Column: Is There A Secret To Grieving?

By Los Alamos Visiting Nurse Service

The grieving person will often experience a heightened awareness and sensitivity to the reality that is the world. A person who is unalterably changed by the loss of a loved one may wonder how it is possible for others to be carrying on daily life, expressing joy, laughter, optimism and hope for the future. The grieving person is bereft, often at a loss for words and lacking the energy to get through the day. Is there a secret to grieving in a way that allows you to continue to live life in a meaningful and fulfilling way? How do you reconnect with other people and the world and still honor the grief process and the person who is no longer part of that world?

Consider this analogy: someone who has experienced an illness or injury, which necessitated a hospital and home stay for more than a day or two reemerges to a world that initially feels louder, busier, more complicated and more challenging. It can be the same for a person who is grief-stricken and attempts to regain some semblance of his or her life before the loss. For example, returning to work and to socialization and interactions with others can create anxiety about events and circumstances that may not be predictable. How will people respond to your return? Will there be uncomfortable questions? How do you respond to offers of help and support? How do you cope with advice that is not helpful or supportive of your grief process? The ability to respond, process and reflect on these situations is diminished when coping mechanisms have been severely strained.  

One of the ways in which your ability to cope can be enhanced is by deliberately planning self-care and routine activities. You may find it helpful to focus on one day at a time, scheduling events in a way that ensures that at least part of your day is predictable. A morning routine that includes such things as drinking coffee, reading a newspaper, exercise and meditation are examples of how you may be able to ground yourself and prepare for the rest of the day. Making a “to do” list may help because it adds some structure to a day and may give you a sense of satisfaction when you check off some or all of the items on your list. Adequate sleep and nutrition are important and can often be neglected when a person is experiencing grief. 

Turning to those you trust or to professionals trained in grief support can be invaluable as you navigate the terrain that is before you now. Words and thoughts that circulate in your mind over and over again can take on new shapes and meanings when spoken out loud. The input of others can help you find solutions by providing a different perspective than your own. You may feel that sharing grief places a burden on others that is unfair or unwelcome. Find a person in your life who has sincerely offered to help and try sharing your feelings. Ask that person to hear you out and to remind you about the little and big things in your life that make you happy. That person can also remind you to take care of yourself. Ask that person to let you talk about what you need, when you need it. Let someone help.