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The Best Way To Deal With Grief

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Hi again. I heard an interesting phrase the other day. Someone told me that C.S. Lewis wrote the best way to deal with grief is to struggle through it. To simply experience it as it comes. I have found that to be fairly accurate. There is no simple answer. no magic bandaid, no equation for how or when it will hit you. here I am two years later just beginning to turn the corner of long term acceptance of my brothers passing. I am someone who likes to be in control. I like things to be in boxes. I am afraid to really dig deeply into how I feel. I am finding myself being distant from other things I care about because I am distancing myself from my grief. I want to let go. Has any one else ever had similar feelings?

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Sure firefly I have felt exactly the same. But I have learned like CS Lewis... it is better for me to just let the waves of grief hit me... feel them.. express the emotions that come up and keep moving forward. He's right.. it's a struggle, but it is not impossible.

And places like this community make it a LOT easier.

I now know I'm no more nuts than the average bear. That it's normal to feel absolutely raw at times. That it's normal to not be able to sleep sometimes, or to have the attention span of a gnat, or to cry at seemingly odd times.. etc. And I know all of that because of this place and many of the books and other resources listed here.

This is the place to feel and experience my "normal" response to an abnormal situation. This is where I am learning that the abnormal situation is really just a new way to live.... to live without my lost loved ones physically here beside me.

This is where I am learning to keep putting one foot in front of the other... anyway. I'm limping sometimes... but.. that's normal too.

And because of this place I know without doubt I am not alone.

May you come to know the same.


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Experiencing grief as it comes brings pain and hardship, but I'd have to agree that it's best to just let it happen and go through it. Distance doesn't help, and I found that if I bottle up my feelings, they'll burst out of me later and when they do, the hurt is worse because it has had time to accumulate.

However, letting yourself experience grief doesn't necessarily mean you have to seek out things, people or situations you know will be painful and expose yourself to them. Some people in this group might argue that we should deliberately and directly confront such things to make ourselves stronger, for example go alone to a place that was special to us and the person we lost, just to see if we can "take it." But not everyone can do this, and in some cases it may do more harm than good.

Shying away, using distance like emotional bubble wrap to protect your feelings, isn't a good long-term strategy for handling grief. Neither is the "that which doesn't kill me, makes me stronger" method of slamming yourself up against things from your past. Let people and experiences come to you as they will. You may find that when they appear, you'll have evolved to a place where they aren't as hurtful or threatening as you thought they'd be. And if something does confront you before you're ready, using your problem-solving skills to figure out what to do will give you more confidence in your ability to survive and grow.

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Oh yes I agree with you Kathy.. I too, see no need to confront certain things just for the sake of confronting them. I mean it may work for some people.. but I know it doesn't work for me.

I like to just deal with the grief as it appears.. as it comes up. And yes I also think it is better for me as well to deal with it sooner rather than later. If I stuff emotions.. they always come back to haunt me another day when perhaps I am less able to deal with them. Or those emotions can come out at inappropriate times or place if I haven't expressed them when they first appeared.

But truly we all find our own way.. so there isn't a wrong or right way really. Just what works for each of us.

I have gotten so many ideas here though that I probably wouldn't have thought of on my own... so I'm very grateful for this community.


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Perhaps I am a little bit different in my approach. I think in grieving, in the beginning we have no choice to experience some of it head on. We all go through that numb stage and of course that varies in time for each person, but as you are coming out of it, there is a sense of distance that one has to put on the grief in order to continue to exist and to make it through each day.

Most of us don't have the luxury of taking a day or a week off here and there to deal with the really rough times of grieving - so we have to comparmentalize our emotions more than we are used to. Or at least this is true for me. Additionally, not everyone can afford the grief counselling for an extended period of time to help us deal with the amount of emotions and situation we will face - sometimes for the first time.

At work, we need to be able to put our grieving aside, and even sometimes in our own personal world where it is safe in order to let our hearts heal. Then when we have a little more strength built up we can allow ourselves to feel the force of our emotions and just experience it and let oneself mourn completely for a reasonable duration.

I do believe in trying to experience grief as it comes, but we also have to moderate where and when is the correct setting so it does not make our personal situation any more difficult than necessary. If many things set a person off, as they were for me, I simply had to bury those feelings till I was in a better environment and not putting too much additional stress on friends and family. I am the most emotional member of my family and so everyone was thinking I would have an emotional breakdown. I did when they took my moms body away, but other times I would just have tears in my eyes when we had to deal with other things in terms of the estate, etc. I think when we are in mourning it can take a toll on our friends, family and even co-workers. At work it is a very dangerous place to bring one's grief. In most work places to show emotional weakness is almost a career suicidal move depending on your workplace and what position you hold.

