How to Carry on When Dealing with Grief
Losing a loved one can knock you for six and turn your whole world upside down. Grief is one of the most difficult experiences we have to go through in life and it can be very hard to navigate.
People often talk about the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining (including guilt), depression and acceptance – which form part of our journey of processing the change and coming to terms with a new reality. While it is useful to understand that these are ‘normal’ elements, the grieving process is different for everyone, and you may experience some or all, and in any order.
When you are grieving, you may struggle to focus, to find the motivation to do anything, to think clearly or to regulate your emotional responses, which can make it difficult to carry on or go back to work or study. On top of this, you might struggle with physical symptoms like exhaustion, headaches, tightness in your chest or other aches and pains, making it even more difficult to go about your day. But sometimes, you have no choice but to try and carry on as normal.
Here are some practical steps to help you carry on with work, study or anything else you need to do, when you are still grieving.
Tell those who need to know
Let your employers or educators know your situation to see how they can help you. You may also wish to tell co-workers or classmates what’s going on before seeing them again and establish whether you are ready to talk to them about it.
Talk to people about it, and talk about other things too
Sometimes it can help to talk things through, particularly if you are struggling to understand your feelings. Bottling up emotions will just cause you greater pain. If it is upsetting to speak to family/friends who are close to the situation, talk to someone else you trust, your doctor or a counsellor.
At other times, you’ll find chatting about mundane ‘normal’ things can be a welcome distraction.
Write to do lists and set yourself some soft goals
If you have certain tasks that need doing, write them down in order of priority, alongside timing for when you want to do them by. This way, you can see if you are on track, or ask for help if you aren’t going to meet deadlines. Plus, it’ll help you feel a sense of accomplishment when you can tick them off.
Especially if your grief suddenly hits you and you feel overwhelmed, do some breathing exercises, or go for a walk to clear your mind and reset.
Stick to a routine
Try to get some things back to normal. Keep up with personal care, make your bed, make your favourite breakfast, try and stick to set working hours and try to get a good night’s sleep.
Kick bad habits
Avoid doing things that might make you feel worse. Staying up until the early hours and laying in till 4pm, drinking excess alcohol, eating badly, scrolling endlessly on your phone and generally being hard on yourself will not help your mood and wellbeing.
Include enjoyable elements in your day
It can be really difficult to do things you enjoy particularly if you are feeling guilty. But you need to reward yourself for getting through the difficult parts. Even if that’s just something small like listening to your favourite music or eating a chocolate cake.
Expect unexpected behaviour from some friends or family
Be prepared that some people close to you may react in unexpected ways, and it may not seem they are providing the support you’d hope for. Friends may not approach you or may avoid mentioning your loss. This usually comes from awkwardness, because they are misinformed about the conflicting feelings that come with grief, or they are worried they will say ‘the wrong thing’. From experience, it is always best to say something to a grieving friend, even if it’s simply: ‘I’m so sorry about your loss. I really don’t know what to say.’
Be kind to yourself
It’s ok to have setbacks and bad days. Its ok to want to curl up in a ball and not want to see anyone or do anything. It’s also ok to laugh or to feel happy.
Take one day at a time
Every day is different when you are grieving. You may feel up to certain things one day but not the next. Listen to your body and your mind, and take it easy.
Give yourself the time and space to grieve
You may want to push it to the back of your mind and distract yourself, but processing grief is part of getting through it. Try journaling or writing down how you are feeling in the morning or before bed. You could go as far as setting yourself an allotted time to grieve and to feel the pain and sadness, and then carry on afterwards.
Ask for help if you need it
Remember, there is no ‘normal’ when it comes to grief. Everyone deals with things differently and at their own pace.
Be reassured that you will gradually start to feel better with time and support
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