Original collage image by Paige S. Spangler
WE GRIEVE: 8 Ways to Manage Grief
By: Paige S. Spangler, BFA, MS, LCPC Elliott Counseling Group
There would be no life without transitions and endings. All we have to do is observe the four seasons to see this necessity. The more we understand the temporary nature of everything, we are ideally able to value our days, value others, and value our experiences. As the poet Mary Oliver says, "to live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go". Here are some ways to experience grief more fully in order to gain meaning and healing.
W — Weave in the grief and gratitude
The experience of grief is complex and often involves a series of gratitude and grieving. I like to imagine weaving these moments as threads into a tapestry. It then adds value to every step along the way; as if you are making an exquisite weaving of all of your experiences to honor the person you love.
E — Embrace and experience the small things
Practice goodbyes. Any time you are leaving someone you love, say how you feel, acknowledge the feelings of closeness, and hug a little bit harder. This helps us acknowledge the gratitude and the grief at the same time in smaller doses along the way.
G — Go out in nature
Being outside can be healing. We can use nature to help us visualize letting go of pain. You can imagine giving away pain to the wind to carry it away into the clouds to be rained down or imagine burying your pain like seeds to bring forth new life.
R — Ritual and repetition
Find ways to celebrate the life of your loved ones. Make a box or a book. have a spot in nature to visit. Engage in an activity your loved one used to do. Do this regularly. It can bring great comfort.
I — Imagine the after life
Whatever your belief, it can help to imagine a place where your loved one would be happy after their passing. Make your visualization detailed based on the things they loved.
E — Emerge when you can
Make goals to leave the house and do short tasks. As hard as it will be, it's important to build up this muscle again as it will provide short moments of normalcy.
V — Vulnerability
Find places where you can be vulnerable. It can be helpful to have one person or more whom you feel safe enough to sob and let out your pain. Pets can also help with this process and they can provide great comfort.
E — Engage in sharing memories
Remember stories of your loved one and write them down or talk about them with others. This can be a powerful way to re-experience important moments. It can also be just as powerful to hear stories about your loved one from others who knew them well.