For the first six months, I would go home nightly, draw a hot bath and sob - sometimes uncontrollably. This released enough emotional stress that I could make it through the next day. There were some things that set me off for the first while, like people talking about their parents or grandparents; or someone talking about funerals. But I think that is pretty common for most people to have that as a trigger.

I definitely think it is good for us to deal with our grief sooner than later or instead of completely ignoring it and keeping so busy that when other events occur, that one falls to pieces. But we all have to realize that everyone has different ways of coping and for some people their way of coping is ignoring it and burying it until perhaps it is easier to handle with another event. I think for the people who bury it deeply these people are the ones that are so emotionally raw over their loved one passing that potentially they could suffer a complete breakdown if they deal with it as it comes.

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Allalone, I'm sorry if you construed Leeann's and my posts on this subject as saying that dealing with grief immediately when it strikes is the only way to go forward. It's simply the approach that has worked best for us, not a commandment that everyone else should follow. I believe firmly that every grieving person needs to discover and practice the coping techniques they're most comfortable with.

At least in my case, taking grief as it comes doesn't mean that every time I'm feeling emotionally raw, no matter where I am, I just let loose--and to hell with the consequences. There certainly are times and places when intense emotional displays aren't appropriate (such as at work) and when we're in those situations, we need to hold back and keep the grieving inside until we can express it more privately.

However, I try to avoid suppressing the grief for very long. Even during the work day, if things get really bad, I find an empty conference room, break area, or even a stairwell where I can let go for a few minutes. After I've vented, I make a quick trip to the restroom to re-compose myself, and then go back to work as though the crying spell never happened. My eyes may still be a little red when I return to my desk, but no one can tell why - for all my co-workers know, I might be having an allergy attack. And really, the reason for the redness is none of their business.

Some people are stronger and more resilient than others, and I feel deeply for those who are so fragile that each grief-producing event breaks them down. When I see someone who's like that struggling, I offer them help but am not offended if they don't want it.

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Thanks Kathy for putting it so well.

Of course we can't just let loose anywhere at anytime.. I just meant if I am having a "moment" and I need to suppress it because of where I am... I just get to expressing those emotions as soon as I can eek out a private moment because I too find if I put it off too long.. I can be worse off. I find if I put if off, I can end up feeling emotionally raw constantly.

So yes I think sooner rather than later is always best.

I guess we're not that different after all then allalone.

But each person finds their own way and manner to express grief that they feel most comfortable with. I had to keep reminding myself there is no grade for this.. no assessment of how "good" I did it... just that I do it.


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Hi all, I've been away from the board for a little while. Firefly - thank you for starting this thread. It is extremely insightful. I was about to start a thread along these lines myself.

I agree with C.S. Lewis' ways of dealing with grief. His views are quite right. Letting the feelings brought on by grief wash over you is one of the best ways of dealing with it. Though, each person has to find a way that works for them, as we are all different.

Quote leeann wrote:

"I now know I'm no more nuts than the average bear. That it's normal to feel absolutely raw at times. That it's normal to not be able to sleep sometimes, or to have the attention span of a gnat, or to cry at seemingly odd times.. etc".

Quote KathyG wrote:

"Experiencing grief as it comes brings pain and hardship, but I'd have to agree that it's best to just let it happen and go through it".

leeann and Kathy, I agree with what you've both said above. Leeann, you're right, the feelings and behavior you've described are all totally normal for someone who is grieving. However, what I've found, both drawing from my own personal experience of grief and what I've learned talking to other people who are also grieving the loss of a loved one, is that sometimes other people (society) will try to make us think that there is something abnormal about feeling this way.

As most of you know, I lost my dad to cancer 5 months ago and his sudden loss was totally unexpected. At first I felt pretty numb and then the grief really hit home. Suddenly I had difficulty sleeping, was exhausted sometimes, lost my appetite, had become uninterested in the things that I used to enjoy and I’d become less out-going. Instead of letting it engulf me, I actively sought out bereavement counseling and saw my family doctor regularly, as well as finding this wonderful forum. All positive steps towards dealing with grief, don't you think?

However, other people in my day-to-day life, particularly at work, would tell me that "they were really worried about me", that "there was something wrong with me" and that "I shouldn't be feeling like I did". This was the first time that I had ever lost someone really close to me, so I had no prior experience to draw on to help determine what was 'normal' and what wasn't. So being vulnerable at that time, as the loss was very recent and raw, I believed them when they said that there was cause for concern. One of my colleagues even said that I should go see my doc and go on anti-depressants!

