Whoever said that the two things you can’t avoid in life are death and taxes should’ve added a third–grief. Grief touches us all at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s the loss of someone you love, the loss of your physical abilities, or the loss of hope. Grief creates a ripple effect in our lives. It might increase depression and cause us to think suicidal thoughts. It creates anxiety and can lead us to substance use to try to stop the pain. It doesn’t matter that we’ve all heard the arguments that we shouldn’t do drugs or we shouldn’t drink so much. At that moment, we turn to artificial substances to help ease our pain.
This past year has been tough for everybody, but it’s time to put the past behind us and let go of the sorrow so we can start healing. From pandemics to political unrest, life has to go on. Here are some ways to deal with a personal loss.
KEEP THE MEMORY ALIVE
If you’ve lost someone, one of the most important aspects of healing is keeping their memory alive. There are several different ways you can do this. You can create a space where you gather pictures, flowers, candles, or sentimental objects as a kind of shrine to their memory. They may not be there in the flesh, but seeing photos and old mementos can help you feel like they are there in spirit.
Others may commemorate the passing of a loved one with a tattoo or some companies take remnants of the deceased’s belongings and create jewelry with it. You could put a small amount of their ashes in a necklace to honor their memory. Grief is a process and these things are ways to keep part of your loved one there with you while you take the time to mourn their loss. It doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes you may be doing a normal activity and something triggers a memory. We like to refer to those as “emotional landmines.” You’re just minding your own business and suddenly something explodes in your face and triggers an emotional response. That’s okay. Give yourself time.
YOU REALLY WANT ME TO EXERCISE?
Yes. Right now, all you probably want to do is lay on the couch, order a pizza, and not even bother with daily hygiene. You have to get up. Exercise and healthy eating can truly help relieve some of the pain. It’s all a part of self-care and exercise helps blow off some of the grief you’re carrying inside. Simple acts like brushing your teeth or taking a shower are going to incrementally make you feel better, but running or lifting weights will help you even more.
KEEP A TRADITION
Like exercise, you probably have no interest in activities or trying a new hobby. You just want to lay on the couch and watch another rerun or a movie you’ve seen a million times. Find something that piques your interest–either something that did before you started grieving or find something that honors the person who is gone. For instance, if grandma liked to knit, learn how to knit and send people scarves for their birthdays or Christmas. It doesn’t have to be good. If it’s not so good that will give you all something to laugh about. But you can use that skill to honor your loved one and to comfort others. If dad slipped quarters under your pillow when you lost a tooth, find someone in the family to take over the tradition. Keep their memory alive.
Joining a support group of other people dealing with loss can help you feel less alone. You may think this could be depressing, listening to stories of loss and loneliness, but hearing others’ sorrow often makes you grateful for the things you have. It makes you thankful for another day and another chance to live your best life, perhaps, but the greatest way to honor a loved one is by being a living embodiment of their legacy.
Someone who shares the same sense of loss and grief can be a tremendous comfort to you and vice versa. It can remind you how you are powerless over things that you can’t control and you have to learn how to cope.
No one can put a timetable on your grief. Some people seem to move on after a couple of days. Some people take years. First of all, the key phrase here is “seem to move on.” Just because someone is putting up an appearance of letting go of grief doesn’t mean that they truly have. The holidays are especially a tough time. Sit around with friends or family and share stories about the loved one you’ve lost. Plan something special to honor their memory and expect plenty of tears along with laughter.
We all grieve in different ways, whether loudly or softly, tearfully or stoically–the important thing is that we find other people, activities, or support groups to work out our grief, not a chemical substance.
Grief is as universal to our experience as birth and death, yet we find many ways to try to avoid it. We may try to throw ourselves into our work as a distraction. Others become so embedded on their couch that they could make a sloth look like the Energizer Bunny. Unfortunately, too many people try to numb the pain by drinking or abusing drugs. If we can find other ways to deal with grief, we reduce our chances of developing a substance abuse problem. Learning to cope with loss also plays a key role in mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression. At Everlast Recovery Center, we understand grief and the impact it has on our lives. Whether you struggle with substance abuse, mental illness, or both, we are here to help you lead a fulfilling life. Our Riverside, CA facility helps you heal through yoga, art therapy, and equine therapy among other holistic and traditional programs. Let us help, call 866-DETOX-25