Everyone Grieves Differently
In the face of lots of change, feeling loss is inevitable. Grief, discomfort, disorientation, wobbliness are all common and normal responses to loss.
There is no map that will help you to the other side of grief, nor does grief follow a straight line. Rather it is meandering, sometimes dark and muddy, sometimes confusing and often a painful path. Much has been written about the grieving processes, and these processes can be useful in order to make sense of grief as a journey, but it is important to realise that this journey is not linear.
It is unlikely for a person who is grieving to move through each stage of any process one after the other until the process is complete. What is more likely to happen is that the person who is grieving will move from one stage to another, back to another, forward to another, and yet back again through their own personal process.
There are two key points to note here:
Everyone grieves differently. We all feel, cope with and express our grief in ways that may be vastly different to each other and vastly different to what we might expect from ourselves.
Grief is a process. It is a process that is part of the whole experience of life; it is ongoing, we do not reach closure, rather we process, we adapt, we review, we change, we make meaning and we grow.
Throughout the grieving process, it can be useful to practice grounding activities. Following is a small selection of activities that can bring us back to ourselves, back to the present moment and can create a little breathing space amidst the tumult. When I have been in periods of deep grief, I find these grounding activities help to anchor me throughout my day, they provide a focus and can give me a small bit of time out in what can be an internally and externally chaotic experience.
Sit and take a few deep breaths. Then describe, either out loud or in your own head, your surroundings. Focus on your 5 senses: what can you see, hear, smell, taste and feel. For example, if I were to do this right now, I would say, “There is my computer screen, it has a black border that is smooth to the touch, beside it is a cup of herbal tea that smells minty and is warm when I cradle it in my hands, I can hear birds calling through the open window…” Keep it going in as much detail for as long as you need. Then take a few more deep breaths.
Count your breaths: one – breath in, one – breath out, two – breath in, two – breath out… If you forget which number you are up to, focus on your breath again and start back at one. Keep going for as long as you can.
Count slowly backwards from 1000. If you forget which number you are up to, start again at 1000.
Sit down and run your hands over your body from the top of your head to your toes. Take time to experience what it feels like for your hands, what the different textures are of hair and skin and fabric of your clothes. Take time to experience what it feels like for each part of your body to have your hands run over them. This is not about making judgments (my hair is greasy, my eye hurts, my pants are too tight), rather this is about observing physical sensations of hands on body, from the top of your head, bringing you down to earth.
If you would like to learn more grounding activities or talk about your own grief, sessions are available with Michelle from A Counselled Life.
Emotions are like the ocean
Understand that emotions are like waves, sometimes they are small and you are easily able to cope with them; you might feel an almost gentle lulling presence of one emotion or other. At other times emotions are huge and you feel caught up in the tsunami of them, their intensity feels so great.
The thing is, emotions ebb and flow; when you are in the small emotions, know that this will pass, and equally, when you are in the BIG emotions, know that this too will ebb away.
We all grieve in different ways and at different times, and grief is a process. Go easy on yourself if you are grieving, be gentle and sooth yourself as you would a child. Be gentle also on others around you who may be grieving. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Give yourself or others the space and acceptance to grieve in whatever way arises.
When you feel overwhelmed by intense emotions, go back to the grounding activities. In this way, you learn to ride these waves of emotion and eventually, the storms lessen and you find you can sail on a more even keel.
If you need, reach out. Help is always available.