by Donna Gibbs
Many are hurting and in need of hope. Sometimes reading a long narrative can be tough when you are grieving, so today we’ve provided a short, bullet-point tool kit for those who might be suffering the loss of a loved one. If you are grieving, we hope you find some tips that are helpful to you in this challenging season of life.
If you are experiencing grief or trauma, these are some strategies that may assist you in healthy coping.
Since everyone grieves differently, find the tools that work for you.
- Be Honest – Every time you lie and say “I’m fine” when you really aren’t, your subconscious mind hears and continues to bury emotions. Deal with the pain as it comes, or it will leak out in more destructive ways. It is normal to experience waves of denial, anger, guilt, blame, sadness, and peace. At times, you may have difficulty concentrating or struggle with daily functioning. At other times, you may feel joy and may even laugh. The emotions of grief can be unpredictable. Be honest with yourself, and others, about what you are feeling.
- Lean into your pain – Grief is a normal response to loss, and it will wait on you. Rather than trying to avoid the pain, lean into it so that your recovery will not be prolonged.
- Buy a journal – Write out your feelings, questions, struggles, prayers, victories and praises. If you aren’t a writer, draw out your thoughts. Record your growth through the grief and trauma. This is an opportunity to “lean in” to the grief.
- Connect with others for support – Grieving sometimes leads to a desire to isolate, at a time when the support of others is important. Connect with a church or a support group that can address your grief effectively.
- Eat nutritiously – Grief and trauma are stressful to the immune system.
- Rest – Grief and trauma are stressful to the immune system.
- Exercise – Grief and trauma are stressful to the immune system. (Yes, there is a pattern here!)
- Spend time with friends and family – Talk about your losses, celebrate memories together, and begin building new memories. Communicate with your loved ones about how you are doing, the highs and the lows. Intentionally and routinely spend time with those who are safe supports – go for a walk, meet for lunch, continue living life together.
- Avoid making major decisions following a loss or trauma – Allow yourself some time to process your loss prior to making major decisions or purchases. Our emotions can sometimes make destructive and impulsive decisions for us.
- Create symbols for closure – Allow yourself to experience closure through some formal means. A funeral is a symbolic event. Other options might include creating a memorial, planting a tree, making a scrapbook, or some other manner of honoring your loved one. This allows you to feel you are actively doing something meaningful with your grief.
- Slow anger responses – Anger is a secondary emotion that goes hand-in-hand with grief and trauma. When you experience irritability and anger, consider what is going on emotionally underneath those reactions. Talk with a counselor, friend, or pastor, journal, or pray about those vulnerable emotions that are sometimes more difficult to experience than anger. Anger is our most powerful emotion, and can make an unintended mess if not fueled and managed effectively.
- Extend grace to yourself and your loved ones – Grief will bring waves of emotions you can’t even name, and to a degree of intensity you didn’t think was possible. You are not going to feel like yourself for a period of time. and may even feel that you are going crazy. Others who are grieving will grieve differently than you, and may experience emotions that you don’t. Things will get better, but until they do, a dose of grace for yourself, and others, will be helpful. Remember, grief is sometimes messy.
When to get help:
*When grief or trauma leaks into your daily functioning and monopolizes your thoughts.
*When you abuse substances or employ other destructive behaviors in an attempt to escape or avoid emotional pain (the pain will wait for you, and the substance may actually make you feel more depressed).
*When you experience ongoing physical symptoms related to the emotional strain you are experiencing.
*When you experience nightmares, flashbacks, or involuntary intrusive thoughts that interrupt your daily functioning.
*When you experience thoughts of harming yourself.
*When you experience ongoing numbing, isolation, irritability, or other emotional or psychological concerns.
Verses for Healing and Growth in Grief
Psalm 18:1-3, 6
I Corinthians 10:13
1 Peter 5:6-7
1 Thessalonians 4:13
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
2 Thessalonians 3:16
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
1 Corinthians 13:12
Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse.