There is no right or wrong way to grieve — no rule book or guide! Ultimately, YOU are your best authority on your loss and your journey. However, with so much freedom comes the potential for fear and uncertainty, which can lead to added suffering.
There is nothing that will take away the pain of losing someone you love. But, I’ve created a short-guide of tips, mindset shifts and coping strategies that will support and empower you along your unique journey.
1) Take it slow
Grief has no finish line. The journey is life-long, often messy and non-linear. You might be moving forward just fine when out a nowhere a wave of grief hits and it feels like you are drowning in sorrow — just like the early months following your loss. Grief is a journey. Not a destination. There is no need to rush the process, instead try your best to trust in it.
2) Let go of the idea of “normal”
There is no “normal” after someone you love passes away. The world as you knew it is gone, and YOU are forever changed. Instead of trying to recreate what was, try to focus on rebuilding something new. This is a chance to restore an old version of yourself, or perhaps something even stronger. Understand that the process of rebuilding will be scary, hard, often painful and will take time; but nonetheless is possible.
3) Stay grounded in the present
The process of moving forward and creating a new normal is extremely overwhelming. There are so many secondary losses and logistics, in addition to the feelings and emotions of grief that you learn to navigate with time. Instead of thinking too far ahead, try to focus on just one task at a time. Complete the task, celebrate yourself for your achievement, and then set a goal to complete another one. With time, these will add up into long-term coping strategies and a life that you never dreamed possible.
4) Get curious
Start to learn about grief and other’s stories of loss to understand why you are feeling the way you do. Learning about grief and loss helps normalize your experience. Read self-help books or memoirs about overcoming hardship and tragedy! Not only will you take away some great tips, but when you realize that struggle is universal, it’s harder to get trapped in the victim mindset. Instead of asking why me? You’ll start to ask what now? — and begin making the mental shifts necessary to move forward.
5) Get support
It’s ok to ask for help — someone to pickup your groceries, to babysit your kids, to cry on a shoulder, to offer you professional guidance, in order to navigate this extremely foreign and difficult situation. Even if you have a hard time asking for support or feel like a burden doing so, remember that when you are grieving you are in survival state. Communicate your needs! Join grief groups and communities who provide unconditional love and support; and create boundaries around people who can’t. You don’t have to do this alone!
6) Process your loss
An essential step in the grieving process is accepting the reality of your loss. The path to surrender — of letting go of what should/could/would have been — and in turn, adapting to the life that is unfolding before you, is different for everyone. But finding ways to process your loss and own your story, perhaps through talking about it, journaling, meditating or finding moments of intentional movement like yoga or a walk in nature helps you quiet your mind as it tries to make sense of this life-altering change.
7) Flow instead of fight the process
Grief is a natural response to a loss. However, our society teaches us that it’s not ok to feel many of the emotions such as anger, sadness, guilt, and anxiety among others that come up during the grieving process. My advice is to flow with your feelings instead of fight them. Try to let go of societal definitions and standards about struggle, as well as the need to qualify your feelings. Experience your emotions and feel them without judgment. Feelings are just feelings. ALL of them matter and deserve to be felt.
8) Get moving
Whether you believe that you are capable of moving forward from tragedy or not, the mere act of exercising moves you. Emotional memory and trauma are not only stored in you brain, but also in your body. After a loss, it’s common for your nervous system to get stuck in a state of hyperactivity — you might feel frozen and feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, sadness and guilt become all encompassing. When your mind convinces you that you are not capable of moving forward, the only thing that can break this cycle is by moving your body! Movement is medicine — especially when it comes to coping with grief.
9) Give your loss meaning
Moving forward doesn’t mean moving on. Participating in a new life without your loved one doesn’t mean that you have to “let go”, forget about, abandon, or suppress any of the beautiful time or memories that you shared with your person. You move forward by finding ways to integrate your loss into your new life — by exploring how to keep your loved one’s memories alive; how to maintain a relationship beyond the physical; and honor their legacy in a way that brings purpose and meaning to your life.
10) Believe that transformation is possible
I would never tell you that surviving a loss, navigating grief, and building a new life without your loved one is easy. It’s by far the hardest experience I’ve endured to date. And while I don’t wish this experience upon anyone, I know that it has transformed me for the better. I’m proud of the person my loss has made me. I’m excited about who I am becoming. I’m ready for the waves of grief to continue crashing upon me — sometimes gracefully riding them, and other times sinking — because I know now that they have something important to teach me.
I believe that transformation is possible for anyone who has experienced a loss; but, also that this powerful force of grief can trap you and add unnecessary suffering.
What I know for certain is that you can create whatever meaning you want from this experience. If these tips helped you — shifted your mindset or helped you believe that you are capable of moving forward — this guide is just the start.
I offer 1:1 and group coaching programs where I learn about your story of loss and personal struggles, and we collaboratively come up with a plan to help you move forward. You don’t have to do this alone.
Check out all the ways that I can support you here.
Sending love and light,
Never Miss a Post
Jump on our email list to follow Emily's grief journey, other's stories of loss, and insight from a community who “gets” grief.