How do you begin to work through grief? In its never-ending valley of ups and downs, grief can be very daunting. This is doubly so for first-timers or those in the early stages of what is often a very lonely journey. No two individuals experience grief in the same way, and I’ve learned from experience that it can change with every loved one that you lose.
But the only thing I can say for certain is that grief is a funny thing. By which I don’t mean ‘haha’ funny. It comes in a sequence of unpredictable waves. Somedays I find myself openly talking to my grandmother while working around the house. On other days I wake up exhausted, going through life in a daze. I lift the phone to call her, only to realise that no one is going to answer. Before I fall to sleep I hear their last breaths rattling through my mind. I see the heaving chest, the soft opening, and closing of their fists as they reach out for comfort. Most brutally of all, I search for their last cohesive words and mine in response, but quite often I come up empty.
So, yes. Grief is the funniest and most daunting emotion I’ve ever come to feel so far in my life. And it’s something I doubt I’ll ever truly get over. The perfect way I can think to sum up grief is that you get used to it, but the pain never fully goes away.
My own experience working through grief.
Twenty nineteen was a roller coaster of emotions. In the short space of six weeks, I lost not only my grandfather but also my grandmother, both of whom played a big role in my life growing up. I went from having four grandparents to having just two in the first half of the year alone. Before then I had only experienced intense grief a few times in my life, one of which was the loss of our family pet.
There comes a point where you begin to take those around you for granted. They’ve always been there, so surely they’ll always be there, right? Although I knew death was a reality that we all had to face one day, I hadn’t expected it so soon. Especially not for my grandfather.
Towards the end, not even the strongest syringe driver was able to relieve their pain. Then the rattle starts and just when you think that’s it, their heart marches on. Until it doesn’t anymore. Their breathing slows, then stops and you hold your own breath waiting for their next. When it doesn’t come, your heart plummets into your gut and you begin to wonder how you’ll ever get over this.
One thing I don’t see a lot of people talk about is the feeling of relief coupled with intense guilt. Anyone who has ever watched a loved one die will understand exactly what I mean when I talk about relief. You’re relieved that they’re no longer suffering, but your mind can’t quite focus to separate the two. And you find yourself wondering why you don’t care more.
Of course, these thoughts are purely my brain struggling to understand my own grief, and entirely false. Of course I cared! I grieved from the moment I found out about their illnesses and I’m still grieving. My grief has just been manifested in a different way and spread out over a longer period of time.
“Everyone grieves differently. There is no linear path to take when grieving and that’s entirely normal.”
5 Things to remember to help you work through grief.
Remember that your feelings are valid.
No matter how you’re grieving, someone else will always be grieving differently. Much like life, there isn’t a rule book on how we should go about the process. Even if we expect to react in a certain way, we never really know until the time comes to pass.
But why do we react the way we do? It depends purely on the relationship we had with the individual, where we are in our own lives, and our previous experiences with death. We also have to remember that everyone expresses their emotions in a different way, no matter how unhealthy some of those may be.
My own reaction and experience with grief changed over time. When my grandfather passed in May ninteen, it was like nothing I’d ever felt before. It was agonizing. I didn’t know where to turn or who to go to, and while I cried during the ceremony, the majority of my emotions stayed hidden thereafter. My next experience was just six weeks later when my grandmother passed from a long-drawn illness. I’d mourned her for months before she died, so when the time came I was more at peace with it than I had been with my grandfathers. I was prepared, and despite likening her to a mother figure, I found it more difficult to cry about her loss. To this day I have yet to cry properly, but I talk about her and to her on a daily basis. For me, this is my way of processing her loss.
When we buried her husband just eightteen months later, we were in the middle of a lockdown. It wasn’t a shock. We were prepared for his passing, and part of me believes that he was ready to go the moment we buried my grandmother. His cause of death was simply old age and he died peacefully with all his family surrounding him. Everyone he could have ever wanted was there with him, including, I’m sure, my grandmother. The grief was different this time. It was peaceful, accepting, and almost welcomed in a strange way.
Give yourself permission to feel your emotions.
The pain that we feel when someone passes can often be unbearable. And what do we do with unbearable feelings? We often try to push them aside. But it’s important that we allow ourselves the time and opportunity to feel every aspect of grief fully so that we can begin to heal.
This can look different for everyone. Some people cry while others scream, and some might even laugh or smile as a reaction to difficult emotions. As we’ve previously discussed, there is no one way to experience grief, so all cards are on the table!
While we’re on the subject of emotions, you’ve probably heard of the five stages of grief; Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These can occur at different times for different people, and you might even find that you skip one entirely! Others may experience all of them in the space of a few hours, they may jump from one to another and back again. I, for one, have come to accept the death of my loved ones. But even so, I still get caught off guard by lingering emotions which can present themselves at the oddest of times.
