Many people have heard of the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). It used to be thought that once someone would go through these “stages” they would be through with the process of grief. We have now learned that grief is not a process to “get over”, rather a unique journey with a mixture of emotions and reactions. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but there are some healthy and unhealthy coping strategies. Please continue reading for some suggestions on healthy ways to continue your grief journey.
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- Talk about your loved one who died with friends, family and/or a professional.
- Grief is truly a journey, requiring time and energy. It is a very unique process and it doesn’t have a set amount of time.
- Pace yourself. Grief can be hard and tiring. It takes a lot of energy to feel so intensely. Allow yourself plenty of time to do normal everyday activities. Try not to over-schedule yourself, you don’t need the added stress. Rest when you can and need to, it’s not a sign of weakness.
- Try to resist the temptation to “throw yourself” into work, school or other diversions. This leaves too little time for the grief work you need to do for yourself.
- Take care of yourself. Give yourself time and space to begin your grief journey. Get enough rest. Eat healthy food. Give yourself a break.
- Resist the temptation to use alcohol or drugs. These can interfere with the grieving process or cover it up, or extend it – not take it away.
- If you are religious, consider contacting your place of worship and utilize offered services.
- Talk to others who have experienced the death of a loved one. People who have been through grief can empathize with and help support you, and vice versa.
- The grief process is an individual experience. Some people like to talk about things while others prefer to grieve by “doing” something. Do what feels right for you.
- Express your grief. The best way to work with your grief is to let it out. So how do you let out your emotions? Do you: Cry, scream, and yell? Do you: express your feelings through music, art, poetry, or journaling? Some express themselves with only one or a few trusted people, while others chose to make a display of expression. Do what feels right for you.
- Focus on your health, work out. Grief can be a great stress on your body and mind. It can upset sleep patterns, lead to depression, weaken your immune system, and highlight medical problems. See your doctor if you are worried about your symptoms.
- Consider getting professional help if you feel overwhelmed, hopeless, or helpless. Seek professional help if you have suicidal thoughts. Grief therapy doesn’t have to be long-term. Even if you don’t see yourself as the kind of person who would go to therapy, it may be beneficial.
- Grief tends to go at it’s own rate, so allow yourself time to grieve. There is no right way and no time limit!
- Be patient. There may be days where you feel great, but there may also be setbacks. Don’t expect to “get over it” or have a deadline in mind. Reminders can trigger emotions – both physical and emotional. This is not a sign of weakness. Instead, your mind and body are telling you that your grief journey isn’t done.
- Create your own ways of memorializing your loved one. Celebrate their life in whatever way feels right to you. Try supporting a cause they believed in, start a scholarship, plant a garden, make a donation in their name, etc.
- Have a little fun. Do something to make you laugh and/or smile. Many may find this difficult to do at first, but it is wonderful medicine for the grieving soul.
- Please know that the AMF Support Network is always here to support grieving college students. You are important to us and we want you to know that you are never alone. We don’t expect you to “get over” your grief, but we would love to help you Actively Move Forward in your grief journey!
- Know that you are not alone. Here you can find stories from others who understand.
Breaking the Cycle!
Have you ever noticed how sometimes your grief journey can either cause more stress or exacerbate the stress you already have? On this unknown journey, we are already faced with our world being forever changed, and can be bombarded with all of these new obstacles we weren’t planning for. During this time, it’s easy to get lost in and overwhelmed by the crazy mixture that is stress and grief.
Below we give you some tips on how to help manage or rethink some tasks that may have seemed easier before the death of your loved one. Let’s see if we can help get you feeling better about some of these things!
Here are some tips that may help you rethink some old habits …
Stressed about school work or work from your job? Research shows that exercise can help you to retain information. Exercise has many other uses such as raising our endorphins in a natural way, releasing some stress held in our bodies, and keeping us feeling good. Please be advised that over-exercising is not a healthy way to deal with stress – there is a happy medium for everything.
Is your to do list getting pretty long? That’s a total stressor! Find a system that works for you to prioritize your responsibilities and tasks. Maybe you like to color code, write them in order, or space things out in your planner for designated days. When we have smaller and more manageable lists, our stress can go down while our confidence rises!
Do you find yourself overeating? Do you find yourself under-eating? Food is essential to both our bodies and our minds. It can be easy to eat convenient foods, but we see more overall benefits when we fill ourselves with a healthy, balanced diet. You might see improvement in mood, body functions, immune system, brain functions, and much more.
As a society, we strive to be the best, the fastest and achieve as much as we can in as little time as possible. What happens if we don’t meet our goals or the goals others set for us? It can be so beneficial for our stress levels as well as our self-esteem to learn to appreciate our accomplishments and ourselves. When we learn to love and appreciate ourselves, we can become happier and healthier. No one is perfect, so please don’t expect perfection. Try this mantra “I am enough, I do enough.” Smile and believe it, and be kind to yourself!
Reduce or eliminate alcohol and do NOT do no illegal drugs
Does partying or using drugs and alcohol help you cope? Some might think this is a really nice way to get rid of your problems, but the reality is that they are still there when the drugs and alcohol are gone. Researchers have also found that these substances can actually delay your grief journey. Our world is very focused on these substances and easily forgets the comfort of good company and other great activities available. Try something new with your friends – go on Groupon to find some new, fun, cheap activity!
Be an individual
Have you been reading books and articles on grief lately? Sometimes they can be really helpful, while other times they may make us think that there is a right or a wrong way to do this “grieving thing”. Be advised: This “grief thing” is a very individualized journey. Take all the books and articles as good information and nice suggestions, but always do what feels right for you.
Do you feel like you may have lost a spark of passion? Reclaim that spark by re-introducing yourself to whatever you are passionate about! It may be a great cause, a fun hobby, or maybe starting a chapter of Students of AMF on your campus. Maybe you want to find a new way to memorialize your loved one who died. Find something that makes you feel great and motivates you to be the best “you” you can be.
Need a time out?
Were you ever put on a time out as a kid? The purpose of a time out really is to remove the child from whatever situation is causing them to act out, so they can collect themselves and make better choices. Wow, doesn’t that sound like a good idea for adults too? Take some time for yourself when you can see that your anxiety, anger, frustration, stress, etc is rising. Time outs can be watching a favorite TV show, taking a walk, or even going on a little road trip! Take a break from your stress and enjoy this wonderful life.
Do you feel as though life can get away from you sometimes? In this fast paced world, it can be easy to get swept up in it all. We want instant results! Your grief journey is not going to instantly resolve, even if you try to race through it. Grief takes it’s time and so should you. Pace yourself and your expectations of change. Things will be different, but as you keep going through your journey … you will see change!
Talk to someone
Have you ever tried to keep something in and noticed how it affected you? Take a minute to think about it. Talking about things can be very cathartic. You can choose if that person will be a family member, a friend, a professional, etc. Sometimes just getting things out of our head can bring some light to a situation, or help us to sort things out. Turning to a trusted individual is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.
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