*Some of the facts of this story have been altered to protect the privacy of those involved.
Last week someone at work committed suicide.
While my supervisor offered a referral for counseling services I respectfully declined: “Let me go through my grieving process first. If I can’t move through it, I will ask for help.”
I was frustrated, angry, shocked, confused, upset—like there was a heavy weight on my chest.
I took some time to reflect back on my professional experience as a counselor working with survivors of violent crimes and my education as a Master’s level Social Worker. My life has been focused on exploring what I am afraid of and becoming well versed in that topic. After taking a death and dying class, I learned how little we really understand the process of grief.
One philosopher has really been the “go to” on grieving, however this view point doesn’t give into our natural need for comfort and emotional/social aspects of healing from a loss. I’ve collected a few tools along my way through life that have helped me to move with and through loss.
1. First, identify the loss which can be death, an ending, going without or unwanted change.
Loss may also be the inability to finish or the failure to keep something or someone, such as a relationship.
2. Understand that grief may manifest in different ways.
Feeling anger, depression, denial and guilt may arise. Grief may also conjure physical feelings in the form of a knotted stomach, lack of appetite, difficulty focusing. One may feel tight muscles, jaw clinching or teeth grinding. Sleeping more than usual, agitation, crying and confusion are also common.
3. Find a way to release those feelings.
- Journaling. This includes, but is not limited to, doodles, coloring, expressing written emotions, writing a letter to a person, place, thing or animal.
- Mediating and listening to your physical cues.
- Screaming out loud.
- Allowing time to experience the emotions and physical grief.
- Cocooning (cuddling or creating a safe place)
- Connect to nature-get some fresh air.
4. Create closure by saying goodbye.
Internal dialog, writing a letter, imagery, sharing the story, counseling or therapy when it feels too overwhelming, memorialize the happening in a public place or neutral area. Release feelings.
No one person can control other people, but we can own our reactions.
5. Reach out if you cannot move through the grief or if it becomes overwhelming.
Asking for help is a strength. Sometimes having a professional non-emotionally invested person can assist in determining skills to further advance the grieving process.
6. Self-reflect and take the time to see who you are through this experience.
What was your role? What did you learn about yourself? (include the good, bad and the ugly). Do you have any regrets? If so, can you amend them or let them go? Explore what areas of this process really helped you.
Give yourself permission to mourn on your own time frame until you are ready to let go. You will find your peace, between the chaos of life.
Author: Kari Miller
Apprentice Editor: Julie Barr / Editor: Renée Picard
Image: x1klima at Flickr