I recently broke up with a man I was dating for 8 months. I know it wasn’t a long time, but it was long enough to send me down a rabbit hole after we agreed not to continue the relationship. By “rabbit hole,” I’m referring to that torturous stage of mourning and grief. During this time of heartache, my life was shaped by deep feelings of sadness, loss of appetite, crying spells, restless sleep, and guilt over ending the relationship. I hated it. I wanted the emotional pain to end, but, I knew it was important for me to experience and accept these emotions to begin the healing process.
While facing the emotional pain, I realized that grief is normal. Put simply, it’s the period of adjustment a person goes through after a loss. Everyone grieves and processes the experience differently. Once I began feeling peace during my daily meditation practice, I knew the grief was diminishing. That isn’t to say that I didn’t feel sadness about the loss. Occasionally, I would feel sad when I remembered happy memories, but the difference was that the symptoms of grief (numbness, anger, shock, guilt, anxiety, and fear) had subsided. The grief no longer overwhelmed my life.
It’s very difficult to experience loss, whether it means a breakup, loss of home or employment, loss of a pet, children moving away, transition in life (such as job change or retirement) or death of a loved one. It’s a normal part of life that, at some point, everyone will encounter.
If you are currently grieving in your life, here are some suggestions:
1. Use your Support System
Anyone who is grieving needs someone to talk to and lean on during this time. It’s helpful for the grieving person to release the anguish and find support and encouragement. For me, this was the major factor that helped me. I couldn’t be more grateful for my friends and family who spent time with me in person, on the phone or even just in messages throughout the day to keep me from losing hope. During this time, my support system helped minimize feelings of helplessness.
2. Understand the Five Stages of Grief:
There are many emotions that surface when someone is grieving. The emotional and mood fluctuations can be very confusing. I found I often questioned myself and my feelings during my grieving period. These uncertainties led me to feel more lost and confused. When we understand the five stages of grief, it can give us a better perspective to the grieving experience and eventually lead to more self-compassion. Remember: No one goes through the stages in linear order and may fluctuate within stages during the grieving process.
3. Honor Yourself and Your Emotions
Give yourself time to grieve and experience your feelings. You are going through a lot. It’s difficult to lose a loved one, so self-love and compassion are crucial during this time. Do things that feel good and honor both you and your feelings. If you need to cry, then do it. It’s okay. Don’t repress emotions and try not to self-soothe with alcohol, food, shopping, work or engaging in risky behavior that may have negative consequences. I know I can be a hypersensitive person, so I knew allowing my emotions would be difficult because it meant a lot of crying (even in public). But after I got it all out, I felt better.
4. Exercise and Journal
Allow your mind and body to move. There are many thoughts that may go through your head during this time. If you have an outlet, it can be very beneficial. Any form of healthy physical activity such as running, yoga, dancing, and cycling can help you feel better. Journaling is also very helpful in processing and releasing thoughts to prevent ongoing rumination.
5. Seek Professional Help
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, having difficulty functioning in daily activities or are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, then seeking professional help is highly encouraged. A professional therapist can assist in processing the loss of your loved ones, and accepting & dealing with emotions related to the loss. My therapist was extremely helpful and accommodated me in his schedule during this challenging time. I met with him prior to the breakup when I was contemplating the risk of ending the relationship. After my session, I returned within 24 hours to process the loss. Losing someone you love or deeply care about is one of the hardest experiences of being human. It isn’t abnormal to feel sadness during this time, so remember to be gentle on yourself and know that sadness will eventually decrease. If sadness doesn’t decrease and you still feel overwhelmed, please seek professional help.
Can grief morph into depression? - Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved December 11, 2016, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-grief-morph-into-depression-201203214511
The Difference Between Grief and Depression, The DSM V. (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2016, from https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/the-difference-between-grief-and-depression-the-dsm-v/