The 5 First Steps to Take When Coping with Grief

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In honour of mental health month in May I wanted to dedicate this week’s blog to dealing with the emotion of grief. There are many things that can trigger grief. Anything you might call “a loss” can bring on the feelings of grief - death of a loved one, loss of a job or relationship, or loss of autonomy while managing a disease like multiple sclerosis.

Just because loss is a part of life doesn’t mean we are automatically equipped to handle it. Yet, we can learn to cope. We can survive.

Grief is …

The emotion we feel when we lose something. The bigger the loss, the more we suffer. All of us will most likely experience grief in our lifetimes, but it will not feel the same to each of us. Grief is as personal as DNA.

The stages of grief will …

Vary for each person. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You may deny that the loss is happening. You may get angry. You may bargain with the world to fix what happened. You could end up depressed facing this enormous loss. Hopefully, and eventually, you will accept your loss and live on.

Your symptoms may come out as …

You acting anxious, agitated or apathetic. You may feel guilty, helpless or in shock. You may lose concentration at work and avoid relationships. You may sleep poorly. You may feel like hurting yourself. It’s important to know what symptoms are associated with grief, as we need to know what it looks like in order to cope.

Take the steps necessary to heal by doing things you can control.

1. Express your feelings.

Admit to people you trust that you’re in pain. It’s common to want to run away from life while you grieve, but you need human connection to feel supported. Find people who are experiencing the same sort of loss via a support group, talk to a professional counsellor to unpack your feelings, or commune with like-minded people from your faith community to help you mourn.

2. Take care of your body.

Grieving can drain your energy and even has the potential to make you physically sick. You may feel too numb to eat but doing so regularly and asking for help shopping and cooking may be necessary. Another great option would be to get out of the house to walk, jog, or run, as you’ll be exercising, getting mood-boosting vitamin D via the sun and taking a mental break from your emotions.

3. Get better sleep.

Difficulty sleeping is extremely common for those that are grieving. Some common reasons for this include racing and intrusive thoughts, increased nightmares, and even anxiety about having bad dreams. Without enough sleep, our brain’s ability to process memories and make sound judgements becomes impaired, increasing the likelihood and frequency of mood swings.

Follow a regular sleep schedule, create a 30-minute nightly wind-down routine, or even go for a short walk before bed to increase your chances of sleeping soundly during the grieving process.

4. Postpone major life changes.

You need time to get better. Introducing another big transition (moving, remarrying, adding children) will distract you from coping. Give yourself space to adjust and time to process the feelings that you are experiencing.

5. Treat yourself kindly.

Finally, it is important to understand that you will have bad days. Pay attention to how many and when they happen. If they decrease over time, that’s usually a sign that you’re healing. In the meantime, treat yourself the way you’d treat a loved one when they’re struggling—honestly, respectfully, patiently, gently.

Grief is complicated, but we don’t have to suffer forever.

ADVISORY: Grief and depression are different. We advise that you consider seeking professional help if you are feeling stuck in grief or depression.

This week’s blog by special guest @elisemthewriter for Bend Like Bamboo

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To give yourself the best environment to repair you might want to explore further work on yourself.

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At her speeches and workshops, Amanda shares her own personal experience of her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis that led to a paralysis on the entire left-hand side of her body at age 29 years old. With the odds stacked against her, she had to change her mind about what was possible, when she had no choice but to succeed.

A decade later, and now an accredited Sports Kinesiologist, she has made a full recovery. She now spends her time helping others rebuild from setbacks, change and illness using The Bend Like Bamboo Method promoting resilience and potential.

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