Benefits of Grieving: How to Deal with a Loss
Loss is an inevitable fact of life, and where there’s loss, there’s grief.
Grief is the acute pain that accompanies loss.
While grief is usually associated with the death of someone or something important to us, like a family member, dear friend, or beloved pet – it isn’t limited to death. We can experience grief with any kind of major life change such as the ending of a relationship, divorce, a child leaving home, retirement, or even a change of residence.
Grief is powerful. It’s a psychic pain that can be searing, even debilitating. In the throes of grief, one may feel like life will never be good again.
It impacts us physiologically too. Research shows that grief is associated with higher stress, disrupted sleep, compromised immune function, and greater risk of heart health issues.
While we can’t avoid grief in life, we can learn how to respond to it in ways that don’t prolong, intensify, or dismiss the pain.
Let’s look at ways to constructively deal with grief and some of the unexpected benefits of grieving.
We all have different ideas about grief, especially grief as it relates to death. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Five Stages of Grief” introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969. Experts today believe that grief isn’t a linear progression of stages.
Instead, they see grief as a process that involves acceptance of the loss, processing that loss, adjusting to life without the person who died, and finding ways to maintain a connection with your loved ones.
If you’re experiencing a loss, the following are helpful tips for healthy grieving.
- Stay Open to the Grief
Resisting, denying, staying too busy to feel, or overdoing it with numbing behaviors will make grief worse. What you resist persists.
Be willing to deal with the pain of grief. Make space for your grief. Feel it, don’t fight it, and don’t try to rush through it. It may be helpful to think of the pain as a way of honoring the beauty and love of what’s been lost.
- Give Your Grief Expression
Giving your grief expression may mean taking some time alone each day to meditate, reflect, journal, walk, or just be.
It also could be creating an altar or putting up a picture of the person or pet you’ve lost. Find creative expression (i.e., painting, working with clay, dancing, playing an instrument, knitting, baking, etc.) with whatever feels right to you.
Reach out to trusted friends or family members who understand your grief and won’t try to “fix it.” It can be helpful to tell your story of loss or talk about the person who died. It’s important to be able to tell your story and be heard when you’re grieving.
- Find Restorative Distractions
Grief can be messy. We can cry and express deep sadness or anger one moment, and then be ready to change the channel with a distraction the next. This is totally okay, and normal.
It’s healthy to take a break from the pain. Here are some ideas:
- Go to a movie
- Show up to work
- Walk in nature
- Be of service to another person
These distractions may provide a much-needed respite from the grief.
- Don’t Try to Get Over it
Experts resoundingly agree that people don’t “get over” the loss of an important person in their life, and grief has no timetable. Take that kind of pressure off yourself.
Grief isn’t something to get through or get over. The acute, cutting pain of grief heals on its own timetable. And like a scar from a wound, it remains part of us, sometimes with a dull ache.
4 Helpful and Healing Benefits of Grieving
It’s helpful to remember that as humans, we’re built to handle loss. And from loss can come the birth of something new.
Here are just a few benefits of grieving:
1. It Can Be Transformative
When we’re in acute grief, the change isn’t welcome. Yet, it’s often followed by a number of positive changes. The healing period can bring new interests and sometimes an entirely new direction in life.
Your values may shift. Perhaps you’ll want to create more meaning in your life. Maybe you’ll make a career change or go back to school.
2. Greater Empathy
When you experience the pain of a great loss, and another person gives you the gift of compassionate listening, it teaches you about empathy. To surrender and feel a loss fully is as human as it gets.
You’ll be able to empathize when others experience loss. Also, you’ll have a greater capacity to listen with empathy.
3. Develop Strength and Resilience
Especially when facing the loss of our strongest attachments – such as parents, spouses and partners, or children – we may discover hidden strengths and abilities, clarity surrounding our priorities, and profound resilience.
4. Appreciate Life and Love
One of the healing benefits of grieving is that it teaches us to greater appreciate our friends and family and the meaningful moments, however subtle, we experience througout the day. Also, we tend to value life and sacred connections more.
Death teaches us that every moment matters, that we must live and love fully, knowing that what we have today could change tomorrow. We gain a new reverence for life.
Relief from Grief
In some cases, painful grief persists long after the loss occurs. This is often the case when there’s an untimely or tragic death, estrangement, or painful last words.
With the help of a qualified grief counselor or mental health professional, even those with complicated grief can find healing and happiness again.
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