It’s possible to transform a challenging time into a fulfilling future
By Betsy Butler, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System
March 2, 2023 – The death of a loved one, going through a divorce, even losing a job or good health. Losses like these change our lives in lasting ways, often leaving us grieving the way things used to be, without much certainty about how our present and future will be.
After experiencing a significant life change, we move through stages of grief. Shock and denial can lead to anger and depression, finally ending in acknowledgment and acceptance. Along the way, we can experience many emotions that can come over us in waves, including sadness, fear, anxiety and hopelessness.
But grief can also give way to gratitude. Noticing little moments of joy during the day and appreciating our blessings can ease feelings of loss. It can take time, and we all grieve differently, but those burdensome feelings that first weigh us down will eventually subside. Little by little, grief will become easier to handle.
There are many books out there that can help you deal with grief, and we’ve listed a few at the end of this blog.
Some note that it’s the positive aspect of grief that can make all the difference. If we see a loss as an invitation to grow and change, how we respond to that loss and adapt to our new life can be a positive development we might not have anticipated. We can learn different ways of coping and develop new skills, making us better prepared to meet future challenges.
Grief offers us a perfect opportunity for improving ourselves and discovering a new purpose in life. Think about what you’d like to change, new things you’d like to try or learn about, and long-held goals you could accomplish.
Taking your time is key to coping with grief. Even the simplest task can become overwhelming after a loss, so it’s particularly important to be kind to yourself during this challenging time. Set more modest expectations for yourself. Stay well-rested and take time to relax with pursuits and pleasant distractions you enjoy, such as listening to favorite music and reading. Spend time outdoors. Expand your horizons through appreciating art or browsing new releases at a bookstore.
Keep a journal of what you’re thinking and feeling. Reflection and contemplation can lead to keen personal insights and discoveries, and it’s helpful, even cathartic, to write them down.
Practice mindfulness. Instead of ruminating on the past or worrying what might happen in the future, pay attention to the present.
Seek out the company of others. Identify people who can fulfill various needs, such as empathetic listeners, creative problem-solvers, and light-hearted friends with a good sense of humor. Join a support group of others who have experienced a recent loss and can understand what you’re going through.
Even though your loved one has passed, you can still integrate them into your life. Find ways to honor their memory, like displaying some of their cherished possessions or celebrating a special remembrance day. Consider what you treasured most about them, as well as their qualities that were more difficult to love. What would you want to tell them, whether about your shared past or about what you’re doing now?
Remember that over time, your grief will subside. You won’t forget who or what you’ve lost, but the experience can make you a better, stronger, more resilient and empathetic person.
Here are several books that offer advice on how to deal with grief:
- “Life After Loss: A Practical Guide to Renewing Your Life After Experiencing Major Loss,” by Bob Deits
- “Opening to Grief: Finding Your Way from Loss to Peace,” by Claire B. Willis and Marnie Crawford Samuelson
- “Loving and Living Your Way Through Grief: A Comprehensive Guide to Reclaiming and Cultivating Joy and Carrying On in the Face of Loss,” by Emily Thiroux Threatt
- “Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything,” by Lucy Hone
- “The Modern Loss Handbook: An Interactive Guide to Moving Through Grief and Building Your Resilience,” by Rebecca Soffer
- “Stuck for Words: What to Say When Someone Is Grieving,” by Doris Zagdanski