The turning point (when I began to feel better) occurred the instant I started to believe that what I was feeling, was in fact, normal for someone who had lost a loved one such a short time ago. My family doc said that she'd be worried if there was no reaction and no emotion following the loss and that she didn't feel that anti-depressants were required in my case, as all my ‘symptoms’ were totally normal.

The pressure instantly lifted from my shoulders and I started to take enjoyment from things again. I told myself not to listen to all of those people who were advising me that my feelings were abnormal, especially since by their own admission, they'd never experienced a bereavement themselves. Following this realization, I've noticed that other people I know who have recently experienced a family bereavement themselves, are in a hurry to 'get back to their usual selves' because in some ways society doesn't let us grieve. If you're feeling down or teary, we’re told, “hurry, rush for the pills (even if your doc thinks that they aren't required) do anything to stop yourself feeling your grief”. Well I don’t buy into this way of thinking any longer. Sure, there is a time and place for expressing one’s grief, (though it’s not always easy to compress it - it does sometimes just come out unexpectedly whether we want it to or not) but, feeling it, not fighting it or trying to ignore it, is a healthy way of dealing with grief and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

EDIT: Just seen this excellent thread which kind of backs up what I was saying about society not letting the grieving grieve: http://hovforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=3301

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  • 5 months later...

I like C.S. Lewis acknowledging it is a struggle. I think that is very true. If we think it is going to be easy, or try to ignore it, the struggle will only be worse. So we must think of it as a struggle, even though that is scary.

It's definitely tough. :(

You've given me another reason to pick up Lewis' book on grief, firefly. Thank you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I happen to be the kind of person who picks at the wound -- I do tend to seek out reminders, people, places in order to continue to process the grief, to meet it head on. I tend to run into my grief full force. But that's just me. I guess I do it so that it doesn't sneak up on me and bite me when I'm not looking (although it does that anyway.) That doesn't work for everyone. Some let it come -- some set aside time to feel the grief. It's what works for you. But using pills or alcohol or denial to try to escape the pain is what doesn't work, except temporarily -- that just sets the pain aside for later.

Even then, denial sometimes is the way some people handle it, as least for awhile. I knew a woman in my grief group who lost her husband very suddenly when their daughter was only six weeks old. She never really got out of the shock phase. She pushed the feelings away and held them off because she needed to take care of her infant daughter. She went through the motions and did everything to keep the house and the baby and her life going. Finally, after about 4 or 5 years, she began to date. And that started to break through the shock and denial, and she began to realize something wasn't right. She found our grief counselor, and the counselor gently told her that she had a delayed grief response, and that she needed to process her grief. But, again, the counselor did not tell her that she had been doing anything wrong -- that evidently she had needed to put her grief aside for awhile. The counselor only said that eventually, in order to be able to connect fully with life again, we need to process our grief how and when we are able to do so.

As for communicating to others, I think you need to not keep it all to yourself. But be aware that some people will not respond in a way that is helpful. Keep in mind that our society does not teach people how to deal with grief. We are led to believe that it's best not to "wallow" in grief, as if feeling it were somehow dysfunctional. Which is not true, of course. I am definitely a talker. I needed to talk about my grief. I'm sure it got so that the baggers at the grocery store and my coworkers started to duck when they saw me coming! So I found a grief group, and this list, and any outlet I could for expressing my grief without alienating all my friends and family. My friends did listen, but I didn't want to wear them out!

Fortunately, my ex's best friend and also his boyfriend, both needed to express grief as well, and we wrote long, long emails to each other going over and over our grief. Because we were all feeling it about the same person, we never got tired of it. This was of unbelievable help! We told endless stories about him, we each expressed how we thought we should have done more and then the others would say, but you did so much already, you could not have done more! We shared what our grief counselors said. It was wonderful. I hope everyone can find some outlet like that.

I don't need it as much now, nearly five years later. But sometimes I do want to talk about him, and I do. People who are your true friends will understand, or at least realize that this is what YOU need, even if they process grief differently, and they will let you have your time to express this, just as you let them talk about some things that you are not really interested in. This is what people who love you do.

When you are grieving, you often find that people you thought were friends really are not, and others whom you might not have ever talked to otherwise turn out to be the best friends you ever thought you could have. It's worth the occasional rejections to find those gems who turn out to be lifelong friendships for you.


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