Grief takes time, but it isn’t never-ending. You will eventually move forward. That said, what if everything feels dark and you can’t imagine a world where it gets better? If you feel stuck, what can you do to start healing your grief?
Healing grief without toxic positivity
You don’t have to use toxic positivity to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. Shifting your outlook often means finding the bright spots in a stormy sky, but that doesn’t mean that you need to force yourself to feel 100% when you don’t.
Overcoming grief doesn’t mean that you need to feel “normal” again, nor does it mean that every day will be easy. It may be time to consider that a shift in perspective, even if it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, can help you get “unstuck” and start your healing process.
Allow yourself to look beyond sadness
You are allowed to mourn the loss of a loved one, a romantic relationship, physical ability or health, and anything else that causes grief for you. But it’s worthwhile to know that some people do fall into a trap where they believe that they can only feel sad. Some people even feel guilty for feeling better or starting to when they face a grievous experience.
It’s not that you have to view what you have gone through as a full-stop “good thing.” You can still feel your sadness–but in addition, look at what can come of it other than the sadness.
Where there is grief, it’s likely that there is also love, nostalgia, and happy memories. For example, in the loss of a family member, you might notice that your grief is a reflection of the intense and incredible love you felt for that person. You might find a way to commemorate them within your daily routine or find comfort in the ways their memory pops up to surprise you.
There may also be knowledge that you gain from grief. For example, in a lost romantic relationship, you might find that you know what you want, going forward. In this way, healing from grief can be an opportunity for post-traumatic growth.
Re-evaluate your assumptions about grief
Sometimes, the way that we phrase things has a major impact on the way we feel about them. Take this tweet as an example.
Instead of feeling like a loved one succumbed to an illness, look at it like they took the illness down with them.
When you think that your loved one is missing out on life, consider that maybe they got an early “escape” from a screwed up world.
If you’re mourning the end of a relationship, maybe the end has also released you from conforming to a relationship that no longer fit you.
If you got cheated on, maybe it reflects less on your worth, and more on your partner’s flaws.
Add an “and” to shift toward healing grief
So, you have lived through a major challenge. Maybe, you’re living in that challenge currently. Perhaps, you will continue living with it, such as in the case of a chronic illness, for the rest of your life. This can be where it is time to add an “and.”
Things have changed, you are in pain, and you have a life to live. You didn’t have a choice in the grief you got, but you have a choice in how you move forward.
Reject guilt and give yourself what you need
If you lost a loved one, they would likely want you to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled. They would not want grief to consume every part of your life. It’s ok to think about other things–especially about what you need right now.
There’s no guide to life, but our needs and emotions might be the closest thing we have when it comes to healing grief. Accordingly, questions such as “What do I feel?” or “What do I need?” serve as an excellent guide. If nothing else, they will help you get in touch with yourself, which is a major component of moving forward in any facet.
After you have let yourself fully experience your emotions, ask yourself, ‘What do I need?” That could be a hug, a listening ear, a bath, to call it an early night, to cry, or something entirely different.
Give yourself a reality check on how messy grief and healing can be
Grief can be messy, and it can look any number of ways. It can come with anger, denial, sadness, depression, numbness, irritability, trouble focusing, and more. It isn’t clear-cut, it’s not linear, and no matter how you feel, what you feel is not “wrong.”
Maybe, you’re down beyond words right now. You feel low, and you can’t imagine feeling lower. You think to yourself, “when will this go away?” or “I can’t imagine that this will ever go away. I’ll never stop missing them, and things will never be the same again.”
Grief often comes in waves. When the rush of sadness comes, allow it to. Sit in it and name it.
Stop expecting grief to disappear
Here’s what many people find to be true: Grief doesn’t shrink, but we grow around it.
Let’s use chronic illness as an example. It is wildly challenging to face the fact that you may live with this forever and, accordingly, may have certain limitations, levels of pain, or other experiences, for the rest of your life. The shift in perspective might not be “I’m happy with my chronic pain,” but it could be “I’m not going to shame myself for the hard days. I’m going to take care of myself as much as I can on the hard days, go easy on myself, and give myself compassion. I will also treasure the good days and the good moments.”
In the case that you lose a job, a friend, or a partner, that experience doesn’t have to take you down for good.
Even if it has kept you down up until this point, and even if your possibilities aren’t what they once were, there are still possibilities. One of the best ways to move forward from grief, once you are ready – or want to be ready – is to think about what you want in life from here on out. Instead of focusing on what’s not possible, think about what is.
Maybe, there’s a new hobby you can try. You might wish to spend more time outside, socialize or explore the area you live in more, find a meetup or support group to attend, read or listen to audiobooks more, try a new sport, or make art. Perhaps, you have a new aspiration. You might want to pursue a certain career path or learn a new skill.
Alternatively, you might take some time to think about what a life that is true to who you are would look like. With no one else’s opinions in mind, who are you, and what do you want? What are you doing that aligns with who you are, and what doesn’t? What can you do to get closer to yourself?
If there’s one thing that grief can teach us, it’s that life is short and unpredictable. You deserve to do what you can to make it your best life. Remember that you are a unique person who gets to define what that means for you.
Hear what others have to say
In any circumstance that leads to grief, whether that’s the loss of a loved one, job loss, a physical or mental health condition, a divorce, or something else, grief means that you have been through something difficult. You have endured, and you are here.
Though there are things you can do to heal on your own time, such as reflect on your outlook, there are times when it can be an essential part of self-care to reach out to others. If you need someone to talk to, Supportiv is here for you. Click here to connect with our anonymous peer support network, available 24/7, or read the FAQs on our website to learn more.