What Healthy Grief Looks Like

Pinkee here~ In my ongoing theme on grief, today I am going to write about healthy grieving.  What does it look like?  It is you staying home and sulking for days, weeks, or months, continuously?  Is it you yelling, slamming things, or crying once for a half hour, saying “glad that’s over” and then moving on?  Is it you deciding that you must not enjoy anything in life ever again because that would be mean you didn’t really love the person you’ve lost?  Nope, none of the above. 

In healthy grief, there is no set minimum or maximum amount of time that you can predict it’s going to take.  There is a general rule of thumb which says that one month of grieving will be necessary for each year you were together with your ex.  But that, again, is general.  You are an individual; let no one tell you how long or how short your grief “should” be.  In addition, there is no set way that your grief should look. You are an individual, and your grieving will be just as unique as you are.  Plus, your grief this time around is not necessarily going to be the same as it was the last time.  You have grown and changed since the last time, and this relationship you’re letting go of is this one, not any other one.

Below are a few guidelines for you:

1. In general, it is important that you allow yourself to feel what you feel when you feel it, whenever possible. This may include any of the five core feelings, but most likely fear, anger and sadness, when it relates to grief. 

2.  Be aware that most feelings only take a maximum of fifteen to twenty minutes to be felt.  It is only when you add that drop of drama, such as feeling sorry for yourself, or idealizing the lost relationship (only remembering the good things) that it can go on and on.

3.  How does one feel feelings?  I know this may sound crazy, but most of us have been taught how to avoid feeling all negative feelings, not how to feel them.  Basically, you just notice the body sensations of the feeling that you’re having and “be with”, stay tuned into, them  until they change to something else.  You can breathe, cry, or do whatever comes naturally, as long as you’re not hurting yourself or someone else.  If you stick with the feeling, before long you will either start to feel another feeling that needs to be felt, or you will start to experience some relief in the form of a calmness or even happiness taking its place. 

4.  Sometimes people get stuck.  You may think that you are “supposed to” be feeling a certain thing (ie., sadness) but you’re not feeling much at all.  At those times, you may be able to jump start your process through activities such as writing about some aspect of the relationship, watching a movie that may trigger some feelings in you, or looking at some photographs of you and your loved one.

5.  If you want to be friends with your ex, that’s great, but realize that you will first need a separation until both of your grief processes have either greatly progressed or completed.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can go from being lovers one day to friends the next, or that you can be there to console each other about the loss of your relationship.

6.  Speaking of that, DO reach out to friends and relatives who are supportive of you, but also balance that with time alone.  Trying to cope by scheduling every waking moment with a social activity is just another way of choosing not to grieve.

7.  Remember that your grief will not last forever even though it may feel like it’s going to and that the only way to “get over” someone is to move through your grief, not around it.  If you have been following these guidelines and you don’t see yourself gradually getting back to the normal “you”, consider seeking the help of a therapist or life coach.  Sometimes professional help can facilitate a process that you are lost or stuck in, with a minimum of pain.

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