Losing a loved one, a career position, or financial security can be devastating for most people. Experiencing a loss – whether it’s a person, opportunity, or your life dream – will often create emotional distress. This in turn can make it hard to face every day challenges like the stress at work, little squabbles in relationships, or even getting out of bed in the morning. When the heart is breaking, the whole world feels dismal and even depressing.
For this reason, it’s important to give yourself opportunities to grieve. It’s important to have coping tools to use when you’re feeling overwhelmingly sad or depressed. The following list includes tools to consider when you’re feeling overcome by loss.
Know the stages of grieving. A widely accepted model for grieving is Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grieving. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In the first stage a person might behave in ways that indicate a denial that the loss took place at all. In the second stage, a person might start to feel upset, frustrated, or even rage about what happened. In the third stage, a person might bargain their way through the pain. They might say to themselves, “Well, if I become a better person, maybe things will change” or “If I had done something differently, my loved one would still be here.” When a person feels depressed, they are in the fourth stage. Finally, accepting the loss is the last stage. Knowing these stages can give you a roadmap for grieving. However, keep in mind that these stages are not necessarily linear. You might move in and out of these stages including taking a few steps back.
Express your feelings. Once you know the stages of grieving, you have a sense of the emotions that can come with loss. Although some of those feelings may be difficult, expressing and processing your feelings with a therapist can be very helpful. In fact, talking to anyone you trust can be cathartic. Having the opportunity to talk your feelings out is a significant part of the healing process. Yet, if you feel you need professional support, don’t hesitate to contact a mental health provider.
Use non-verbal methods of expression. Sometimes feelings are so strong that we can push them away. They may stay somewhat buried until we give ourselves non-verbal opportunities to express those emotions. Activities like making art, listening to music, dance, and painting can be methods of non-verbal expression – opportunities for you to express yourself and those hard to reach feelings.
Engage in vigorous exercise on a regular basis. Research shows that vigorous exercise, such as running, tennis, racquetball, or other intensely active sports can help release emotions that are not otherwise getting expressed. Sometimes moving the body can help with processing feelings that you might not be in touch with. This and non-verbal methods of expression, as mentioned above, can be very useful in the healing process.
These are tips for coping with loss. Certainly, the experience is difficult. Yet, the above methods can aid in moving through the difficult feelings in a supported way. As mentioned above, if you feel you need help, contact a mental health provider today.
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