Even though grief is a natural reaction to painful events, it is often misunderstood. Surprisingly. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are even grieving. Shock, disbelief, numbness, sadness, anger, irritability, lack of focus, denial, sleep disturbances and loss of appetite are all common manifestations of grief. While some people may feel despair or hopeless when they’ve had a loss, others might feel disoriented, “lost”, or can’t figure out “what to do next.” Because there are so many ways that grief expresses itself, we might not connect our symptoms of grief with the loss we had. Sometime we don’t realize that our irritability or inability to sleep is because of the grief that’s still lingering in the background. In fact, the more we resume “normal” activities after a loss, the higher our own expectations may be to feel normal as well…and the more likely you might be to not realize your grief needs some attention.
“Surprisingly, sometimes we don’t even realize we are grieving“.
The Covid Pandemic caused a huge number of unexpected losses and unexpected grief. Many people lost family members, coworkers, and friends. And there have been many “covert” losses that have created their own versions of grief, as well. The loss of normalcy, work, income, social contact, holiday rituals, entertainment, shopping, doctor and self-care appointments, physical exercise, structure and routines has impacted everyone. On top of this, many non-covid related losses, like divorce or break ups, magnified the normal grief that accompanies these big life changes.
Here at Positive Energy Counseling Center, we see everything from a Holistic perspective. We know that lingering feelings of grief can also lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, a suppressed immune system, emotional eating and inflammation. And grief is not just limited to our private life- our feelings can bleed into our work, relationships, finances, and spirituality.
Grief often feels like a roller coaster that has surprising twists and turns you don’t see coming. Sometimes the things you expect to trigger you, like an anniversary or holiday, may not be as hard as you feared. But then a smell that reminds you of your loss may overwhelm you with terrible sadness.
Or you will feel an oppressive anger or intense resent, not realizing these feelings are related to your grief because you feel so alone.
You might feel fine one minute, and even think your fine, and then dissolve into tears over something “trivial”.
Its important that you know that is all normal. Your grief can be constant, intermittent, and even appear suddenly and unexpectedly. And it will change over time. Some clients report that anniversaries of their losses can even feel different. One year they might feel at peace with the loss, and another year it might feel more panful or poignant.
Regardless of what losses we’ve had and why we are grieving, it is important to know that we all grieve differently. Try not to judge yourself or others. As overwhelming as grieving can be, it is a normal and necessary process.
Use these holistic tips to help you process your grief and feel better
- CONNECT (EVEN IF YOU DON’T WANT TO): Grief has a funny way of isolating us. We might feel like others don’t understand, we don’t feel like explaining ourselves, or socializing can feel draining and joyless. Yet, isolating won’t allow your grief to integrate in a healthy way. Try to reach out to at least one friend, family members or colleague. Pick someone you trust and share about your experience. Confiding will help alleviate some of the burden. Feel free to tell this person what you need: “I just need to talk for a minute. I know you there is nothing you can say that will make it better. I just need to be heard” or “I don’t want to talk about the loss right now. I want to just talk about regular things right now. I need a distraction.”
- ACKNOWLEGE YOUR FEELINGS TO DECREASE YOUR PAIN. Did you know that labeling a feeling can decrease it’s intensity by half?! It’s true! Saying to yourself “I feel really sad today. I’m upset that I haven’t seen my family in months, and I feel bored and alone” is actually better for you than just letting all those feelings swirl around inside you. Try not to deny your emotions as they come up. Instead, name your feelings and describe why you feel that way. Be patient with yourself- don’t judge yourself by thinking “I should be over this. I should feel….” Remember that grieving is a normal reaction to painful experiences, and that your reactions and emotions are exactly where they need to be.
- AMP UP YOUR SELF-CARE WITH MINI-GOALS: It’s amazing how grief can zap the energy right out of your self-care routine. Your motivation to even eat regularly or drink a glass of water might be at an all time low- forget about going for a run or meditating! And yet, your sleeping, eating, exercising, and spiritual practices are the most essential keys to starting to feel better. To get started, make your goals absolutely tiny. Just pick one type of self-care that you are willing to improve and then come up with a mini-goal. For example, if you want to start being able to sleep again at night, make it a mini-goal to not lay down in the afternoon to nap today. That mini-goal will help you feel more tired tonight, which can help you get back into a sleep routine that will naturally start alleviating your blues. Sleep is a natural healer of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Or maybe you would like to start exercising again, but you have NO energy for it. Create a mini-goal to take a 5 minute walk today. Just 5 minutes! Once you’re out there in the sun, you can choose to keep walking longer but you don’t have to.
We all grieve differently and there are holistic tools you can use feel better now, and cumulatively over time. It’s most important for anyone who is grieving to know that they are not alone. Here at Positive Energy Counseling Center, we have Advanced Holistic Counselors that specialize in grief, and we have an upcoming “Grief” group forming now (contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details). We would be honored to help you find respite, and show you the tools needed to heal.
ELISA SCHNEBLE, LMSW, is a psychotherapist at Positive Energy Counseling Center. She earned her Master of Social Work degree – with a Specialization in Health – from Stony Brook University. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker and holds additional certificates specializing in substance abuse, anger management and crisis management.
Elisa has extensive counseling experience providing solution-focused therapy to individuals, groups, and couples, utilizing various psychotherapeutic modalities. In addition to her training with Beth Miller in Advanced Holistic Counseling, Elisa also uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Gestalt Therapy as her primary therapeutic modalities.
Elisa’s empowering approach, active listening skills and positive empathy help clients uncover their inherent strengths and enable them to overcome barriers. She leads with a compassionate, accepting, and loving approach towards all people and all issues. Having lived on three continents and fluent in five languages, Elisa recognizes the importance of cultural context and of the cultural identity of each client, and places special emphasis on being cognizant and respectful of their unique personal universe.