Grief is a formidable force—and when it hits you directly, it holds the power to take you to your knees. What can you do? How do you stand back up when grief knocks you down?
I learned of two tragic and unexpected deaths this week, along with two major losses other people are facing, and my mind immediately took me back to the way I felt when grief overtook me. Feeling overwhelmed is natural. So are responses of fear and confusion—and a host of other emotions that will bombard you. But there are steps you can take to help you get back up on your feet again. Don’t buy into the thought that you are a victim, and there’s nothing you can do. It’s just not true.
Respect Grief, but Decide not To Give Up
I’m not going to try and minimize the force or the effects of grief. Just like the way I view the ocean, I have a healthy respect for grief. I understand a number of things about the way the ocean works, and I know necessary precautions to prevent getting hurt. Understanding grief will help you to know how to face it, what to avoid, and beneficial steps for you to take.
When grief hits, your mind tends to go in a million directions at once, and many of them are detrimental to your well-being. You want to figure everything out at once. You want answers to real questions, as though knowing the answers will help to reestablish some sort of control in your life, some semblance of order. So, the questions fly: “How am I going to manage all the changes?” “Is my life ever going to be happy again?” “How am I going to put all the pieces back together?” And on and on.
Three Steps to Help You Stand Back Up When Grief Knocks You Down
- First of all, don’t look too far into the future and stop trying to figure everything out at once. Concentrate on right now, and leave the future for later. You need time to adjust, and you’ll work things out as they come. Much of your stress leaves when you realize you can’t (and don’t need to!) figure everything out immediately.
- Second, realize that grief is a normal, natural response to deep loss, and it is the vehicle for working through the effects of loss. While you may be wondering how you will ever make it through, and at first you may not even want to, know that others have been right where you are now—and they have successfully worked through their grief and discovered that life can be good again. Until you can believe this truth for yourself, trust and hope in the reality of others. That reality can be yours, too.
- Third, fight negative thinking. It’s easy to think the worst when difficult circumstances are front and center in your life. Sometimes it is hard to get past the thoughts that flood your mind: “Why did this have to happen to me?” “I’ll never be able to deal with this.” “I’ll never be as happy as I was before.” “How am I going to do without _______?” (you fill in the blank) You may be thinking: “I’m not strong enough,” or “I don’t have enough faith.”
You can’t control every thought that enters your mind, but you don’t have to allow the negative ones to stay there. Either dismiss them as soon as they appear, or redirect your negative thoughts elsewhere. Concentrate on something – anything – positive. Find at least one thing each day to be grateful for. Tell yourself that you’re going to be okay. Tell yourself you can get through today. Affirm the positive.
If you’ll do these three things, you will help yourself to stand up again. Accept that you’ll have to take the steps more than once. Grief is a process, and it takes time.
Grief and Hope Go Together
Think about this; hope is part of grief – because grief is the way you work through your losses and the bad things that have happened to you. Without the process of grief, you would lack a way to work through the pain and reach a place of renewal and restoration. So when you think of grief, remember that hope is there, too.
My heart hurts when I know that someone is facing new grief because I remember my feelings when I was in their place. Yet, I am hopeful, too, because I know there is a way through. Always remember the hope.
© 2015 Judy Brizendine
Photo © fotofrenze
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