Everybody grieves. How we grieve—and how long we grieve—differs from person to person. For some, getting through the first holiday season after losing a loved one can be the most challenging. And while everyone else currently seems to be making good on New Year’s resolutions and working on bettering themselves, it’s acceptable and normal to grieve the loss of your loved one for as long as necessary.
Grief: A Balancing Act
Chaplain Robert Beisser, ProMedica Hospice bereavement coordinator, says that as we begin a new year, those who are still in mourning aren’t always sure what they can or should be doing.
“It’s important to keep your grief in balance,” Beisser says. “I recommend keeping a journal of all the fun things you used to do with your loved one, as well as the activities you may have put on the backburner in order to care for him or her.”
Beisser suggests scheduling out these activities—one or two per month—to enjoy with family and friends or by yourself.
“Being proactive will help you get through the grieving process,” he says. “Choose a hobby or activity that reminds you of your loved one, such as attending sports events, watching a play or concert, or going back to school.”
Experiencing Grief Bursts
The weeks or month following the death of a loved one are busy and hectic, often accompanied by shock and numbness. Beisser explains that many people might not feel the grief set in until two or three months later. You may even find yourself feeling relatively happy, followed by moments of extreme sadness. He calls these feelings “grief bursts.”
“Grief bursts are thoughts or feelings you get from the senses,” Beisser says. “Certain colors, songs, movies, or words can cause emotional responses ranging from laughing to crying. These are a normal part of the grieving process and will remain with you throughout life.”
He adds, “Grief is like a little box with a ribbon wrapped around it. You have to let the ribbon loosen, allowing the grief to come out in doses. As you continue to embrace the grief and recognize it as a natural response to loss, the grief bursts will happen less frequently.”
Healthy Grieving Tips
While grieving is a personal experience, grief can manifest in both healthy and not-so-healthy habits. Beisser mentions a few ways to cope with grief in a productive manner.
- Be good to yourself: Allow yourself to experience grief in your own way. If you value alone time, seek it out. But also understand that humans are social creatures. Don’t be alone for extended periods of time.
- Watch what you eat: Proper nutrition is vital during the grieving process. Going the comfort food route might feel good in the short-term, but supplying your body with the necessary nutrients is essential for boosting energy levels and mood as time goes on.
- Find a non-judgmental companion: Talk to someone you can trust. Seek out a grief counselor, spiritual leader, friend, coworker, or family member you can talk to without keeping feelings inside.
Beisser warns that you should call your physician or a crisis center hotline immediately if you’re experiencing physical symptoms of grief, or if your grief has led to sudden crisis. That includes thoughts of suicide, failing to care for yourself (eating, bathing, dressing), or abusing drugs or alcohol.