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The Pain of Grief: and how to live through it

Heather Edwards Mental Health Counseling / Articles  / The Pain of Grief: and how to live through it
Heather Edwards psychotherapy and coaching

The Pain of Grief: and how to live through it

Heather Edwards Counseling and Coaching griefSuddenly someone you love is gone. You’re faced with an irreversible new reality – a life without a loved one you thought would always be there. You feel hopeless, distraught, and life has lost its meaning.

Grief can send you spiraling into despair. A death, break up, or an illness can dramatically change your life.

Each type of loss has a profound effect on wellbeing. But when armed with awareness of the natural processes of healing, it can be easier to navigate this unwanted life transition. There is a beginning, middle, and end. And it gets better.

Grief can make you stronger, kinder, more gracious, and loving when you come out on the other side of it. But it requires a passing through. It can feel like a sunami of emotional pain in the midst of it.

It helps us realize the fragility of this moment. It prompts us to pause, be present, and nurture who and what we love. The only moment in time we can influence is this one, and it’s fleeting – so cherish it.

While Grief and loss appear varied on the outside, they follow a similar pattern of emotional process inside.

According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ research there are five stages of grief…

1. Denial is our body’s way of pacing the emotional pain. It’s a state of shock and numbness that allows us the space to cope with a loss that seems unbearable. While gradually questioning the loss, you begin the healing process.

2. Anger is empowering and gives us a way to direct our emotions. We are experienced and comfortable managing anger. It keeps us distracted from the pain of loss and replaces it with actionable ideas and gestures.

3. Bargaining is how we negotiate the “what if’s”. It’s where our guilt and plea’s collide. It’s how we wish we could have done something different to change the devastating outcome and have a happier ending.

4. Depression is a natural consequence of losing something or someone dear. Your life is forever changed. The profound sadness that results from the absence of that person while painful, is normal.

5. Acceptance is how you begin to move on with your new reality. It doesn’t mean that you’re OK with the loss. You might never be OK with it. As acceptance begins to emerge, you re-create your new life.  It means engaging with people and activities that are meaningful to you, living in the present, and building a future.Heather Edwards Psychotherapy and Coaching grief

You will feel better. Don’t rush this process. This is a general guideline that is different for everyone. You will move in and out of these five stages in a way that is not always linear. You might feel OK one day, and horrible the next. Gradually the painful emotions subside and become more tolerable.

Here are a few tips that can help:

Rub your heart while saying this aloud three times, “Even though I feel completely hopeless, I deeply and completely love myself.”. Energy psychologists claim this triggers neuro-lymphatic drainage which reduces toxins & stress, and improves energy and mood.

Use a positive mantra. It can be as simple as, “I deserve to feel good again.”, “My sadness means I am loving.”, “This pain is a temporary and normal part of healing.”, or “As sad as I feel right now, I know I will be OK. “. By balancing negative thoughts with neutral or positive ones, you strengthen the neural pathways responsible for happiness and well-being.

Get support. We are social beings. There is strength in numbers. Give yourself time to be alone, but balance it with engagement with people. Don’t be afraid to allow them to see your grief. Remember they love you and support you in your time of need. You would do the same for them.

Talk to yourself in the third person. Studies show that your brain processes information differently this way. It creates emotional distance and offers the same support you would offer a friend. It helps to keep you on task when you have children to care for or a job to do.

While it seems as if the pain will never end, it will. While it seems the darkness has overshadowed your life forever, it hasn’t – there will be brilliance again. While it seems you are alone and no one really understands your pain, they do. Trust, share, speak, seek and accept support. One day you will have a full, loving, dynamic life again!

Heather Edwards, LMHC, BCC

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