Grief isn’t only felt when we lose a human loved one. When we lose our beloved pets, the pain is just as bad but in a different way.
Have patience with yourself and others.
While you work through grief, it’s important to remember that others are too. And they may be doing it in a completely different way. I found stark differences within my own life when it came to how I was able to work through grief compared to others within my family. While I chose to grieve by talking about my loved ones openly, others found it difficult to even mention their name. Pictures and possessions were and continue to be a big part of my grieving process too. And I know this to be true of other people I know. But for some, possessions hold no value and images only drag up painful feelings.
The important thing, once again, is that we all have different ways of working through grief. Just because you can talk about them and go through photo albums, doesn’t mean everyone else can. A good way to better understand this is by thinking about grief as a merry-go-round rather than one defined path. The pain associated with loss can change with time but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. It can come back at any time, and often I find it resurfaces with the death of others around me. Even if I wasn’t particularly close to them, a death can bring up emotional trauma and difficult memories.
But it doesn’t stop there because grief can even appear during happy events. My thirtieth birthday, for example, brought up memories of birthdays gone by with my grandparents, and I found myself wishing they were able to celebrate with me.
It’s important to remember that crying six years after the loss of someone doesn’t mean you’re back to square one. These feelings aren’t a setback at all, in fact. It’s called being human.
Reach out for support.
I can’t stress enough how important it is that you reach out for support when you need it. It’s one thing to work through grief, but it’s something else when you try to do it alone. Many people choose to seek professional help through their GP, specific grief counselling, or even support groups. Others may simply choose to speak with their friends and family. No matter what, talking about your loss and how it’s making you feel is paramount to helping the healing process.
Asking for help is particularly important in the days and weeks following the death. This could help with planning the funeral, dealing with legal matters, or, simply, picking up groceries. You may also need help prior to the death of a loved one, particularly if they are long-term terminal. No matter what position you find yourself in, remember, you’re not alone. Even though grief is a very personal and individual thing, there is support all around you in the form of professional services, friends, family, and maybe even colleagues.
Practice self-care through grief.
When working through grief we can often forget to practice our own self-care. Quite often we’re left feeling sluggish, unmotived and overwhelmed with emotions, all of which is normal. But we can let our health slip through the cracks. We can forget to carry out basic human needs such as eating, drinking water and even showering because it becomes a struggle to exist. But taking care of your basic needs is the first step to helping yourself grieve physically and emotionally.
Try to remember to eat regularly, and drink plenty of water. While I should emphasise the importance of nutritional food, it’s okay to stick to easy comfort foods for the first while after bereavement. But do remember to branch out as time moves on to include nutritional alternatives.
Taking gentle exercises such as walking or yoga can help improve mood, concentration and sleep. Both these exercises are slow-paced and can even help us to work through emotions as they create ‘thinking room.’ I found yoga to be particularly helpful during my periods of grief and used the mat as a comfort and safe space to cry.
Everyone deals with grief differently. But most of them forget to take care of themselves through the process. That is not right.
Everyone has their own way to grieve, and I’m sorry for your loss. But hey, the post is beautiful.
Well, I sit quietly with my pain as uncomfortable as it is and then when it gets overwhelming, I ask for help as openly as possible.
The best way I dealt with grief when I lost my grandma was to journal about our time together, the park we went to, the cookies we baked, and the life lessons she taught me. Then at the end of it, I just wrote, Thank you, I miss you, and I will always love you. I closed the journal and kept it somewhere safe.
As a man it is even more difficult for acknowledging grief. Thank you for this charming post. Seeking help I think is the most important point.
You are sharing a good topic. Grief is truly a hard part to go…
This is really helpful. I know many people feel bad about themselves if they show emotion or even question their own feelings around grief.
These are very important things to keep in mind. Getting back to normal after a devastating loss can’t be rushed. I can relate that grieving can be a particularly challenging time.
These are great things to do and we definitely need to reach out for support. We need some people by our sides.
Beautiful post!I’m so sorry for your loss. I can imagine how hard to write your feelings. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much for you kind words xx
Thank you so much for reading pet and commenting. xx
There is no time scale or time limit on grief.
I am so thankful that you are recognising when your thoughts are going down untrue and unhelpful paths and redirecting them. <3
I’m so sorry about your grandfather and your grandmother. I can’t imagine the pain you went through this year and my heart goes out to you. Grief is so personal and it’s not exactly how they mention in the five stages of grief. You do what you can to get though it and keep on living. Thank you for writing such an honest post. I really did have tears in my eyes reading it. Take care of yourself during this time. I’ll be thinking of you xo
Emily | https://www.thatweirdgirllife.com
Thank you taking the time to read.
