Grief is such a tricky thing to navigate. Many people think that grief is solely an emotional issue, something that can make you feel sad or alone. Something interesting to note is that our emotions can also impact us in physical ways, interfering with the way our bodies feel and function. Stress can show up in our bodies as sore muscles, tummy troubles, headaches and more.
When we attempt to push down or ignore our grief, our bodies can send us signals that our emotions are still very much in need of our care and attention. Rather than hope that our grief simply resolves, there are a few things we can do to help ourselves work through the big emotions we may be experiencing.
9 Ways to Manage The Effects of Bereavement And Stress
1. Exercise Self-Compassion
Give yourself permission to feel. Learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings is a process that becomes easier over time. One comes to understand that emotions come and go like tourists during the busy season. They stay for a while, and then they are gone. Understanding that difficult feelings will somehow eventually ease helps to lessen the fear that we will always be in this type of pain.
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2. Talk It out
Release your confusion, frustration, shock, and pain with someone you trust. Choose someone who is a good listener and empathetic. Feeling understood and heard is an important component of healing.
3. Write a Letter to or Journal About the Person You Lost
Writing is another way to release emotional pain. Writing down our thoughts and feelings helps us identify what we are feeling and why we are feeling that way. This, in turn, helps us understand ourselves, so we can improve our mental health by gaining insight into our thoughts and emotions.
Suggested Read: What Should I Journal About After A Loss?
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Laugh
It is not uncommon to feel guilty about experiencing joy in the wake of loss. Laughter is a natural stress reliever that releases feel-good chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in the brain. Laughter also relaxes muscles, eases tension, reduces cortisol levels, protects the heart, increases immune system functioning and replenishes the lungs. Needless to say, laughter can truly be the best medicine.
5. Rely on Faith
Whether you are religious or spiritual, reading or listening to uplifting religious or spiritual texts and/or music can offer hope and keep death in perspective. Simply exposing oneself to positive and uplifting words creates a mind-shift away from dark and negative thoughts that can overwhelm us.
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6. Have Patience
We exist in a fast-paced society where instant gratification is coveted. Recovering from a loss cannot be forced. It is like buying a train ticket without knowing the destination. The journey is long and there may be stops and delays along the way. Practice patience and compassion as you navigate through each twist and turn.
7. Make Self-Care a Priority
Exercise, meditate, do yoga, or get a massage. These activities work to keep our minds in the present moment, and relax and rejuvenate the body.
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8. Offer Yourself Forgiveness
It is easy to beat up on ourselves for the things we said or didn’t say to our departed loved one. Let go of guilt; nobody is perfect. Now is the time to forgive yourself.
Notice that life is all around you–plants, animals, people. The older one gets, the more we notice that life is fleeting. It is important to stay conscious of small, yet meaningful moments. So enjoy the sun’s warmth, a loved one’s hug, the squirrels giving chase to one another, the buds of new leaves in spring, a neighborly hello, or a smile from a stranger. Find comfort in being a part of something that is much bigger than all of us.
Find What Works For You
There is no one right or wrong way to work through your emotions. You may try something for a bit, feel that it is not helping, and decide to move on to another tactic. If something that worked well for a friend is not working for you, you are under no obligation to continue down that path. Our grief is very personal, and it deserves our care and attention. When we take the time to honor our feelings, we also help our bodies let go of some of the stress we may have been holding. Whether you find comfort in writing, painting, gardening or walking, know that time you take for yourself is time well spent.
Suggested Read: Finding Gratitude In Life’s Ordinary Moments