Self, Heartbreak

What To Do During The Grieving Process To Be Happy Again After A Devastating Loss

Photo: by Max Ilienerwise on Unsplash
How To Use The Grieving Process To Be Happy Again After A Devastating Loss

It's common to associate feelings of grief, sadness, and loss with discomfort and wanting to escape or numb them out.

I was speaking to a friend about the end of my last relationship and sharing with her my grieving process. It made me realize that when something ends, in my experience, you can’t just “flip a switch” and suddenly it’s over, done, and now you’re happy again.

RELATED: How Much Grieving Is Too Much? (Plus, How To Heal & Move On In Your Own Time)

As much as you wish that to be true, there is a process of fully letting something go that needs to happen. It’s a journey of digesting and processing the experience, going through the feelings of anger, grief, sadness, loss, while having gratitude for the joy, the love, the lessons, and the growth that it brought.

This is the process of healing and change. Of transforming into the newest and most up to date version of you! It happens slowly.

Over time, what used to be slowly fades away and you emerge who you are now. Accepting this as a part of the deal and allowing yourself to fully be in this process is part of the development of your relationship with yourself.

It’s actually science, believe it or not, that you are most attracted to people who you experience as being their true, authentic selves. You admire and seek out people who have personality and exhibit an unrelenting commitment to who they are!

You are attracted to those who have depth and range, who you experience as displaying a wide range of emotions. You’re bored by people who are “superficial,” who placate you and tell you what they think you want to hear.

You crave honesty, truth, humanness, and vulnerability. The best part of heartbreak is that by getting to know these parts of yourself, the parts that grieve, that hurt, that loved and lost, you are becoming a more attractive partner and person to be around in the presence of others.

Do you need to go through loss, experience pain or challenges, to cultivate this sense of self that makes you a good partner? No, you don’t. But the truth is life is always a process of changing and evolving, beginnings and endings.

It’s always happening whether you’re tuned into it or not. You’re always experiencing all sorts of emotions and sensations in every moment and you must advocate for being fully present to learn who are you in the face of these moments.

That said, here's how to be happy again by using the grieving process to your advantage:

1. Embrace new energy, people, places, activities

Getting out into the community may be the last thing you want to do, but it’s a game-changer! Although your instinct may be to shut the world out, withdraw, spend way too much time in your head replaying old stuff, give yourself space to just be in the presence of others.

Even if you don’t want to interact much with anyone, getting into a group workout class, gym, night class, anything to get out and about, is beneficial. Getting your body moving in the world again sends the message to the brain that you are back “online.”

You'll know when you have a feeling and your body responds in kind. When you’re sad, you look sad. Your lips pout, shoulders may be hunched over. You may seem to be moving more slowly. It doesn’t take much for those around you to see how you are feeling. You are wearing it!

What most don’t know is that the inverse is also true. The body communicates back to the mind, reinforcing the emotional state you are in. Think about it. As miserable as you might be if, right now, you jump up and down, pretending as though you just won the lottery, the body sends the message to the brain that you just won the lottery and, in an instant, your mood changes.

The body is the most powerful tool you have during this time. You love to revel in your misery and there is certainly a time and place for grief, but let’s be honest, haven’t you suffered long enough? This is a great time to build new habits of mind and body!

Take up a new hobby, do something you’ve always wanted to but never got around to doing. Use this time to your advantage! As an opportunity to reinvent yourself. The truth is, the alternative is getting stuck. A place some people will never escape.

RELATED: The 5 Not-So-Pretty (But Totally Normal) Stages Of Breakup Grief

2. Put attention back on yourself

While it can be really compelling to ruminate on everything that went wrong, what you could have done differently, how the other person failed you or is to blame, the truth is you have absolutely no power or control to make what happened any different.

Where you do have power, however, is in the present moment and in yourself. Practice putting attention back on yourself. Getting in touch with your desires, goals, and aspirations.

Seek out the right people or team who can help get you there and keep you accountable. A trusted coach, mentor, or trainer can be really helpful here to help keep you focused and moving toward the things that you want.

At the end of the day, whatever has happened, you have responsibility for. Dig in, get to know the parts of yourself you’ve been ignoring and what’s at the root of you not having the life and relationships you want. Become someone interesting that someone would want to get to know. Attend to your physical body and remember the power is in your thoughts.

3. Learn to get in touch with and ask for what you need

Sometimes things fail because you made them the sole source for getting your needs met. Making a relationship your primary source of love and validation while putting unrealistic expectations on your partner can only lead to resentment, hurt, and setting someone up to fail.

Having a job be your only source of connection and fulfillment can lead you to recreate unhealthy dynamics that may have occurred in your earlier life. This can be a great time to reflect and get in touch with what it is you really need.

You need love and connection, but learning to get those from healthy places that are capable and skilled at providing them is key.

Navigating your emotional needs can be difficult and vulnerable, but leaning on friends, support systems, coaches, and community to share some of the burdens reminds you that you aren’t alone and that others can help provide those needs.

When you’re in the present and in touch with your mind and body, you can feel your own instinct, intuition, and pulse more clearly.

Do you feel irritated or moody? It may be a sign you’re needing something. Need touch? Go get a massage and or bodywork. Connection? Call a friend or reach out to someone. Unsure what you need? Grab a guided meditation and sit for a few minutes, the answer or more clarity may come when you finish.

Hitting up a workout class to move energy and your body are often a no-fail solution. Learning to take care of your own needs or fill in where you’re falling short ensures proper system regulation and allows you to be less reactive to whatever is coming at you.

Developing this muscle will only make you stronger in your next relationship, project, or series of interactions. At the end of the day, you’re responsible for yourself, but you may be surprised to learn others want you to have what you want and to be healthy and thriving.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Ease The Pain Of The Grief Process After The Loss Of A Parent

Samantha Benigno is a mental & behavioral wellness specialist.