve, our body, mind, and spirit grieve, too. Ask yourself: What does my body need today? Rest, exercise, nutrition? What does my soul need today? Music, a nature walk, solitude? The answer to these questions may vary from day to day, or even from hour to hour. Honor, respect and strive to meet your needs.
Connect with your spiritual convictions and community. Take time to meditate or connect with a faith community or 12-step group.
Grieving is hard work, probably the hardest work you’ll ever do. Slow down, be gentle with yourself, and trust that active engagement in your grieving work will eventually bring you a new sense of meaning and hope.