‘No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.’ – C. S. Lewis
Life is tragic, there is simply no avoiding that. Sooner or later, bad things will happen to most people, so it’s good to have developed the emotional skills and awareness to deal with grief if and when it strikes you.
Tragedy struck Helen Fitzroy, a recent guest on the Full Production podcast, particularly hard when her husband passed away in a mining accident, leaving Helen a widow in her early thirties with three young children to raise. The deaths were considered an inherent risk of the industry at the time, with virtually no support offered to families to enable them to move forward with their lives. One of Helen’s coping strategies was writing. She wrote to her husband, Steve, but also to herself and her children, leading to the publishing of her first book some years later, Just a Number.
Whether you lost a loved one to sickness, tragedy, divorce or even a significant break-up, any loss can be a trauma. I, for one, view Helen as a great example of how to be resilient and do something positive in the face of such an overwhelming loss. In honour of Helen, here are a few practical tips on dealing with grief.
1) Be patient with yourself. Grief does not follow any preset timeline, so don’t start feeling like I should be over this or why doesn’t it stop? It can take years or even decades to move beyond something, it’s also not uncommon for events to trigger grief from the past. So, be kind and patient with yourself.
2) Get yourself some support. When people feel down, they often try to isolate themselves or shun the attention or support of others. Fight this tendency because it will often make the symptoms of grief worse. Counselling is a healthy, proactive part of routine healthcare. Insurance usually covers therapy. Talk to a grief counsellor and get the support you deserve.
3) Know that you aren’t going crazy. Grief can feel like everything is evaporating and you’re losing your mind. Remind yourself that this isn’t the case and that what you’re experiencing is 100% normal. Grief is a process. Honour it and allow your mind and body to experience the roller coaster of feelings.
4) Going through grief is a process. You may have heard of the fives stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) but don’t expect them to occur in some neat order. The best thing to do is to attend a support group or to start journaling.
5) Take self-care seriously. You may have responsibilities that cannot easily be dropped (Helen, for instance, had her kids to look after) but do what you can to put self-care at the top of your list. Lighten your stress load, exercise, sleep a lot, watch funny movies, do yoga, go hiking or just relax. Taking care of yourself will help to ease you through the process and, ultimately, ease the burden of grief.
Listen to my entire conversation with Helen here.