How to cope with grief isn’t exactly an easy conversation starter. But if someone close to you dies, the terror and loss can be overwhelming.
A grief recovery specialist has outlined her 15 tips in helping you cope with the floods of emotion.
Lianna Champ, grief recovery specialist and author of new book How to Grieve Like a Champ, shares her insights in a piece for Healthista.
Grief recovery expert Lianna Champ gives tips on how to cope when mourning (stock)
1. Acknowledge your pain and accept the feelings this loss brings
Allow yourself to fall apart for a little while if that’s what you want to do and feel is necessary. For some, it can feel like drowning or like all the colour and energy has been sucked out of anything.
Whatever you are feeling is right for you. Be kind with yourself and don’t expect too much – you are not a robot. Working through grief takes time so focus on the process, the journey, rather than the destination.
2. Give yourself permission to grieve
Grief takes you out of the present moment and your concentration will be greatly reduced. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Your eating and sleeping patterns will be completely disrupted and even the simplest tasks can become difficult.
If it helps, write things down. We have to be honest in the depths of our pain and with our expressions of grief or we can trap ourselves in no-man’s-land indefinitely.
The feelings, thoughts and emotions need to be processed and this must start from within. Process every feeling in the moment you have it. If someone asks how you are, tell them.
Be honest. Saying ‘I’m fine’ when you’re not can bury your pain deeper.
3. Be mindful of the pain of your loss but don’t let it define you
Let go of the need to control the healing process and let things follow their natural course. Have a plan going forward every night.
Before you go to sleep, look for a positive in the day you have just had. Give thanks for something in that day. Then plan what you want to accomplish the following day.
Write it down if that helps you. Think about this when you wake up and focus on the steps you need to take, no matter how tiny they may seem.
4. Don’t isolate yourself
Grievers tend to isolate when they feel misunderstood. Grief is a complex, multilayered process and isn’t always straightforward.
Find someone you feel safe sharing your feelings with, someone who will just listen with an open heart. The release of pain is in the verbalising of feelings in words, so just letting the words come should begin to provide a sense of release.
Don’t analyse or compare your feelings with others. We are not carbon copies. Each grief experience is as unique to us as our own fingerprint.
5. There are no steps to grief – whatever you are feeling is right for you.
Let it be okay. Even though we may share similar emotions to others, there is no common order, no stages and no pattern to how we will experience them. Your grief experience is yours alone.
Misconceptions about there being stages to grieving can deny you your right to feel your pain naturally, instinctively and authentically and can even prevent the healthy expression of your grief – the one that is right for you.
People mourning a death should accept their pain and the feelings of loss it bring (stock)
6. Be aware of any coping mechanisms which may be harmful
To protect ourselves from being overwhelmed, nature can switch us to automatic pilot which enables us to function and deal with the initial practicalities following a death.
The automatic coping defences which kick in may not always be good for us. Recognise if you are drinking or smoking more than usual or keeping busy to avoid your pain.
Only once we become aware of, and identify habits that aren’t good for us can we then take the steps to replace them with good ones. When we do this, we can gain an empowering sense of achievement which will urge us on.
7. Let those around you know that you are grieving
Talking about those that we have loved and lost reminds us that they have lived and how important they were to us and this in itself can be a balm of healing.
It is important to explore all the avenues that bring us healing, to accept that an ending has taken place and to keep ourselves open to the opportunities that come with new beginnings.
Life is an unfolding series of emotional experiences and we have to allow ourselves to adapt to new ways of living and being.
8. Visualise yourself succeeding
Create substitutes for your bad habits and plan your substitutes in advance. For example, if you are spending too much time sleeping, plan a walk round the block before you have a sleep.
You could do the same the next time you feel the urge to reach for a cigarette. Find your positive alternative to each bad habit and then try your best.
Most importantly don’t berate yourself if you fall by the wayside. Remember – it takes time, patience and determination to change bad habits, but you can succeed.
9. Find a creative outlet to express your emotions
Every emotional event in our lives needs to reach completion through a process. We have ritualistic processes for everything – birthdays, graduations, weddings and retirements, to name a few.
Funeral rituals are just as important. This is community at its best, providing the opportunity for sharing memories and letting others know just how much we loved and respected the person who has died.
Being involved in the funeral ceremony can help work through some of the pain – write a eulogy, choose music, read a poem, organise some beautiful flowers or a collage of photographs and quotes.
We don’t just grieve at the time of loss but as we enter new stages and milestones in our lives. Creating new family rituals can help navigate these milestones. Find what works for you.
10. Start a journal charting your relationship with the person who has died
Be open in your journal and let the words flow. As you look back over the relationship you may uncover areas where you may wish things had been different.
The mere fact of identifying this can be healing in itself. The journal can become a wonderful companion when you need those moments of remembering.
Grieving people should communicate their feelings and not just say ‘I’m fine’ (stock)
11. Listen to your body
Rest when it needs, nourish it with good food, do gentle exercise, get out in the fresh air. Grief affects us on every level – emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally.
We must learn to be kind to ourselves when we suffer the trauma of bereavement and loss.
12. Accept that the person who has died will always be a part of you
Tell yourself that it will always be okay to have moments of sadness. Allow yourself the privilege of remembrance without berating yourself for being sad.
There will be times when you get caught up in the act of living and let go of the memory. Then you will remember again and you will return to grieving.
This is normal. This is living after loss. The intensity will shift and change along the way.
13. Embrace spiritual changes
No-one knows where you are emotionally and the opinion of others should never prevent you from moving forward through your emotional experiences. Every loss we go through changes us.
A new you will emerge. Grief always takes us from the material to the spiritual. Try to remain open and receptive to a renewed sense of meaning and purpose in your life.
14. Nurture your relationships
Learn the life enhancing lesson of positive communication so that if there is a sudden loss or parting, your last moments together will have been loving.
Those who have the wisdom and good fortune to have been able to work through issues in their relationship before the loss often find this a great source of consolation during the grieving process.
Forgive and forgive often, with all your heart every day, with everyone.
15. Accept that whatever you’re feeling – even anger – is okay
The grieving process is challenging and you may struggle to deal with the effects of loss, such as feelings of isolation, anger and the inability to focus on anything else.
Know that these feelings aren’t out of the ordinary – there are ways to deal with recurring thoughts and emotions.
This article originally appeared on and has been reproduced with the permission of Healthista.