Giving Yourself Grace to Navigate Grief

Everything that lives eventually dies, but just because death is natural doesn’t make it any easier to navigate.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

After a period of loss or grief, something inside of us changes. We are never completely the same because the experience stretches us and builds inner strength.

Whether your experience is the result of a loved one’s battle with a long illness or came sudden and unexpected, the resulting grief can be overwhelming and debilitating.

Normal day-to-day activities can begin to feel like they are too much to handle.

Loss is a unique stressor. It causes you to feel like something is missing. The closer the connection, the deeper the wound left after the loss. It’s important to have grace for yourself while you process the pain.

Grief is as much a part of life as joy, just as you can’t have light without darkness.

We wouldn’t know the blessings of joy without also knowing the pain of loss. Grief is certainly a universal experience, but it does not have a one-size-fits-all approach to healing. It is a very individual one that will challenge your mental and physical wellbeing.

Everyone will face loss during their lifetime, so it’s beneficial to learn healthy ways to process it.

1. Grieve at your own pace. Resist the temptation to compare your grief timeline with others. It is no one’s place to judge the appropriate time another person needs to grieve, and telling someone to move on with their lives is insensitive.

Everyone is unique in how they deal with grief. Some people move on quite quickly, while others languish in distress. Avoid the belief that there is a designated process that you have to follow or time frame you must strive to stay within.

2. Accept the support of others. Initially, you may want to be left alone with your thoughts, or you may be afraid to love anyone else again. Those feelings are common, normal, and even expected, but isolating yourself can be unhelpful to your recovery. When people offer to bring you a meal or spend an evening with you, accept it. Everyone needs support through difficult times. Remove any expectations you place on yourself to be a good host during their visit.

Your role during this time is to be open to receive. Allow those who care about you the opportunity to uplift you.

3. Honor your feelings. Be honest with yourself about how you feel. There’s no right or wrong way to feel when you’re mourning. Part of the healing process is expressing your emotions. Rather than distract yourself from your feelings, experience them. Just sit your feelings and explore them. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling without judging your emotions. They won’t go away until you’ve allowed them to express themselves. Talk about your loss with friends, family, counselor, pastor, or therapist. If you’re not ready to discuss your feelings face-to-face, start a journal or join an online grief support community.

4. Surrender to rest. Grief is physically, mentally, and spiritually draining. It’s common to want to distract yourself from the pain by staying busy, but this will only lead to further exhaustion. Go above and beyond your normal nurturing routine and treat yourself to more time for rest. Make a list of activities that restore you like getting a massage, cooking a healthy meal, watching your favorite movie, going for a walk, reading a book, taking a hot shower or bath, and listening to music. Give your body and soul what it needs to heal.

5. Grieving takes a lot of energy. Pace yourself and expect challenges when special holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays roll around. It can be a long recovery process and isn’t easy to handle. If you’re dealing with a recent loss, expect that it will take some time to run its course. Navigate grief in your own way and on your own schedule. Be patient, and have grace for yourself.

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