Welcome back for part 2 in the series of How to Cope With Grief. Previously, we explored the nature of grief that it is unique to every person and does not have a predictable path. Then we talked about the importance of finding a supportive person, whether imagined or real, and a supportive village; a safe group of people who get what you are going through because they are going through it too or have gone through it in the past.
Today, I want to explore what to do with the emotions of grief.
Grief comes in many different shapes and many different emotions. Sometimes it may look like sadness, but more often than not, it looks like something else. Sometimes it may be anger. Sometimes it may be desperation. Some days it may look like, “Meh.” And some days, it may look like all of the above and then some.
When you feel that raw, irritation under your skin or notice the blankness inside, I encourage you to take a moment and name those emotions. Pause for a moment and look inward and give it a name. “Oh, this is grief.” “This is sadness and apathy.” When we name it, we can see it for what it is. We don’t have to do anything with it. We don’t have to judge it. We simply name it.
A common fear is that the emotion will never go away. However, emotions are more like waves. They come and then they go. They peak with intensity, fizzle, and go back out.
See if you can notice these waves. Notice the peak. Notice your thoughts about it as you let it do its thing. Notice as it eases away and leaves room for something else.
If this is hard, that’s normal! If you have trouble breathing. I get that. If going inside of yourself is not safe, then find something beautiful outside of yourself. That beautiful thing could be a mantra, a prayer, a verse, or simply observing something beautiful in your backyard, like vibrant green spring grass. Find something, notice it, and watch it shift in the wind, with each moment, each repetition, each breath.
For help settling in and moving inward, try using a meditation app. You don’t have to be a yogi or monk who meditates all day to benefit from meditation. Start with 5 or 10 minutes. If you find you can only tolerate 1 minute, great! Start there. Remember to be gentle with yourself. I regularly use Insight Timer, a free app with options for guided meditations and music focused on settling your internal systems (e.g. breath, thoughts, heart rate). No, I’m not sponsored by them. I’m just sharing what I have found to be helpful. There are many other apps as well. You’ll also find a guided meditation on my IGTV. Be an explorer. Find something that works for you. Remember, everyone is unique.
Below is a very short list of common emotions. I would love to hear from you in the comments. What emotions would you add to the list? What emotions have you noticed? What emotions have surprised you?
Author: Lindsay Cade, LPC [she/her/hers] is a licensed mental health therapist with 7 years experience providing mental health services. Read more about Lindsay here or contact her today to discuss starting therapy.
Series Table of Contents
INTRO: HOW TO COPE WITH GRIEF: An Invitation
PART 1: HOW TO COPE WITH GRIEF: We All Need A Village
PART 2: HOW TO COPE WITH GRIEF: Name It
PART 3: HOW TO COPE WITH GRIEF: Be Curious
PART 4: HOW TO COPE WITH GRIEF: Practice Remembrance
PART 5: HOW TO COPE WITH GRIEF: Throw Away Your Grief Watch