Thank you very much for stopping in and reading.
Thank you for stopping by and reading pet x
So sorry for your loss! I hope you manage to work through your grief. Thank you for sharing such a personal experience x
I’m sorry for your losses, beautiful. This is a very touching post, thank you for sharing your view and experience <3
Beautifully written. Grief is different for everyone and we react & deal with grief in our own way. Loss is so hard and your mind can play weird games with your thoughts.
Thank you for sharing something so raw, personal and relatable.
My pleasure. Sympathy and empathy are needed more.
I’m sorry for your loss! It’s hard to experience the death of two family members so close together. Yes it’s a different process for each person. Honor yourself and your loved ones in your unique way.
Thank you so much for your kind words, and thank you for taking the time to read this. It was quite difficult to write at times but I suppose that’s natural. I will need to go back and fix some mistakes at some point, but I just haven’t had the heart. xx
I am so, so sorry for the loss of your husband. That couldn’t have been easy. Grief is an awful but necessary thing in order to begin to come to terms with loss. Sending you all my love and thank you so much for stopping in and reading.
Thank you, and thank you for stopping in and reading.
I’m so, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for stopping in and reading about mine.
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. I appreciate it. x
Grief is very personal to everyone, so to scorn anyone for how they grieve wouldn’t be right. Everyone within my family is getting it differently. Some are angry, some are sad and some are just blank. I suppose it will take time to heal, but I suspect it’ll never get easier losing someone. Thank you for stopping in and reading.
Thank you so much for stopping in and commenting. It’s never easier, and I suspect it will never get easier. Time only teaches us how to heal, it never takes it all away.
Wow. This post is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. My grandfather died when I was 9 which was 9 years ago, but I still miss him everyday. I will never stop missing him. Same goes for my honorary grandmother (my cousin’s grandmother on his dad’s side, but she always treated me like her grandson) and a good friend of mine which have both passed in the past 2 years. It is never easy dealing with grief, but it is slightly easier when you have supportive friends and ways/a routine to cope with it.
Thank you so much for sharing – because I know that grieving for my grandma was so different from the celebration of life that we had for my grandad, who died about 20 years after her! Hers was heartbreaking – we were only just starting to build relationships with her. We got an extra 20 years with him, and when he died, it was just a sense of joy for the life he’d had.
Each grieving process is different.
There is no “right way” to do it.
This post is powerful!! So well written. I love the part about everyone’s grief being different. So important to remember that.
My dad passed in late August and you are so right grief is a individual experience. I kinda think of it as spaghetti.
So glad you made mention that each persons experience is different!
Awesome post! I know a little about grief, having lost my husband very suddenly 2 months ago. I am also familiar with the unpredictable waves of emotion – one minute you’re fine, the next you feel like it just happened and you never know when it will hit or what will set it off. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry for your loss.
Let me start by saying that I am so incredibly sorry for your loss.
This post is so very powerful and moving. Even though everyone grieves differently, your account is incredibly relatable. I found myself nodding along thinking “Yes. I felt like that too!”.
Thank you for sharing this, I know it must have been incredibly difficult to write.
Thank you so much for reading x
Thank you so, so much for your kind response. This means so much xx
Thank you xx
I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing a love one is extremely difficult. When my stepdad passed away, my grandpa passed away only five months later and then grandma a year after that. So I can completely relate. Thanks you so much for sharing. I’m sure that you make your family proud everyday.
I’m also sorry to hear about your grandmother. It’s so hard. Thank you for stopping in and reading. x
Exactly. We need to be able to communicate our grief better to each other, and have kindness and patience for those feeling grief.
Thank you for reading. You’re certainly right about grieving differently, that much is evident in the various members of my family. We’re all going through the wars but in completely different ways.
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. I appreciate it so much.
I absolutely love your realness and your authenticity. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
Love how open you are about grief. I know how difficult it is to open up about, especially early on.
One thing I have learned over the past couple of years is that everyone does grieve differently. Some wear it on their sleeves while others keep it hidden. My hope is that we are starting to be more open about grief. We will all go through it at some point and it really never goes away.
Grief can be very tough to go through. You are so correct when you metnion that everyone goes throught it differently. We all need to make sure we don’t judge others in how they cope.
Very nicely written – our family has just experienced the loss of our grandmother and you captured the sentiments whirling around perfectly. I’m sorry for your loss as well.
I hope writing this helped you. I am sure that you will help many readers with this.
Very deep and you have wonderfully expressed your feelings. Your grandfather and grandmother are always near you, they just changed their physical body. Hope you will be filled with peace love and happiness forever.
Sunshine | https://merakimusings.org/
Grief is such a tough path to navigate. Thank you for sharing.