Did you know that everyone grieves differently? Grief is a natural and deeply personal response to losing a precious loved one, facing a divorce, or the death of a beloved pet. We all must face this brutal reality and need to know how to navigate it or help others going through the same valley.
I call it your “realignment for a new assignment,” which means a rich, resilient, and fulfilling future that becomes a lasting legacy of your loved one.
Following are four steps to empower you to heal. Read each a few times. Then, read the “thought shifter declarations” aloud several times to read and hear yourself saying it–key to the recovery process. You might consider recording each self-talk declaration on your phone so you can listen to it repeatedly to make it feel more real.
Step 1: Admit, acknowledge, and vent your feelings–all of them. You’ll want to avoid, bury, and run away from the tidal wave of emotions that hits you. It happens to us all and is normal. But if you allow that automatic reaction, you’ll only delay the healing process. It’s like throwing up when you’re sick. The freedom comes in letting it all out. Allow yourself to experience–and express–the full range of these powerful emotions accompanying grief, including sadness, anger, confusion, fear, hopelessness, or even wanting to give up.
- Thought-Shifter Declaration. "Even if it’s hard, I choose to do the healthy things. I’ll release all my feelings and permit myself to go with it, let go, unload it all, so I can open myself up to thoughts that heal and restore me.”
Step 2: Choose to be kind, gentle, and compassionate with yourself. This is a harsh and painful road you are forced to go down. More than any other, now is the time to give yourself a boatload of TLC (tender loving care). Be gentle with yourself and prioritize self-care activities that promote healing. Choose to do things such as exercise, journal, get your hair done, take long walks in beautiful places, go to the spa, or listen to soothing and comforting music. Even though your feelings will vehemently protest and throw fits, do it anyway, do it for your self-care.
- Thought-Shifter Declaration. "I am special. I am unique. I deserve to have a good life, a full and happy life. A life with things I always enjoyed. My loved one would want me to be happy and take care of myself for them. The best is none too good for me, especially during this challenging time, and I refuse to let negative feelings rule my life.”
Step 3: Don’t go at it alone. You’ll feel like isolating and going into your shell. You may think this protects and allow you to hide from life. Choose not to give in to those negative feelings. Notice I said “choose” because your emotions might not cooperate with what’s best for you. Don’t go at it alone. Instead, surround yourself with a loving, nurturing, and caring support network of family, friends, clergy, or a trusted therapist or coach who can provide empathy and understanding and help you get a grip on a whole new perspective.
There are many grief support groups where you can meet with kindred spirits going through the same avalanche of sorrows you’re facing now. Yes, it’s time to let somebody love you and encourage you. And you will find added strength as you encourage them and bring them hope. Iron sharpening iron. And again, do it even if you hate the thought, do it anyway. It’s all about choices, not feelings.
- Thought-Shifter Declaration: "I am not alone; I have people who care and will support me through this journey in the valley. It makes others feel better when they see that their help lifts and comforts me. I can help them by allowing them to help me. Isolation only prolongs my sorrow, so I’ll not listen to those dark feelings, and I’ll reach out, maybe even look into a support group or get into counseling. I’ll choose to do at least one thing like this every day.”
Step 4: Stay connected to your loved one. Express your thoughts, feelings, and special memories by writing a letter to your loved one. Talk out loud to them, sharing what you write. Share your innermost thoughts as if they were right there with you. This practice can help you process your emotions and maintain a positive connection with them.
- Thought-Shifter Declaration. "I will find peace and comfort in writing to my loved one, knowing that our bond of love transcends physical presence. We’ll always be a special part of each other’s life, so I’ll tell them so.”
In choosing to go through these steps, you'll see dramatic results even if your feelings resist. Wouldn’t your loved one want only the best for you, especially now? No question about it.
To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.