There’s no two ways about it. It’s heavy and it’s hard and often times it comes with a good dose of regret.
Last week, my good friend passed away and while the cancer may have been there for years—it reached out and took him down faster than is ever fair. I was going to visit on Tuesday, but I couldn’t…and I hadn’t heard from him, so I figured I would go on Wednesday.
Wednesday morning he went into hospice and was unresponsive. I still went, but the conversation was not the same. The morphine and cancer had taken over and there was nothing left for him to say. His mom told me he’d tried to call me on Tuesday. My phone never rang. Damn.
In my lifetime I’ve experienced all kinds of grief: death of a parent; loss of cherished pets; friends who passed away; firings from jobs; hopes that would never find fulfillment; disappointments galore; loss of self—the list could go on, but you’ve probably already stopped reading.
If we’re not careful, grief will swallow us whole. Here are five ways to help us through:
1. Cry, cry, cry. Let it all out and don’t hold back. When we stuff in our pain, it fights its own battle on the inside and wears us down in ways we may not have imagined. We need to give ourselves time to be immersed in the pain—to lean into it, feel it, wrap ourselves up in it like a big blanket.
2. Don’t sit and wallow. That’s where we might drown. Let’s get off our asses and move, connect—do something. Make plans to spend time with people we care about, move our body and make it count, call our therapist…but let’s not just sit there once we’ve spent some time with our tears.
3. Write. We all have stories to tell and even if we never want anyone else on this planet to read our words, write them down. They help us make sense of some of the pain and think about it in different ways. The experience can be cathartic and it’s one more way to make sure we’re not holding it inside.
4. Do something about what caused the grief. I don’t necessarily mean go out and run over the guy who dumped us, but maybe go out and buy a sexy dress and go out dancing. A little boost to the ego never hurts!
5. Help someone else. The more we try to make a difference in the lives of others, the more we move through our own grief. Volunteer for a shelter, knit blankets for hospice patients, or anything else that gets us doing something for someone else. This gives us something positive to focus on and making others feel better always makes us feel better too.
There are many ways to work through our grief and the best advice I can give is to find some that resonate with you personally. And curling up in the fetal position, not leaving the house for days on end is not what I’m talking about. Those don’t count.
One other small but powerful suggestion: smile at people. We may be experiencing our own grief, but we shouldn’t forget that everyone is carrying around some kind of pain too. We never know what a smile can do for someone… including ourselves.
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Apprentice Editor: Ola Weber/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Wiki Commons courtesy of Andrea Silva