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At Peace with Grief
At Peace with Grief

How to Face Loss with Resilience and Grace

Pam McDonald, LCSW-C

Warning signs of an unhealthy grief process include stagnation of feelings, persistent preoccupation with the loss, talk about suicide, or alcohol or other substance abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, take them seriously and get immediate assistance from a professional therapist.

For those who have experienced loss and need time to grieve and process it, here are some healthy tips for moving through the grief. The goal is to integrate this experience into a wiser, more compassionate you.

Don't ignore feelings of loss, but know you don't have to force grief feelings either. If the feelings are present, allow yourself time and space to grieve. This can include feeling uncomfortable emotions. Try expressing your loss and emotions creatively through journaling, writing poetry or letters, drawing, dancing, music, and theatre.

Take good care of yourself. Nurture yourself and attend to your health needs. Feed yourself wholesome foods, exercise, get a massage, meditate, get out in nature, and allow more time to rest. Avoid using alcohol or drugs. Try to maintain a routine.

Find support. Be with people that support, comfort, and uplift you. It can be more beneficial to socialize with people you enjoy than to talk about the loss.

Find acceptance. Eventually you will find that you are ready to accept the loss. There is no right timetable for this; it will be unique to each person's loss. Acceptance does not mean you are glad about the loss or that you fully understand why it happened. Acceptance means that you accept what life has presented you and are making the best of the situation. Through acceptance, you will begin to have the emotional space to start to see the possible gifts or growth that can come from navigating the loss.

Harvest lessons from the loss. Be willing to ask yourself questions that will help you grow: What did going through the loss teach you that has made you stronger? How has the loss changed you? How can you authentically share your experience with others that may be impacted by a similar type of loss? Take concrete steps to move your life forward. Do something new. Be with friends and be open to meeting new people.

While a tragic loss is not a choice in our lives, how we handle it and use it to deepen our experience of being human can be a choice. If we are in grief, we must honor and accept that, and work from that grief to a place of deeper self-understanding and acceptance. As Maya Angelou said, "I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it."

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This information is not for diagnosing or treating health problems or diseases, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.