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Losing a loved one is something we can never really be prepared for. Even when a loss is expected, you never know how grief will hit you until the time comes. Everyone’s grief experience is personal, but it’s important to make sure that you know how to grieve in a healthy way and that you’re still caring for yourself while honoring your loved one’s memory.
Healthy Ways to Grieve
The following are some healthy ways to grieve:
- Actively engage in the grief process. Grief isn’t just an emotional state. Grief is hard work, and you have to actively engage in this process in order to heal. Healthy grieving means being involved in activities that allow you to both care for yourself and address your feelings, whether that’s something you do on your own—such as going for a walk—or something you do with others, such as talking with loved ones or a grief counselor. The grief process doesn’t work if you disengage from it and simply await the passing of time for healing.
- Treat yourself with compassion. When you’re in a state of emotional turmoil, it’s easy to fall into the trap of worrying that your feelings or the way you’re grieving aren’t “right.” Grief expert Dr. Katherine Shear tells Modern Loss that having self-compassion is about being aware of your pain, being sympathetic toward yourself, and at the same time, making sure your grief doesn’t become so all-consuming that you can’t continue living life. Self-compassion is giving yourself permission to grieve on your own timeline and in your own way, while also taking care of yourself so you don’t suffer.
- Do more of what feeds your soul. Grief is a time when it often feels like what gives life meaning has been taken away. Finding ways to connect with a spiritual power or simply processing your grief can put that meaning back in your life. If you’re a spiritual person, channel your grief into prayer. Many people find that art and journaling help them understand and express their loss. If you like to read, spend time reading while grieving to find words that help make sense of how you’re feeling.
Unhealthy Ways To Grieve a Loved One
The following are some things to avoid while grieving:
- Avoid extremes as unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s normal to not feel like yourself after someone close to you has died, so it’s common for those who are grieving to either overeat or not eat at all. According to drugrehab.org, “The way we eat, drink, love, and cope with stress, depression, anxiety, and sadness all play a big role in the state our mental health is in. Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing for you, and not the easiest thing.” And when you start to make unhealthy choices, it’s important to learn how to be strong enough to make changes. Making these healthy choices and taking care of yourself can be hard when you’re grieving, but actively engaging in grief and self-compassion makes it easier.
- Avoid self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Escaping the pain by self-medicating may feel easier, but this unhealthy choice can actually make you more emotional in a way that isn’t productive to healthy grieving. According to What’s Your Grief, coping includes not only the hard emotions of grief but also anything that is good for your well-being. When you are stronger and healthier, you are actually better equipped to actively engage in the grief process. As an alternative to self-medicating, choose self-care with balanced nutrition and exercise and doing things that lift you up. You are actually doing more to honor your loved one when you take care of yourself because that means you’re choosing to actively grieve their loss rather than avoid those feelings.
Leaning on unhealthy coping mechanisms may feel easier, but doing that actually makes finding appropriate ways to grieve harder. At a time when it feels like your world has been turned upside down, healthy grieving gives you balance. Finding this balance through grief by taking care of yourself is the best way to honor your feelings, your own self-worth, and the person you lost.
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