Unfortunately, loss is a part of life, and something that everyone will experience at some point — and usually more than once. Grief is a natural response to losing someone that is important to you. During the grief process, you may have feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, confusion, or even depression, which all can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Coping with grief and loss is not easy, but there are resources available to try to make it easier. Below, are a few natural and healthy ways to cope with grief and loss.
When grief and loss from a death occurs, you will likely feel a wide range of emotions. Whether the loss of the loved one is expected, or unexpected, grief hits the human body fast and without warning, and can take time to heal. When you are hit with grief and loss, it is important to acknowledge the loss, in order for you to 1) come to terms with it and 2) recover. You may be familiar with the Five Stages of Grief — starting with Denial and ending with Acceptance. Many people undergo each emotional stage before getting to Acceptance, and furthering their path to recovery:
Denial: A common defense mechanism which convinces the individual that, “This isn’t happening,” protecting us from experiencing a rush of harmful emotions.
Anger: As denial starts to wear off, feelings of anger flood in, causing the individual in mourning to displace blame and fault towards friends, family, strangers, or inanimate objects.
Bargaining: This stage of grief promotes a feeling of helplessness and vulnerability in order to regain control through, “if only” statements. Some may think that if they had urged medical attention sooner, or went to church more that they could have prevented the loss. Thinking there is something you could have done differently may also bring on feelings of guilt.
Depression: When someone mourns the loss of a loved one, an overwhelming sensation of anxiety, worry, or sadness may start to set in. This type of depression is typically temporary, however it is important to monitor your symptoms over time.
Coping with grief and loss is a very deep and personal experience, and oftentimes can only improve with adequate self-care, and time. Once a person hits the acceptance stage, they will not be okay with the loss, but will at least be able to come to terms with the reality of it, and how their life may be altered. This allows individuals to work towards moving forward and getting back to a healthy routine.
Having insomnia, or difficulty sleeping is a very common symptom among individuals in mourning. Many people may lie awake at night with feelings of sadness or anxiety, caused by the stressors that come with a loss. When anxious thoughts move in, it’s nearly impossible to relax, and ultimately sleep. On the contrary, some people may find themselves sleeping too much after mourning a loss, in response to facing overwhelming and exhausting emotions throughout the day. However, if you are oversleeping, your quality of sleep is also likely too low.
If you’re finding you have trouble sleeping at night while in mourning, listed below are a few sleep tips:
- If you wake, turn your alarm clock around and don’t look at the time. This can increase anxious thoughts about the following day and how little time you have left to sleep.
- Lay still for 20 minutes. If after that time you aren’t getting sleepy, get out of bed. You don’t want your bed to be a place associated with restlessness.
- With the lights off (don’t turn them on!) go into another room and pray, meditate, stretch, breathe, anything relaxing that may help relax you. Whatever you do, don’t go to another room or the couch to sleep.
- When you begin to get tired, go back to your bedroom and try to fall back asleep. If that doesn’t work, lay still for another 20 minutes and then repeat the above exercise. Repeat until you finally go back to sleep
Individuals grieving have a lot on their plates (not literally), from making decisions, to coping with their emotions, your own health may be the last thing on your mind. However, this will prolong your recovery, make you weak, and even lower your immune system making you sick. To avoid adding more stress to your daily routine, it may be helpful to outline a healthy eating schedule and have daily, nutritious meal plans, that way you can hold yourself accountable to having proper meals throughout the day. Pre-made meals that you can throw in the freezer, and disposable plates/utensils will be helpful to avoid meal prep and clean up at this time.
Exercising creates energy by stimulating the release of norepinephrine and endorphin chemicals that cause you to feel awake and alert. That being said, scheduling some physical activity throughout the day may be a great, not only for your physical health, but for your mental state. Exercising is also a great way to clear your head, and release stress that has been built up, promoting higher serotonin levels, which better your mood.
There are many different ways that a pet can serve as a great companion. For many, just petting or cuddling with their pet can help to fight anxiety disorders or stress. Keith Humphreys, a professor of Psychology and Behavior Studies, admits, “Holding and stroking a dog is calming for many people, even those without anxiety problems.” No matter what the issue is that is keeping you up at night, cuddling with your pet is sure to help! Additionally, studies show that there are several mental health benefits to owning a dog. They can promote an active lifestyle, lower blood pressure, and limit loneliness. Additionally, researchers have found that spending time with a pet can increase oxytocin and dopamine levels in your body — which promote positive feelings.
Coping with grief and loss, is not easy, but it’s important to promote self-care in order to expedite the road to recovery. Just remember, that you are not alone. Seek support from family, friends, or even professionals if the loss of a loved one is too much to handle on your own.
Our guest blog is courtesy of, Stephanie James, a freelance writer from North Carolina.
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