Coping with grief

by Mikel LaPorte
Mental health Columnist

How do you describe grief? No words can capture the enormity of pain and sadness that occur when we lose a loved one. Pain and sadness don’t even begin to capture the depth of those emotions during a time of loss.

For those grieving, the waves of emotions can sometimes seem insurmountable. One minute you feel like you are keeping your head above water, and the next, a new wave of emotion comes crashing over you and you think you might drown in the sorrow.

For those who have a family member or friend facing a terminal illness, much like those who knew and loved The Gayly CFO and Senior Editor, Ken Townsend, the grieving often begins before the person has passed on.

Some people lose someone unexpectedly, like Dustin Parker, the trans man from McAlister killed earlier this year, who must deal with both trauma and grief at the same time which can often extend the bereavement period one endures.

Although we logically understand that death and loss are a part of life, we are never really prepared on an emotional level for the experience of losing a loved one, which is often described by mental health professionals as the most stressful experience one can encounter.

Regardless of what others may tell you, there is no right or wrong way to mourn someone who has passed. Yes, there are some common emotions that people experience, such as denial, confusion, sadness, yearning, anger, despair and even guilt. However, the process you go through and the intensity in which you will feel those feelings are unique to you.

Mourning also involves honoring the person who has passed, and you get to decide for yourself how to do that.

While there is no “right” way to grieve, the American Psychological Association has some suggested strategies on how to process through the grief.  They include:

  1. Talking about the death of your loved one- discussing the death prevents you from isolating yourself through denial. It is also a way to share some of the memories you have about the person.
  2. Accept your feelings – when we attempt to deny our feelings, they often manifest later in unhealthy ways. Remember that emotions such as sadness, anger, frustration and exhaustion are perfectly normal during times of grief.
  3. Take care of yourself and your family – remember to eat well, exercise, and get plenty of rest so you have the stamina to make it through day by day.
  4. Reach out to others dealing with the loss – supporting others who are grieving the loss of your loved one can help you to feel better as well. The joint sharing of stories provides an opportunity for all to cope with the loss.
  5. Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved one – this is probably the most individualized strategy. Honoring your loved one will be unique to who they were and the relationship that you had with them.
    Some people donate to charity, others plant a tree, while still others name a baby after the loved one who has passed. Again, honor the person in the way that feels right to you.
  6. Seek assistance from a mental health provider – the loss of a loved one is the most difficult and stressful event one will encounter in this life. Seeking help with an unbiased third party can allow you to process the often-complicated emotions that come with grief.

No question about it, losing someone is hard. We all grieve in our own way. Hopefully, you will find some value in the suggestions listed above should you find yourself grieving the loss of a dear friend or beloved family member.

Copyright The Gayly. 2/24/2020 @ 2:20 p.m. CST.